The European Game Of Expulsions By Owei Lakemfa

Serious diplomacy has, this Easter Season, given way to the farcical drama of European countries expelling Russian diplomats, with the latters’ country also retaliating. This week, 25 countries, including non-European allies like the United States, Australia and Canada, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), had knocked out 158 Russian diplomats, with Russia absorbing the punches and throwing its own. There is the joke that American president, Donald Trump was watching the CBS 60 Minutes programme, when he was asked how many Russian diplomats should be expelled, and he looked at the screen, saw 60 Minutes and decided that 60 Russians should be expelled.

In descending into Cold War politics, no shots have been fired, and may not be; it is actually more of shadow boxing. The ostensible reason for this street musical is the tragic attempted murder of Russian double spy, Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, who were on March 4, found unconscious in Salisbury, Britain. Skripal was a Russian intelligence agent found guilty of “high treason in the form of espionage” and imprisoned in 2006 before being exchanged in 2010 for some Russians accused of spying in the US.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said the poison used was a “military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia” and concluded that Russia was “highly likely” to have made the attempt. Also, the attack bore resemblance to the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB agent who fled prosecution and took asylum in Britain. On November 1, 2006, he fell ill and passed away twenty days later. The autopsy showed he had ingested poison – polonium-2010, and the Russians were accused of administering it.

The Russians denied being behind the Salisbury attack and asked the British for evidence beyond mere suspicion. An angry Britain responded by expelling 23 Russian diplomats, and the latter retaliated by also expelling an equal number of British diplomats and shutting down the British Council in Russia.

The Euro-American outrage over the attack on Sergei Skripal is more political than a concern for human life. If this were not so, there should have been a similar wave of expulsion of Saudi Arabia diplomats for the country’s atrocious bombings of social gatherings, hospitals and schools in Yemen, which (according to the United Nations) had by November 2017 resulted in 5,295 civilian deaths and 8,873 injured.

As a non-actor in this drama, and examining Prime Minister May’s submission to the British Parliament this Monday, that no other country “has a combination of the capability, the intent and the motive to carry out such an act”, I wonder if this is the same country that produced Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his fictional smart detective ‘Sherlock Holmes’. If it is true that the poison was the type produced in Russia, is there no possibility that a third country or party could have used it, knowing that Russia will be blamed?

As it is, Britain has no conclusive proof, no evidence, and makes no presumption of innocence; it simply found Russia guilty, probably on the basis of the latter’s ‘bad boy’ image. It is like a crime committed in a neigbourhood and the police asks itself ‘who is the bad guy around’ and concludes that he is not just the suspect, but is in fact guilty. There is a saying that if the witch cries in the night, and the child dies in the morning, who does not know that it was the witch that killed the child? For good old fashioned Britain, Russia is the witch; it must have carried out the attack.

Britain might have been quite distraught and emotional about the Salisbury attack, but how do you explain the herd-like reaction of over two dozen countries, expelling Russian diplomats? Is it just a matter of siding with an ally, even if its position is highly flawed or an attempt by the European Union to show Britain that it needs solidarity within a common union, rather than Brexit?

The Euro-American outrage over the attack on Sergei Skripal is more political than a concern for human life. If this were not so, there should have been a similar wave of expulsion of Saudi Arabia diplomats for the country’s atrocious bombings of social gatherings, hospitals and schools in Yemen, which (according to the United Nations) had by November 2017 resulted in 5,295 civilian deaths and 8,873 injured. Rather than call the Saudis to order and stop these war crimes, countries like United States and Britain have increased their weapon sales to the Saudis. The Independent newspaper reported that rather than caution the Saudis, Britain, in the wake of the Yemeni massacres, increased the number of British-made bombs and missiles sold to Saudi Arabia by almost 500 percent, with over £4.6 billion realised from these sales of arms.

I feel I am in a cinema hall waiting for the second part of this expulsion film; so I need to stretch my legs, get popcorn and a bottle of Zobo drink to watch Part II, which may be titled “Russia Retaliates”.

