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Strike, Nigeria (Disorder)

Volume 440: debated on Wednesday 16 July 1947

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asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a statement on the shooting of strikers by the police at Buruta, Nigeria; what was the cause of the strike and the reason for police opening fire; and what casualties there were among the strikers.


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he has any statement to make on the strike of United Africa Company's workers at Buruta, Nigeria, and on the disorders which resulted in many strikers being wounded in a clash with the police.

A strike of labourers employed by the United Africa Company at Burutu started on 14th June following a wages dispute. On 21st June a large crowd formed and adopted a menacing attitude. Four employees of the company were set upon, and severely beaten. After the crowd had refused to disperse, in spite of repeated warnings, an unsucessful attempt was made to break it up without the use of firearms, and the order to fire was only given after the police had been attacked with large stones and other missiles. Only two rounds were fired, as a result of which two men were wounded in the leg. The wages dispute is being inquired into by a representative of the Nigerian Labour Department.

Will the Minister take steps to put a stop to any such brutal treatment of the workers? Is the Minister aware that the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) and I were once accused of stone throwing when it was a deliberate lie? I appeal to the Minister to make certain that never again will firearms be used on workers who are striking for decent conditions. I think it is shameful.

If my hon. Friend would acquaint himself with the facts, I think he would be satisfied that this is not an instance of brutal attacks on workers. Rather it was the response, after long provocation by workers, of the forces of police on the spot. Immediately the facts were brought to my notice I caused an inquiry to be made, and had the fullest reports from Nigeria. I must exonerate completely those responsible for ordering it. It was provocation on the workers' side that led to it.

Will the right hon. Gentleman state whether in making this impartial inquiry he did not know full well that the answer he has given about strikers provoking the trouble has been a familiar story in this country for the last half-century?

I am familiar with large numbers of industrial disputes in the Colonies, and naturally because of my own suspicion, I should inquire most carefully as to the causes of trouble of this kind. I made the fullest inquiries possible, and I am satisfied that it was provocation on the workers side which caused this trouble.

Will the Minister appoint from this House a special inquiry into this question? Is he aware that I had my head bashed in two or three places by a policeman's baton, and then got three months for assaulting the police?

How many statements did my right hon. Friend obtain from the strikers, and how much of the information came from the other side in his inquiry?

I have the completest confidence in the Governor, and I have taken my reports from the Government of Nigeria, and from various sources which were open to me. I am completely satisfied with regard to the facts.

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman did not understand the question I put, because conversation was going on around him. I asked how many statements were received from the strikers?