In this interview with a freelance journalist, Ruona Meyer, the Nigerian Ambassador to Germany, Yusuf Tuggar, insists that the attack on ex-deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, by members of the separatist group, IPOB, is a crime and an act of terrorism. He challenges the German authorities to bring the perpetrators to book.
Ms Meyer shared the interview exclusively with Premium Times.
PT: We`ve got a few questions for you following an exclusive interview with the German police. They have said that they identified four people in connection with the alleged attack on Senator Ekweremadu. What can you say about the attack and the investigation?
Tuggar: First of all, this assault on a serving senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which from all probability was with the intent to cause grievous bodily harm took place moments before I arrived at the venue, and although I didn’t witness it live. I got to the scene of the crime shortly after it happened and I spoke to several people there and I attended the event and also joined the sombre mood as well.
It was (like) an animal when a man is made to run for his life while people try to haunt him down, rip him off his clothes. There were sticks being brandished. We thank God Almighty no serious harm was done to him or indeed any other person that was there, those that arrived with him or those that organised the event.
PT. The German police have told me that `eggs` were also thrown and they had to block Ekweremadu`s car to prevent people from crowding him. Now by what you described, why did you feel the need to still go to that event? Were you not afraid that a similar thing may befall you?
Tuggar. Indeed, the reason why I insisted on attending the event even though that terrible incident happened was that I understood IPOB`s intent was to make sure that the event didn’t hold, and if it did, they wanted to make sure no representative of the Nigerian government or indeed anyone who would project the indivisibility of Nigeria was in attendance too.
Therefore, (going was) the only way to counter such a terrorist move – because it is terrorism, as you can see the most active word in it is ‘terror’ and what they wanted to do was to terrorise people into silence. And if we all decided we were not going to attend, they would have achieved their objective, and that’s why I insisted on going there. In fact, I was trying to get Senator Ekweremadu into my vehicle which represents the Federal Republic of Nigeria here, and once you are inside that car you are within the Nigerian territory but, unfortunately, those that were around and the police put their best to take him out of the venue.
PT. So, police say they have gotten four people and they are reviewing the evidence and they are still going to continue. They might likely have more people on their list. Could you give me more information about this case?
Tuggar. We have done our best to ensure that the authorities are aware of what transpired, and share the videos with those who haven’t seen it. The videos speak for themselves. So, anybody trying to say there were no crime committed or no physical attack on Senator Ekweremadu either hasn’t seen the video or is on a different mission. It is clear.
There is no political protest that will push the supposed protesters into physically touching and assaulting another human being. Anywhere that happens in the world, it is a crime and some people need to be brought to book.
So, quite honestly, I fail to understand how the issue of peaceful protest comes into this. If they were on peaceful protest, they would have come to my office with placards and said what they wanted and left.
And the police are there. But you cross that line in any country and place your hand on any individual trying to cause harm. What I do know is that in some countries, first and foremost, they would be arrested and they have the right to bail. But when the police are there and witness something like that, one would expect arrest will be made and thereafter bail can be arranged and the investigation goes on, and if there`s need to prosecute, then they get prosecuted.
PT: Ambassador, I get the sense you are sort of holding some information. Nigerians also say the same thing that they’ve not been carried along, some Nigerians say apart from the first press release, your office issued almost immediately after the event, there has been nothing else.
What do you have to say about this? Are you withholding information for any reason?
Tuggar: Well, we have decided to remain silent. We have said what we are going to say in the statement and have explained what transpired. We explained that formally and informed the German authority. After we informed them, we were made to understand that there is an investigation going on. We do not want to interfere in the process of that investigation, which is why we do not make any statement of pronouncement.
We believe in the rule of law and Nigeria has come a long way in trying to ensure the strict compliance to the rule of law. When we are outside Nigeria, we try to abide by the same principles, which is why we did what we felt was right. We have expressed to the German authorities our desire to support the efforts toward investigating what transpired and bringing perpetrators to book.
We protect Nigeria and Nigerians here in Germany to ensure their safety and their integrity remains intact. And this issue is all about Nigeria and Nigerians, not even about Senator Ekweremadu, it can happen to anyone and we will take it up.
We have to ensure that the value of the life of Nigerians and their property is also respected all over the world. We are trying to project that positive image, we cannot have a situation where Nigerians are attacked by criminals and terrorists and nothing gets done. It doesn’t happen anywhere in the world, this has to be taken up.
We are expecting Nigerians to be treated no differently from nationals of other countries all over the world. We are certain with the way German’s laws are constituted, this stands as a crime.
PT: Do you have confidence in the German police?
Tuggar. I am waiting to see what is going to happen. For us, this is a litmus test. I cannot sit here and vouch for the German police. I am still trying to understand how they work. This is the first time we are having this experience.
What I do know is that the German authorities are aware of IPOB, which is a proscribed terrorist organisation in Nigeria. They are aware that IPOB are registered here as an entity and, therefore, it is up to them to decide whether they should take action on such an entity that has registered here and begins to attack Nigerians on German soil. So, we wait to see.
PT: What do you want to tell IPOB?
Tuggar: You give up your futile endeavour. Nigeria is for Nigerians. Since 1999, Nigeria has had six elections and people were voted as members of the house of assembly. Some were voted as governors, deputy governors. People were voted as senators and members of the House of Representatives. People were voted as presidents and vice-presidents.
So, Nigeria`s integrity, territorial and political integrity is intact. You do not have the support back home which is you are trying to shut other Nigerians outside Nigeria up so that you would project yourselves as the spokespersons for certain part of Nigeria, the southeast. But you don’t have that support.
So, please, lay down this futile struggle, give up this terrorist activity and if you want to represent people in the southeast or Nigeria, there is a way to do it. We have a constitution, then you go about it, the same way others did.
PT. What would you like to tell us Nigerians in Germany?
Tuggar. First of all, I will like to commiserate with them on this incident and I will like to assure them we`re doing our best to ensure justice is served.
We don’t believe the German authorities will take side with terrorists and therefore, we believe that based on the German laws and based on the good relationship between Nigeria and Germany since independence, this will come to a logical conclusion that will instill further confidence in Nigerians living in Germany and at home.
I will like to urge them (Nigerians) to continue their businesses peacefully and assure them that we have confidence in them.