Perhaps the most honest admission that the reasons for the expulsion of Russian diplomats is primarily political, came from the NATO Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, who told the press that the Salisbury attack was a mere trigger; he lists some of the sins of Russia: “We have seen the illegal annexation of Crimea, we have seen the destabilisation of Eastern Ukraine, we have seen cyber attacks, we have seen hybrid tactics, we have seen Russia investing heavily in modern military equipment and the willingness to use military force against neighbours”.

There is also the apprehension that Russia’s international image would be boosted by its hosting the 2018 World Cup, so there is need for Russia-bashing. Hence, amongst Britain’s ‘sanctions’ against Russia, is barring cabinet ministers and members of the royal family from the World Cup. Also, the British secretary of state for Foreign Affairs, Boris Johnson revealed that pressure is being put on the English team to boycott the World Cup in Moscow, because Russian president, Vladimir Putin would likely use it “like Hitler used the 1936 Olympics”.

So the international leaders of human rights and the sanctity of human life, have reduced the victims of the poison attack, to mere pawns in the chess game against Russia. The current expulsion game is like a reality show; even Stoltenberg admits that the primary effect on Russia is that the expulsions may reduce its capability to carry out intelligence work in the countries its diplomatic strength have been reduced. Generally, sanctions against Russia by the West have become seasonal with a lot of drama, but little effect. One major one was the 2014 sanctions over the Russian “annexation” of Crimea and its alleged interference in Ukraine.

I feel I am in a cinema hall waiting for the second part of this expulsion film; so I need to stretch my legs, get popcorn and a bottle of Zobo drink to watch Part II, which may be titled “Russia Retaliates”.

UK Govt Essentially Fuelling War In Yemen- Lawmaker

The UK government has been accused by UK parliament member Chris Williamson, of fueling the war in Yemen rather than find ways to alleviate the crisis.

Williamson’s comment follows the UK government’s decision to receive Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who according to Williamson is the architect of the Yemen war.

The crown prince would arrive in London on Wednesday for a three-day visit, during which he will meet with Prime Minister Theresa May, the royal family and UK government officials in spite of planned protests from the UK Stop the War Coalition (STWC) group.

“We should be a force for humanitarian good in the world and we are quite the opposite of that, we’re actually helping to prosecute the war in Yemen rather than ending it.

“Rather than taking a humanitarian stand, the government is actually hosting the architect of this war,’’ Williamson told a press conference.

According to the lawmaker, the current UK government has been “essentially fuelling the war in Yemen” and consequently is “entirely implicated” in the country’s humanitarian crisis.

Activists from a number of groups, such as the Campaign against Arms Trade and Human Rights for Yemen, intend to stage a rally outside May’s Downing Street office, reportedly at the time of her meeting with the crown prince.

Stephen Bell, a spokesman for the STWC, told newsmen in January that London had to withdraw its invitation to the crown prince, stating that Riyadh was responsible for the humanitarian catastrophe in war-torn Yemen.

The Saudi-led coalition has been carrying out airstrikes against the Shiite Houthi movement at Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi’s request, but the human rights organisations have sounded the alarm over the toll this campaign has been having on civilians.

The UK has faced its share of backlash from anti-war campaigners for selling arms to Saudi Arabia.

Report says the UK government insists that such exports are legitimate policy, but critics have pointed to the possibility of these weapons being used in Yemen on civilian targets.

 

Herdsmen Killings: British Prime Minister Urges FG To Find Solution

The British Prime Minister, Theresa May, has said the British Government is engaging Nigeria’s federal and state governments over killings allegedly being perpetrated by herdsmen in some parts of the country.

This is contained in a letter signed by Angela Almona (Whitehall Nigeria Unit) of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The letter was addressed to Dr Kohol Shadrach Iornem, the Vice President of the Mutual Union of Tiv in the United Kingdom.

The Publicity Secretary of MUTUK, Salome Biam, in a cover note which accompanied the letter, said the British Prime Minister was replying to a protest letter earlier submitted to her over the killings in Benue State where 73 people were given a mass burial.

May was quoted in the letter as saying, “We express our concerns about this issue and encourage the government to work with the affected populations to develop a solution that meets the needs of all the communities affected.

