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Nigeria (Prime Minister's Visit)

Volume 957: debated on Tuesday 7 November 1978

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asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement about his recent visit to Nigeria.

Yes. On 19th September I received a message from President Kaunda expressing concern about the developing situation in Southern Africa, and asking for an urgent meeting. I responded immediately with the suggestion that we should meet at Kano in Northern Nigeria, which we did three days later on 22nd and 23rd September.

I found the President deeply disturbed about the absence of progress towards a settlement in Rhodesia and the severe economic and military impact this is having on his country. The closure of the railways to the coast was preventing the export of copper, with a consequential shortage of foreign exchange; there was insufficient rolling stock to bring in the necessary seed and fertiliser vital for this year's plantings, which had to be done within the ensuing few weeks. He had forebodings of military attacks on Zambia from Rhodesia which were, in the event, justified.

I immediately agreed that we should do what we could to assist a fellow member of the Commonwealth which has suffered severely from the effect of sanctions, and my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, in his statement of 2nd November, fully informed the House of the measures of assistance we were glad to render.

We had a full discussion on the general situation in Southern Africa, notably in Rhodesia and Namibia. I also had the opportunity of meeting for the first time Lieutenant-General Obasanjo in Lagos and had valuable discussions with him and his colleagues.

I should like to express my gratitude for the excellent arrangements made for the visit by the Nigerian authorities.

I am grateful to the Prime Minister for that statement. The shooting down of the civil airliner and the massacre of survivors had just occurred. Did the Prime Minister protest to President Kaunda about the ghastly barbarities which are mounted from camps in his country? Did the Prime Minister take the opportunity of protesting to President Kaunda about what Lord Goronwy-Roberts in another place has referred to as the sickening technique of abduction, which has put 100,000 Rhodesian children in terrorist camps in Zambia?

Will the Prime Minister take the opportunity now of answering a question which my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) put to the Foreign Secretary on Thursday? My right hon. Friend asked whether the assurance by President Kaunda about the arms supplies meant that they would be used only for the defence of Zambian troops and aircraft or that they would be used for the defence of terrorist camps inside Zambia. That question was met by evasive chatter from the Foreign Secretary.

It would have been improper for me to protest to President Kaunda about the attack on the Viscount aircraft. The matter was discussed between us, but I certainly made no protest because it was no responsibility of his, and in the course of the discussion he said that he needed no convincing about the consequences of such attacks, that it was a matter of moral concern to him, quite apart from any aid that we might offer, and that in no sense was it as a bargain for the aid we were offering that he would not support and did not support attacks on civilians in this way. Therefore, I hope that the Conservative Party will digest what I have said on this matter.

As regards the question about the defence of Zambia, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary gave a complete answer. The arms are intended for the defence of a fellow member of the Commonwealth which has suffered an unjustified attack from Rhodesia and the Rhodesian authorities.