During the #EndSARS debate by UK Parliament, a member of the UK Parliament identified as Tom Tugendhat made a controversial statement that sparked reactions in Nigeria.
Tom Tugendhat accused ex Nigerian Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon of looting half of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
In his words:
Some people will remember when General Gowon left Nigeria with half of the Central Bank, so it is said, and moved to London.
Now, Who Is Tom Tugendhat?
Lt Col Thomas Georg John Tugendhat MBE VR (born 27 June 1973) is a British Conservative Party politician serving as Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee since 2017. He has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Tonbridge and Malling since 2015. Before entering politics, amongst other roles, Tugendhat was a Territorial Army officer in the British Army.
Early life and education
Tom Tugendhat is the son of the High Court Judge Sir Michael Tugendhat and his French wife Blandine de Loisne. He is the nephew of fellow Conservative politician Christopher Tugendhat, Baron Tugendhat. After attending St Paul’s School, London, Tugendhat studied Theology at the University of Bristol, before doing a Masters in Islamic studies at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge and learning Arabic in Yemen.
Tugendhat holds dual British and French citizenship. His wife is a French judge and senior civil servant, and his father-in-law is a French diplomat, the lead OSCE mediator in Ukraine.
On 6 July 2003, Tugendhat was commissioned into the Educational and Training Services Branch of the Adjutant General’s Corps, Territorial Army, British Army, as a second lieutenant (on probation). His Territorial Army commission was confirmed on 16 July 2003. He transferred to the Intelligence Corps on 29 July 2003.
He was promoted to lieutenant on 16 July 2005, captain on 1 April 2007, and to major on 1 January 2010. He was apparently operating as a Territorial Army lieutenant colonel by July 2013.
Tugendhat undertook military service on operations during the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan. He also served, in a civilian capacity, for the Foreign Office in Afghanistan and helped set up the National Security Council of Afghanistan and the government in Helmand Province. He later served as one of the military assistants to the Chief of the Defence Staff.
Tugendhat was elected as the Member of Parliament for Tonbridge and Malling, the safe Conservative seat in Kent at the 2015 General Election, with an increased vote share and larger majority than his predecessor.
In October 2015, Tugendhat accused Iran of arming insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. He wrote that “Through the Quds Force, the special forces unit of the regime’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, it has killed British troops and plotted to assassinate diplomats in Washington DC. The ayatollahs have nurtured terrorists around the world.”
Tugendhat supported continued membership of the European Union in the 2016 referendum. He voted in favour of the withdrawal agreement negotiated by Theresa May’s government on each of the three occasions it was put to a vote.
Tugendhat is a strong supporter of Israel. He condemned the United Nations Security Council for its official criticism of Israel’s settlement building in the occupied Palestinian territories. In January 2017, he wrote that the Israeli–Palestinian conflict “doesn’t matter”.
On 12 July 2017, Tugendhat was elected chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, becoming the youngest person ever to hold the post. Soon after the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury by a nerve agent, Tugendhat said the attack was “if not an act of war … certainly a warlike act by the Russian Federation”.
In February 2018, Tugendhat praised Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, saying that “He is rightly showing a vision for Saudi Arabia that sees her taking her place as a player in the global economy and I think that is incredibly positive, not just for Saudi Arabia, but for the world.”
Under Tugendhat’s chairmanship the Foreign Affairs Committee has focused on British foreign policy priorities after Brexit. Other significant enquiries have covered: the implications of China’s growing role in the international system, the UK’s relationship with India, and the Responsibility to Protect.
On 21 May 2018, the Foreign Affairs Committee published a report on Russian Corruption and the UK. This drew attention to the ability of President Vladimir Putin and his allies to launder assets through London, and called on the UK Government to “show stronger political leadership in ending the flow of dirty money into the UK”. The report criticised the law firm Linklaters for its unwillingness to give evidence to the committee about the nature of working in the Russian Federation today.
On 29 May 2018 Tugendhat set out his own views on British foreign policy in a speech at the Royal United Services Institute. He advocated giving the Foreign and Commonwealth Office greater powers to determine overall foreign policy strategy.
Following the December 2019 general election he attacked the antisemitism he had faced during the campaign. “It was a campaign that wasn’t as always as clean as previous ones. For the first time I faced antisemitism, which I found particularly offensive and very surprising for a community like this and frankly rather distasteful. It’s very un-Tonbridge, it’s very un-Kent and it’s very un-British. … I would hope that type of attitude is going to leave our politics for good.”
Tugendhat was re-elected chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee on 29 January 2020.
China Research Group
In April 2020 Tugendhat became the first head of the China Research Group, formed by Conservative MPs (although MPs from other parties are also involved) to gain a “better understanding of China’s economic ambitions and global role”. This is to include Huawei’s role in the UK’s 5G network, China’s Covid-19 alleged disinformation campaign, and its foreign policy – in particular its relations with poorer regions of the world. Tugendhat is considered by some to be a China hawk in the UK parliament, alongside Bob Seely and Iain Duncan Smith.
Meanwhile, some notable Nigerians such as Akinwumi Adesina, Senator Shehu Sani, FFK and others have come to Gowon’s defence.
More so, General Gowon has reacted to the allegation, rubbishing it.