“The British Government is concerned about the issue of unprovoked attacks and killing by Fulani herdsmen in Benue and some states and we are engaging the government of Nigeria to find a solution to these killings.”

Biam said the Tiv community in the UK had, on January 22, staged a protest to the office of the Prime Minister and submitted a petition to her office.

The petition was titled: ‘Stopping the systematic killings and displacement of rural farming communities by Terror Fulani Cattle Herdsmen in the Benue Valley of Nigeria’.

The Tiv community requested the British Government to consider intervening in the alleged systematic ethnic cleansing against their people and other tribes in Nigeria.

The protesters also requested the British Government to compel the Federal Government of Nigeria to take necessary steps to identify and disarm the Fulani herders and their accomplices while providing protection for the victims.

Terrorists Plotting To Bomb Abuja, US, UK Warn

In its latest foreign travel advice to British nationals,the British government has warned their citizens of terrorist groups’ threat to carry out bomb attacks in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, during the year end festive period.

It stated “You should avoid places where crowds gather, including religious gatherings and places of worship, markets, shopping malls, hotels, bars, restaurants, transport hubs and camps for displaced people,” the United Kingdom said in a statement posted on the FCO website.

Government of the United States of America (USA) made a similar move by cautioning its citizens on safe travel and movement in the nation’s capital through its ‘Security Message for U.S. Citizens: Holiday Security Reminder’.

The reminder partly read “The US Mission urges all US citizens to exercise caution in and around shopping centres, malls, markets, hotels, places of worship, restaurants, bars, and other places where crowds gather in and around the Federal Capital Territory, from now through the Christmas and New Year’s holiday season. Terrorist groups have threatened to conduct bombings and attacks in this area during this period.

“The US Mission remains concerned about potential attacks in the states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa and Yobe. Travellers are urged to avoid those states through the end of the year.

“Review your personal security plans, remain aware of your surroundings, including local events, and monitor local news stations for updates. Be vigilant and take appropriate steps to enhance your personal security”.

BREAKING: Nigerian Govt. Recovers Stolen $85m From UK

The Nigerian Government has announced on Thursday the recovery of $85m from the United Kingdom (UK).

The money is said to have been part of the stolen funds from the controversial Malabu Oil deal.

Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami stated this at the on-going consultative meeting on assets recovery in Abuja.

Malami decried the negative attitude of some countries that are still holding on to stolen assets, despite several treaties signed with the Federal Government to facilitate the return of loot.

Details later…

UK Accuses Nigeria Over The Operation Of Biafra Radio

The United Kingdom has blamed Nigeria for the continued operation of pirate Radio Biafra which the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB)uses to preach hate against the country.

The radio station domiciled in the UK was established by the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) with Mr. Nnamdi Kanu as Director.

Kanu, also a British citizen, operated the radio on behalf of MASSOB and later took over the radio as a megaphone of IPOB.

The British government seems not happy with reports credited to Nigerian information and culture minister Lai Mohammed, who insinuated that the UK had not shut the radio station.

A terse statement released on Thursday by Mr. Joe Abuku, Press and Public Affairs Officer, British High Commission in Nigeria, said the “The UK is not aware of any representation from Nigerian government about Radio Biafra.’’

“Were we to receive any such request, we would, of course, consider it carefully on the basis of the available evidence, recognizing that freedom of speech and expression carries responsibilities.’’

The minister recently accused some people in France and United Kingdom of having links with the proscribed IPOB.

According to reports, Mohammed was quoted that “the financial headquarters” of the separatist group “is in France”.

He said this is a “fact”while faulting the UK for not doing something to stop Biafra radio from airing over there.

As the Minister pointed out, the Biafra Radio was probably not taken down by the UK authorities is that the radio is a free channel of communication available to any law-abiding person.

Very much like the internet and social media, anyone who has the license to operate a radio can always air whatever they want to.

Monisola Bakre: Is The UK Government Forcefully ‘Adopting’ A Nigerian Child @UKinNigeria @TheresaMay_M @PaulTArkwright

…Don’t Come Home Without My Son, Distressed Father Pleads

A Nigerian man, Ayo Bakre has raised an alarm over the curious illegal detention and absurd adoption of his young son in the United Kingdom.

