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Nigeria: Religious and Other Violence

Volume 704: debated on Tuesday 30 November 2021

4. What discussions she has had with her Nigerian counterpart on the increasing levels of (a) religious violence and (b) other violence in that country. (904441)

The UK is committed to the global fight against poverty and promoting equality, and despite the seismic impact of the pandemic on the UK and the global economy the UK will still spend over £10 billion of aid in 2021. We remain one of the largest official development assistance spenders in the world, and we will review the impact of projects through the spending cycle, as is standard, in order to inform future spending decisions.

I am so sorry.

Nigeria is a very important country to the UK and we are deeply concerned by the increasing insecurity in Nigeria. I raised the question with the Foreign Minister Onyeama at a bilateral meeting at COP26 in Glasgow, and I hope to visit Nigeria myself next year to have further such discussions. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the UK is a staunch champion of the right to freedom of religion and belief, and in July 2022 we will host an international ministerial conference to energise collective efforts on this agenda.

When the hon. Lady meets the Nigerian Foreign Minister in the future—I hope she does so in the near future and repeatedly—will she ask exactly what the Nigerian Government are doing to protect their own citizens? Many of us have constituents with relatives in Nigeria who have been the victims of torture, rape and murder, and at the moment exactly what the Nigerian Government are doing does not seem particularly clear.

Nigeria faces multiple serious and complex security challenges, including terrorism in the north-east and separately intercommunal conflicts and criminal banditry in the north-west and middle belt, and intercommunal violence is spreading into the south-east and south-west. It is very serious. The UK-Nigeria security and defence dialogue will take place next month, and we will discuss co-operation to tackle issues related to violence in Nigeria such as human rights, defence, counter-terrorism and organised crime.

Is it not extremely regrettable that there is virtually no publicity in the west about what is happening to Christians in Nigeria, amounting almost to genocide? Can we not put more pressure on the Nigerian Government, and can we not proclaim the fact that black lives matter everywhere, not just in the west?

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. Islamic State West Africa and Boko Haram cause immense suffering not only to Christians but often to those of all faiths who do not subscribe to their extremist views. We condemn all incidents of intercommunal violence in Nigeria. This can also have a devastating impact on communities, and religion can be a factor in the intercommunal violence, but the root causes are extremely complex, including competition for land, water and resources, criminality and failures of government, so the British high commissioner and her team are working closely with state governors and local community and faith leaders as well as non-governmental organisations active in peacebuilding and reconciliation.