The Minister of Budget and Economic Planning, Senator Abubakar Bagudu, has reiterated that there was no clause on $150 billion for Nigeria in the recently signed Samoa Agreement.

He said the deal was a “Partnership Agreement between the European Union and its Members States and members of the Organization of the Caribbean and Pacific States”.

The minister denied that the agreement had anything to do with the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) rights.

He said Nigeria’s signing of the agreement was accompanied by a declaration clarifying its understanding of it.

He said the agreement Nigeria entered into contained 103 foundational articles and 79 African region specific protocols.

He said “none of the protocols offends our laws.”

He said the agreement has no clause on LGBTQ+ rights or any agreement indicating that Nigeria support LGBTQ rights. He said: “Anything we sign must be in tandem with our constitution and laws. Anything beyond that is null and void.

“Tinubu respects Nigeria’s sensitivity and diversity and will never approve anything that will be seen as damaging our sensitivity.”

Bagudu spoke at an emergency press briefing on Abuja in the company of the Minister of information and Orientation, Mohammed Idris, and the Special Assistant to the President on Information and Strategy, Mr. Bayo Onanuga.

Taking the first shot, the Minister of information and Orientation described as fake news and disinformation the report that the government has signed the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) agreement in exchange for $150 billion, saying the government would consider legal actions against the media House.

He said the agreement has no provision for LGBT in whatever form, adding that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu will never sign any agreement that is against the country’s constitution, law, culture and religion.

He said the government would drag Daily Trust newspaper to an Ombudsman and the court to prove that it misled Nigerians on the agreement.

Idris advised some clerics already inciting Muslims in the country against being misdirected by fake news.

He said contrary to what was reported, there is nothing in the agreement that is of concern.

Idris said that following the report in the national daily, Ulamas started to use it in their Friday sermons to castigate the government.

The minister cautioned against media publication that continued to advance the erroneous narrative that the Samoa Agreement recently signed by the Federal Government was to promote the LGBT agenda in the country.

He said the affected media outfit would be dragged before the, Ombudsman of the Newspaper Proprietors of Nigeria (NPAN).

He, however, assured that the Tinubu administration will not trample on press freedom.

He said: “We are alarmed by the level of reckless reporting and statements by some media organisations and individuals that border on national security and stability.

“While we sometimes view and treat those occasional reporting as part of media’s normal work, we have now seen a pattern that is difficult to be wished away as normal journalism.

“The insidious and inciting publications by Daily Trust these past months have come across as nothing but a deliberate effort to brush the government with a tar.

“On many occasions we have restrained ourselves from believing that this was the case, but the consistency of the jejune and mischievous publications leaves us with no option.

“In the aftermath of the coup in Niger Republic, Daily Trust championed a jaundiced narrative that the Federal Government was driving the country into a war and twisted it with regional sentiment to cause disaffection.

“The same newspaper gave a banner headline to a baseless accusation that the government was working on citing foreign military bases in the country. Neither Daily Trust nor originators of that imaginative allegation provided any shred of evidence.

“Then just two weeks ago, Daily Trust concocted and popularised a lie that the Federal Government had renamed the Murtala Mohammed Expressway in Abuja to Wole Soyinka Way.

“In all those instances all that the paper depended on were falsehood and hearsays. They also showed no remorse or the humility to recant.

“We however did not envisage that Daily Trust and people behind it could descend to the reckless level of attempting to set the country on fire by falsely accusing the government of signing a deal to promote LGBTQ.

“We found that despicable and wicked because the allegation is nowhere in the document signed. Surprisingly, the paper put forward no evidence nor provided the agreement allegedly signed to prove their point.

“The baseless and sensational story unfortunately formed a basis for Khutba (sermons) by some of our respected imams who were misled by the story, thereby raising tempers.

“On the part of the government, we continue on the honourable path of civility by restraining ourselves from taking self-help or draconian measures.

“While past governments clamped down on the media for infractions much lower than this, we are however toeing the path of civility and the rule of law.

“But beyond this, the Federal Government is lodging a formal complaint to the NPAN Ombudsman on this irresponsible reporting.

“In addition, the Federal Government will use every lawful means to seek redress in the court of law.

“The Federal Government once again restates its friendly policy towards ethical media and free speech. We would however not take fake news and disinformation that would injure the peace of our country and its national security lightly.”

Idris insisted that the Federal Government has nothing to hide.

He said the Tinubu administration was committed to Probity and Transparency.

