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Nigeria

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th July 1967.

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Photo of Mr John Tilney Mr John Tilney , Liverpool Wavertree 12:00 am, 11th July 1967

Mr. Tilney (by Private Notice) asked the Commonwealth Secretary whether he will make a statement about the safety of Britons in Nigeria and British interests there following the outbreak of civil war.

Photo of Mr Herbert Bowden Mr Herbert Bowden , Leicester South West

There appears to be no immediate danger to United Kingdom nationals. Those living in the area of the fighting along the northern border of Eastern Nigeria have been advised by our High Commission to move to Enuga, the eastern capital.

We are watching the situation carefully, but there is no question at this stage of advising any general evacuation of United Kingdom nationals. It is too early to say what effects the fighting will have on British commercial interests.

My hon. Friend the Minister of State, in Lagos on Saturday last, sought and obtained from General Gowon the assurance that the lives of British residents and the safety of British property would be safeguarded during hostilities.

Photo of Mr John Tilney Mr John Tilney , