The Federal Government and the House of Representatives on Tuesday took a swipe at a United Kingdom (UK) parliamentarian, Tom Tugendhat, for accusing former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon (retd), of stealing during a debate on the #EndSARS protest in the House of Commons.
The government also rebuked the UK parliament for acting in an uninformed manner in recommending sanctions for Nigeria over the hoax massacre at the Lekki Toll Gate during the protest.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, at a meeting with online publishers in Lagos on Tuesday, said the knee jerk reaction of the House of Commons was informed by fake news and disinformation, just as he decried Tungedhat, chairman, Foreign Affairs Committee of the British House of Commons, for being “ignorant” and “flippant” in his accusation against Gowon.
According to Mohammed, “It is most disheartening that parliamentarians in a country with a history of upholding the finest ideals of democracy will act in such an uninformed manner on an issue such as EndSARS. The quality of the debate at the British Parliament on EndSARS was under par.
“Fake accusations based on fake news and disinformation were levelled against the Federal Government by poorly-informed participants at the debate.
“One MP even accused former Nigerian leader, General Yakubu Gowon (retd), who served this country to the best of his ability, of stealing half of the Central Bank of Nigeria. The flippant MP, who unfortunately chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee of the British House of Commons, did a great disservice to himself, the committee he chairs and the entire parliament by allowing himself to be misled by fake news exponents. Fittingly, the British government has distanced itself from him,” he said.
It will be recalled that Tugendhat, a Conservative parliamentarian for Tombridge, Edenbridge and Malling, had during the debate which led to the recommendation of sanctions against Nigeria, accused Gowon of stealing and money laundering, saying “now some people will remember when General Gowon left Nigeria with half of the Central Bank, so it was said, and moved to London.”
Mohammed stressed that the twin evils of fake news and disinformation aggravated the recent #EndSARS protest and the aftermath, adding that reactions of some countries were informed by fake news and disinformation, and varying figures of those purportedly killed in the hoax massacre at the Lekki Toll Gate.
Meanwhile, in a similar development, the House of Representatives on Tuesday resolved to communicate its displeasure to the Speaker of the British House of Commons over the allegations of corruption levelled against General Yakubu Gowon during the debate on the #EndSARS protests and the attendant loss of life and property that followed in the aftermath of the demonstrations.
The resolution was passed sequel to the adoption of a motion of urgent national importance on ‘The need to respond to the deliberate attempts by a member of the British House of Commons to cause crisis in Nigeria by making false allegations that General Gowon took half of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) with him when he went on exile to the United Kingdom after he was toppled in a military coup,’ as sponsored by Honourable Yusuf Gagdi.
While noting that the allegation levelled against the ‘longest serving Head of State in Nigeria’ was capable of inciting violence against him and causing breach of the peace, Honourable Gadgi exonerated the former Head of State.
“The House is disturbed that despite the barrage of condemnations by well-meaning and right thinking people from all over the world and an official request for retraction by the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, neither Tom Tugendhat, MP, nor the government he represents has thought it fit and proper to act to correct the inconsiderate and dangerous statements of Tugendhat.”
Honourable Gadgi also underscored the need for Nigeria to demand that the Member of Parliament, Tugendhat, offer a public apology to General Yakubu Gowon and the people and government of Nigeria for making claims in parliament that are capable of creating conflict, and breaching the peace in Nigeria.
In the bid to address the crisis, he urged the House to invite the British High Commissioner to the Federal Republic of Nigeria to explain to the House why, despite demands made by citizens and governments alike, the government of Great Britain has failed to offer an apology for the actions of Tom Tugendhat, MP and Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee of the House of Commons, knowing the effect such a statement can have in a country such as ours.
In his remarks, the Speaker of the House, Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila, noted that the statement was, indeed, unfortunate as statements in parliament should be used as shields for the people and not as swords aiming at sowing discord among nations and people, stressing that the resolution as made by the House would be conveyed to the British parliament accordingly.