Many constituents, especially those from the Nigerian diaspora, have emailed me concerned about the current #ENDSARS protests taking place in Nigeria.
I was horrified to learn of the killing and injury of peaceful protesters at the Lekki toll gate and Alausa on 20 October which, according to investigations undertaken by Amnesty International, involved the Nigerian military and police forces. I stand with all Nigerians who are demonstrating about the activities of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) – including allegations of their involvement in extrajudicial killings, abductions, torture, sexual violence and extortion – and for police reform, adherence to human rights and an end to corruption in their democracy.
The Shadow Minister for Africa, Stephen Doughty MP, wrote to the Government about recent events in Nigeria on 22 October and has also raised the matter in the House of Commons. The Minister for Africa said that he spoke to the Foreign Minister of Nigeria on 23 October to reiterate the UK’s concern. On 15 October Kate Osamor, Labour MP for Edmonton and Chair of the Nigeria APPG, wrote to the Foreign Secretary asking him to confirm that no UK development spending has been given to the SARS unit. The Minister for Africa, James Duddridge MP, confirmed that between 2016 and 2020 the UK Government has trained and supplied equipment to SARS units.
I believe there should be an immediate, transparent and independent investigation into the activities of SARS and the atrocities that have taken place during the recent protests. I know that the Federal Government of Nigeria has asked all Nigeria’s 36 states to undertake inquiries. The first of these, in Lagos state, started taking evidence on 27 October. The governor of Lagos state has also announced that the scope of this inquiry has been expanded to include the events at the Lekki toll gate on 20 October.
The UK has historically enjoyed a close relationship with Nigeria and it is clear, as evidenced by the protests held in solidarity up and down the country, that many people are concerned. This summer the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement highlighted the ongoing inequalities Black communities face not only in the US and the UK but globally. The #ENDSARS movement should be a catalyst for change and the Nigerian military, police and security forces must show the utmost restraint as protests continue. As the Constitution of Nigeria demands, human rights and the rule of law must be upheld. Nigerians have been calling for the full disbandment of the SARS unit since at least 2017 and I hope that President Buhari is listening to his people.
I also note that there is a Parliamentary petition with over 200,000 signatures calling for sanctions against the Nigerian Government and its officials. As it has exceeded the 100,000 signature threshold it will be considered for a debate and the Government will respond. I would want to ensure that any sanctions would be specific and targeted to avoid inadvertently negatively impacting ordinary Nigerians.
I will continue to follow developments, and the UK Government’s response, closely.