US Congress Queries Nigerian Government Over Harassment Of Atiku, Obi, Falana

The subcommittee of the US Congress for Africa, Human Rights, Global Health and International Organizations has queried the US government on its responses to reports of repression of opponents by the government of Nigeria.

During the hearing on Nigeria entitled, “Nigeria at a Crossroads: The Upcoming Elections” held on December 13, 2018, the Chairman Representative Chris Smith cited reports in two Nigerian newspapers, the Vanguard and PREMIUM TIMES pertaining to reported freezing of Gov Peter Obi’s bank accounts as well as a raid on VP Atiku’s sons. Both men are leading opposition challengers to General Buhari.

Specifically Chairman Chris Smith informed the top diplomat for Africa, Assistant Secretary of State Ambassador Tobir Nagy, that the subcommittee was in possession of a memo by the Nigerian embassy targeting a human rights lawyer for testifying before them. Concerned at the apparent repression of “opponents” of the Buhari regime, the Chairman asked the representative of the Trump administration whether the US government was engaged with Nigeria on these violations of citizens’ rights just for holding “contrary” views.

The Assistant Secretary of State for Africa responded that the US embassy in Nigeria was quite “concerned” and robustly engaged on such rights violations and election malpractice as just witnessed in Osun State and gave kudos to US ambassador Symmington whom he was impressed with during his recent visit to Nigeria last month.

Following the hearing, Washington-based Nigerian human rights lawyer Emmanuel Ogebe, who was the target of the Nigerian embassy referenced by the Chairman, submitted a letter to the State Department attaching the incriminating exhibit indicting the Nigerian embassy in Washington of attempting to subvert the US Congress by witness intimidation and retaliation.

In the letter he called for the revocation of the diplomatic immunity of the Nigerian diplomats involved in threatening his passport and their prosecution by the US government for violations of American law.

In a related vein, Ogebe in a letter to Senate President Bukola Saraki, who was present in the Congress during the hearing, called on him to hold the Nigerian government accountable for this “unconstitutional, undiplomatic and uncivilized conduct”. Ogebe requested the senate to hold a hearing on the legality of the Nigerian government’s attempt to revoke a citizen’s passport for exercising his constitutional freedom of speech.

Similarly, Ogebe urged the Senate President to ensure the passage of the electoral reforms and thus make history by freeing Nigerians from slavery to riggers just as previous senates had historically aborted the third term agenda and thwarted the cabal during Yar’Adua’s illness.

Also during question and answers, both the Assistant Secretary of State and the Deputy Administrator of USAID conceded that more farmers had been killed in the herder violence than herdsmen. This was in response to Congressman Garret who lamented the continuing atrocities in Nigeria and questioned why the world had “moved on to the next hashtag” when the Chibok girls were still missing.

USAID disclosed that 3,000 domestic election observers would be deployed for the upcoming elections.

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