The the Finnish Ambassador to Nigeria, Leena Pylvanainen, has said the Finland government has received intels over misinfornation, disinformation, hate speech and incitive comments by a Nigerian-Finnish lawyer and Biafra agitator, Simon Ekpa, which many fear could derail the peaceful conduct of 2023 general elections.
The envoy made the revelation at a meeting with Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, in Abuja on Tuesday.
Onyema had expressed displeasure over the orders given by Simon Ekpa to his teeming followers who consequently embarked on killings, maiming, burning and other destructive activities in South-East.
It should be recalled that Ekpa-led faction of the Indigenous People’s of Biafra (IPOB) had reportedly declared the period of the elections as sit-at-home in the South-East, adding that elections will not be allowed to hold in the region.
The minister who was represented by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Zubairu Dada said Ekpa’s action is fast becoming a threat to the forthcoming election, and that the Federal Government would not take it lightly with him and the Finland governments if nothing drastic is not done.
According to Dada, Simon Ekpa is living in the comfort of his home in Finland and dishing out dangerous orders to his followers not to allow elections to hold which is threatening the peace of the south-eastern Nigeria.
“We thought it was important for us to have this chat with you to let you know that, of course, he’s living in the comfort of his home there in Finland and we know that we have been in touch with your good self,” Dada said.
“We’ve had some time to ensure that we arrest this situation but it appears the situation is getting out of hand. And we’re saying enough is enough. We should let you know, in very strong terms that it’s high time you really mean and back Nigeria with the quest that something be done immediately because he threatens the forthcoming elections.
“The sad thing is that this gentleman has a lot of followers out there. And the moment he issues these instructions, what happens is that you have destruction the very next day. They embark on killings, maimings and burning and you name it. And we believe this is not acceptable.
“It’s important to get to know that this elections are being threatened by the actions of someone, and that something needs to be done immediately, to address the situation. This in essence is why we thought it was important for us to have this discussion with you, so as to let you know our concerns and the displeasure of the Government of Nigeria and the people of Nigeria on this very unhealthy development.”
Responding, Pylvanainen said that while they are watching to see how this fits into the legal framework of Finland, the personality in question is a double citizen and there is a need to take his rights into consideration.
She described it as an irritant in the relations between Nigeria and Finland which are celebrating 60 years of diplomatic relations this year.
The Finnish envoy said it has been 60 years of excellent cooperation bilaterally and on international fora and they can not trade such for anything as the issue is such a serious concern to Finland and efforts are ongoing to address it.
“This is something I want to make very, very clear. Finland condemns all violence and incitement to violence in all its forms. Political aims, of course, should be pursued through political means only. That is very clear,” she said.
“It stems from the fundamentals of our actions, it’s enshrined in our constitution, and we do really underline our support and the importance we see for these elections not only for Nigeria, but for the entire region. So we’re with you very much on that.
“We share very much the concerns regarding the security situation in the southeast? Yes, there are problems in other parts of the country as well. But this is an issue that we are directly concerned with. This is an issue we have been discussing, we share the concerns. We have discussed the matter and as I mentioned, our law enforcement agencies are in touch and are cooperating.
“We do have this irritant, as you call it on our bilateral agenda. And it is a topic on which we have been cooperating, our authorities have been cooperating, there have been contacts between the law enforcement agencies of Nigeria and Finland on this topic.
“We’ve had several discussions here in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which we do appreciate very much, because you said this is an issue of national concern to Nigeria nationally, but it is very much a concern for us as well.
”Finland of course, as a member of the EU has been part and parcel of these efforts. We have our own long term observers on the ground at the moment. We are very much interested in the safe and secure conduct of these elections throughout the country.
“Information has been shared, and we hope for more of that in order for all authorities to do their job and that is to investigate really what is going on and to see how this fits into the legal framework of Finland, because we are of course speaking of a Finnish citizen.
“Also, he’s a double citizen as far as I know of Nigeria and Finland, and he’s therefore as you rightly said, protected and safe and sound in his home in Finland. But we have to take his rights into consideration as well. So everything has to obviously be done according to Finnish legislation, which has very strong protections for freedom of speech.
“But of course, stipulations against hate speech and incitement to violence for us, the situation is really of concern on three accounts, even you could say it is of concern. Most of all, of course, on the ground in the Southeast, but also what we have seen over the recent weeks.”