According to Bakre, the issue started in 2012 when his wife, Shade traveled to London with their son Monisola, who was less than one year old then.

Since their departure five years ago, the story has taken bizarre turns in what ended in an unjust, if illegal ‘adoption by the UK government’ under the pretext that the mother could not take care of the child.

Now the UK government is about to deport the mother to Nigeria but without her child.

The wife and son, Shade and Monisola Bakre
The wife and son, Shade and Monisola Bakre

Ayo Bakre who has two other children with Shade (Moyosore and Morolayo), told Osun Defender that “Sade had traveled to London on holiday in 2012 with Monisola who was less than 12 months then.

While in London, Monisola got injured and was taken to an hospital for treatment but the social workers claimed the degree of the injury is non-accidental. Because of this, the mother was charged to court for attempted murder, child trafficking, etc. but she was subsequently cleared of this by the court in Bromley.

“However, the judge says she cannot release the boy to her on the ground that in the opinion of the court, she cannot take care of the boy. After a long legal battle, our son was adopted by a court decision.

“As a father, this does not go down well with me and I have told the mother not to make any attempt to return to Nigeria without bringing my child. I don’t understand this decision in anyway. We have never declared to court in any manner that we cannot take care of our son. I am saying it loud and clear regardless of the consequences that my son Monisola must be brought back home. The mother dares not come back home without bringing Monisola.

” I have appealed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a letter dated 17th of August, 2015 to help me in this unfortunate situation I found myself but I am yet to get any response. His siblings at home keep disturbing me almost on a daily basis that they want to see their brother but each time they say they want to talk to their brother, confusion always sets in.”

 

Moyosore and Morolayo Bakre and their father, Ayo Bakre
Moyosore and Morolayo Bakre and their father, Ayo Bakre

The case leaves many questions unanswered as Shade’s family has threatened to report Ade to the police for insisting that the mother must return only with Monisola, his son. This has raised the question of whether the boy was actually adopted or if any shady dealings are playing out

“I don’t care if my wife’s family reports to police because they threatened to do so when I told them their daughter dares not return home, if my son is not released. I am not about the story in UK; all I want is Monisola must be brought back or else the consequence for Shade might be too severe”, Bakre said.

UK to Invest in Nigeria’s Energy Sector

Britain has expressed its readiness to invest in pipeline infrastructure, renewable energy, gas and power of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry.

British High Commissioner, Mr. Paul Arkwright, made this promise when the Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Mr. Ndu Ughamadu, visited the Chancery of British High Commission in Abuja.

Mr. Arkwright noted that the British Government had genuine investment interest in the Downstream, Midstream and Upstream sectors, stressing that the British Department for International Trade was ready to liaise with the Federal Government to invest in the country.

The High Commissioner also urged the Federal Government and the NNPC to organize a road show in London to create awareness on the possible investment opportunities available in the Nigerian Oil and Gas sector.

Mr. Arkwright said so many British investors had funds which they were willing to invest in Nigeria, stressing, however, that the process of obtaining Nigerian visa in United Kingdom was cumbersome with three different levels of visa procurement fees as well as Nigeria’s postal order system.

NNPC’s spokesman, Mr. Ughamadu, on behalf of the Group Managing Director of the Corporation, Dr. Maikanti Baru, condoled with the British Government over the recent terror attacks in the United Kingdom.

Ughamadu, who lead the NNPC delegation, commended the High Commissioner for the Commission’s promptness in issuing visas to officials of the Corporation. He assured that NNPC would sustain the cordial relations.

NAN

UK Will Not Support Break-up of Nigeria – Envoy

The United Kingdom has denied insinuation that it is in support of any agitation for the break-up of Nigeria.

The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Paul Thomas Arkwright, said on Friday that the British government was not supporting those calling for the secession in Nigeria.

The UK said it would always support Nigeria’s unity and ensure the progress of the country as usual.

Arkwright spoke in Ilorin, Kwara State , when a paid a courtesy visit to the state House of Assembly where he met with the Speaker, Dr Ali Ahmed and other principal officers of the house.

