Britain warns against coup in Nigeria

Britain's Home Secretary Theresa May gives a statement to the media after attending a COBRA National Emergencies Committee meeting at the Cabinet Office in London, Britain June 28, 2015. Britain says Islamist militants may launch further attacks on tourist resorts in Tunisia after a gunman killed 39 people, including at least 15 Britons, in the worst assault of its kind in modern Tunisian history. REUTERS/Neil Hall - RTX1I4FQ

Following speculations of imminent military intervention in the nation’s nascent democracy, the British Government yesterday warned of dire consequences should there be any ‘non-democratic’ change of government in the country. It specifically warned Nigerian Army against “non-democratic” change of government in Nigeria, amid speculations of military coup as fear heightened over President Muhammadu Buhari’s health.

“The British government believes that democracy is actually critical in Nigeria,” the United Kingdom High Commissioner to Nigeria, Paul Arkwright, said yesterday.

“There are elections. If you’re not happy with your leaders then you should change your leadership through the democratic process and through elections,” Arkwright added. The High Commissioner spoke on the sidelines of an event held in Abuja to formally launch a new report on corruption in Nigeria which was put together by UK policy thinktank, Chatham House.

Arkwright, while recognising the rights of citizens to agitate for a more tolerable living condition, said the United Kingdom would only encourage a change of power through the ballot box.

He said: “Our position is very clear: we stand for democracy, we stand for the democratic process and we stand for change – if that is what the people themselves want. “That has to be a choice the people make and not a choice that is imposed upon them.”

His comments came a day after the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, warned of undue interactions between army officers and politicians.

The president travelled to London last week for medical treatment for an undisclosed ailment barely a month after returning to Nigeria from an extended medical leave abroad.

“Any officer or soldier of Nigerian Army found to be hobnobbing with such elements or engaged in unprofessional conducts such as politicking would have himself or herself to blame,” the Army said in a statement signed by its spokesperson, Sani Usman, a brigadier general. Although the statement cited “political reasons” as grounds for the purported discussions between some military officers and politicians, it was silent on the specific discussions that took place or the individuals involved.