He added: “The Ministry of Information and National Orientation under my leadership will do everything possible to ensure transparency, honesty in the dissemination of credible information.

“We made this solemn pledge at the beginning when we were new to office and we will continue to do that.

“We call on you, members of the media, to please help us to spread only what is correct and what you know you can verify.

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“It is normal and indeed within the right of the media to scrutinise the affairs of government.

“Nobody can take that away but it is important that care is taken so that when information is being passed, we only present what we know to only the true, credible, honest and in the best interest of our nation.

“Whenever information is being spread that will harm our unity, that will harm our political existence as a nation, then of course there must be something to be asked there.

“We will continue to provide information to the media as needed.

“I would also implore the media to please report only what is factual.

“The series of headlines we think that we have received from the newspaper has given us a cause for concern.

“For me, as a member of this industry, I am really particularly pained that I have to come to address a particular medium in this regard.

“But it is important because we have made this pledge that we are only going to provide what is credible, what we know to be factual.

“The President and this administration will not in any way, in any way, I repeat, the President will not sign or cause any office official to sign anything that will harm our nation, not in any way.

“So to all those who come on in that there is a signature out there that gives away our country as an LGBT-compliant country or seeking to do that, it is mischaracterization, misrepresentation.

“The current government insists that our laws will be respected, our norms will be respected, our traditions will also be respected and our values will be respected.

“The two major religions here are against it.

There is a law existing against the issue of LGBT. The current government of Nigeria would not go against that.

“I think it is important that we put this out there for those who have reacted largely due to ignorance.

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There is also a Surah, Surah Al-Hujurat in the Holy Quran.

“Before you put out any information out there, it is important that you cross-check and be sure of your facts.”

He also called on religious leaders to show understanding, while promising that the government will continue to engage with them.

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He added: “We call on our Ulamas and we are already engaging them and all religious leaders from both the Muslims and the Christian faith to show understanding that this is a very difficult time.

“We will continue to engage them, we will continue to put out the truth there, we will continue to give them.

“That is why we came, not just with the document that Nigeria sent, but the entire document relating to the whole issue of Samoa, the so-called Samoa agreement, the cross-cultural agreement.

“There is nothing we have examined, the Attorney General of the Federation has examined it, and there is nothing that is said there that is of concern.

“But of course, the government is there to continue to clarify, to continue to explain and to continue to appeal for the understanding of not just the media but for the Nigerian population, for us to continue to grow on the path of progress and unity of our country.

“Please, we call on all of you, and I want to use this opportunity to thank those media organizations that have provided clarity by fact-checking some of these claims put forward by this particular newspaper.

“It has been fast-checked, the statements and all the documents are actually out there, and the equality of this agreement has also been shared.”

Bagudu clarifies agreement

Bagudu clarified that the agreement signed by Nigeria was for cooperation and the economic development of the country.

He said: “President Bola Tinubu did not authorise anything that is damaging or hurtful to our sensitivity and we have not signed any such agreement.”

“Mr. President has undertaken, consistent with his campaign promise, a very demanding diplomacy in order to convince the world that we need all the support and the world is taking it seriously, because there is so much transparency, because there is so much clarity.

“I recall when we visited Saudi Arabia for the first time, the Minister of Investment of Saudi Arabia stated that they compare what President Nasser al-Baghdadi is doing to that of his brother, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, taking on courageous measures that they should have been taking decades ago.

“Development partners, as you very well know, are also media savvy. They see what is happening. So let us not ridicule our nation based on misrepresentation.

“Let us support the commendable endeavours and reward the hard work so that the development partners we are relating with, the investors we are looking for will be interested in our resolve.

“When industrialists or development partners see a lie coming too far, they will have the right to worry.”

Bagudu cautioned against reports beclouded with political expediency.

He said: “So we know that some will do it because it is politically expedient. We can do nothing about it, but we believe the majority of Nigerians are able to see paths for themselves and support so that Nigeria can continue to be respected, Nigeria can continue to be an investment destination.

“And also appreciate that hardworking men and women in service, in ministries are dealing with these issues and they will be demoralised if all they see is their effort being misrepresented by somebody with a big voice in society, using their power wrongly, a media house or a group of media entrepreneurs.

“So I appeal to all Nigerians to support the bold, courageous endeavoors we are taking, so that our development partners will also be strengthened and continue to relate with us and to know that we appreciate what they are doing for us.