“In a word, no, we don’t have anything to do with anyone agitating for break-up of Nigeria.

“We’re strongly in support of the unity of Nigeria and the federal government of Nigeria. And that’s what the British government has consistently supported and we don’t have interest or support any one agitating for the break- up of Nigeria.

“For anyone to say the British governmental is involved in any way in the break-up of Nigeria is completely wrong,” he said.

He described Nigeria’s democratic situation as delicate, but commended efforts at upholding democratic tenets and keeping the flame of democracy alive.

France, an ally of defunct Biafra in 1967, had similarly denounced any further step to actualise the secession of South East from Nigeria.

The country said that such a move had been overtaken by events and no longer in support of break-up of any part of Nigeria.

France’s Ambassador to Nigeria, Denys Gauer, said his country would not in any way work with any group agitating for the dismemberment of Nigeria.

He said France was working with Nigeria and supporting it as a country.

He spoke against the backdrop of France’s previous support for Biafra during Nigeria’s civil war.

Gauer pointed out that Nigeria has evolved since the civil war.

France has been cooperating with the country to overcome its challenges, especially the fight against insurgency.

NAN

British Government to Invest in Kano

According to the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr Paul Arkwright who recently visited the Acting Governor of Kano state, Prof. Hafizu Abubakar at the Government House,the British Government has expressed its readiness to invest in Kano State to promote growth.

Arkwright who was reportedly in Kano to assess some of the programmes being executed by the Department of International Development (DFID) on education and health said the Commission is impressed with how the programmes are running. He said “The teacher training programme is very impressive and we look forward to more strengthened relationship between Kano State and the British Government.

Responding to Arkwright’s positive remarks and promise of future investments, acting governor, Abubakar said the state government was very grateful for the interventions in the health and education sector through the DFID, noting that “On the teacher development training programme, the state had 50 per cent of unqualified teachers and the need to train them is a must. There are currently 58,000 primary school teachers in the state and most of them don’t have basic teaching qualification.

UK at Loggerheads With EU Over Brexit “Divorce Bill”

The UK will not pay a €100bn (£85bn) “divorce bill” to leave the EU, Brexit Secretary David Davis has insisted.

He told ITV’s GMB programme the UK would pay what it was legally obliged to do “not just what the EU wants”.

It comes amid claims by the Financial Times that the financial settlement sought by the EU has risen from €60bn.

Mr Davis said the UK treated its EU “rights and obligations” seriously but it had “not seen any number”, adding the EU was playing “rough and tough”.

The EU’s chief negotiator Michael Barnier is due to publish his guidelines for the talks later.

An EU source has told the BBC that officials in Brussels will not enter into a discussion about potential figures for a final bill.

Talks over the size of the so-called “divorce bill” are likely to be one of the hardest-fought and most sensitive areas of the Brexit process.

Mr Davis said the negotiations had not started in earnest but indicated the UK would set down a marker when it came to talks over the divorce settlement.

“We are not supplicants,” he said. “They lay down what they want and we lay down what we want.”

The EU has insisted that the UK will have to accept liabilities stemming from its membership, including contributions to the EU Budget.
The EU has already listed some sort of agreement on a payment from the UK as a precondition for opening talks on a trade deal.

Previous calculations had placed the financial settlement likely to be demanded by the EU at between 50 and 60bn euros.

The Financial Times, using the same economic model with new data from around Europe, suggests that has now gone up to 100bn euros.

There are reports in Brussels that the difference might include demands from countries like France and Poland for UK contributions to farm subsidies.

The EU may also be planning to refuse to allow the UK a share of the EU’s assets including buildings and bank deposits.

The suggestion that the payment would be made in installments would not do much to soften the blow from the British perspective, he added.

The revelation comes amid growing tensions between the UK and EU following reports of a dinner in Downing Street last week, in which European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is said to have told Theresa May that Brexit could not be a success.

On Tuesday, Mrs May said Mr Juncker would discover that she could be a “bloody difficult woman”.

Many Conservative MPs argue the UK does not owe the EU anything given the size of the contributions it has made in the past.

A recent report by a House of Lords committee argued the UK was not legally obliged to pay a penny.

BBC