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Giving insights into the contents of the agreement, Bagudu said Nigeria did not sign an agreement only with the EU but with many other countries.

He added: “It’s a requirement by those countries so that they set out the parameters of the cooperation.

“When you get a copy of the document, you will see that this is a broad agreement.

“It is about education; it is about food security; it is about water and sanitation; it is about decent work; and it is about demography.

“It is about youth. It is about culture and sustainable development. It is about inclusive economic development. It is about private sector development. It is about human rights, democracy and rule of law. It is about good governance, public administration, personal data, peace and security.

“So those are the articles. Each article is about an area of cooperation. We signed an agreement with the EU to say that we believe we can cooperate in these areas, in the several areas, which are about 100 and almost 200 distinct areas.”

Bagudu, who was visibly upset by the narration in the public domain, said Nigeria was painstaking in signing the agreement.

He added: “Even when we signed this agreement, we had to also sign a specific implementation agreement.

“For example, we have a rule of law agreement. We have just signed one about four months ago. “The EU will say that for this period of time, between 2024 and 2027, for example, we are going to give you this amount of money.

“The rule of law is $30 million to support ICPC, to support the EFCC, to support the Ministry of Justice.

“We have the migration agreement also. We also have on the democratic institutions.

“So what I say is that within this agreement, there is nowhere where it is mentioned that Nigeria is going to receive $150 billion or any sum for that money.

“But these areas of cooperation are areas which will develop further and grow further.

“And they will lead to capital, will lead to support, will lead to technical support that we can enhance good production.

“One of the biggest supports we are receiving from the EU, for example, is called IDICE, which is our digital. About $300-600 million worth of projects are coming under that.

“So I would say that there is nowhere in the world of development where you see 150 billion.

“But these are agreements which I believe, like with other countries, define what you want to relate with those countries in and how to go about it.”

Responding to a question, Bagudu said: “So you can imagine what about 79 other countries are like. That is why the agreement provides a proviso where a country, each country, not just Nigeria, can issue a declaration, clarifying some basis in which it is signing.

“Like I gave the example, one of the obvious ones; we didn’t provide it because of concerns about misrepresentation about LGBT, for example. We are clear.

“But I gave the example of what we were worried about. We were worried that because of the way Europe is moving to clean energy, we don’t want to sign something that limits our capacity to develop our oil and gas sector clearly.

“One of the declarations you see made it clear that even though we signed any agreement on climate, we were categorical that it was not to limit us in any way because those are developmental rights and we kept within our constitution.”

Reports linking Samoa Agreement to LGBT rights irresponsible, says ex-British diplomat

A former British diplomat in Nigeria, Mr David Roberts, yesterday condemned reports linking the Samoa Agreement Nigeria signed penultimate Friday to the protection of LGBT rights as irresponsible, saying the document was a partnership pact on the growth and development of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and the Pacific States that signed it with EU Member countries.

There had been a backlash against the Federal Government after a national newspaper published a claim that some provisions of the agreement protect the rights of LGBT, contending that Nigeria signed on the back of a proposed $150bn loan.

Despite the rebuttal by the Federal Government through the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mr Mohammed Idris, social media remained agog with the condemnation of the agreement, forcing the Minister of Budget and Economic Planning, Senator Abubakar Bagudu to address a press conference yesterday to clarify the content of the document further.

“I found it incredible that anybody could believe that the Samoa Agreement, which is a protocol of economic and social development between the EU and its member states and the Organisation of African, Caribbean, and Pacific States (OACPS) on the other hand is to further Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) rights,” Roberts said in a statement yesterday.

He said nothing could be further from the truth, adding that except the reports were deliberate misinformation, he failed to see how anybody could have read the agreement and come to such a conclusion.

According to the former diplomat, “the agreement is a document that journalists can read. You do not need a Freedom of Information Act request to read it. It is a public document on the EU’s website.

“It is a harmless treaty that aims to reduce and eradicate poverty in the ACP nations and lead to the financial integration of African and Caribbean nations into the world economy.”

He said the best predictor of future events was the past, explaining that it was an agreement that over 50 countries had signed.

“How many of those countries have been forced to implement the LGBT agenda? Zero. None,” the former Director British Council in Nigeria said.

Saying that the reports were capable of inciting violence and civil unrest in a country as conservative as Nigeria, Robert said there ought to be punitive consequences for the publishers of the false reports if such irresponsible reportage was to be avoided in future.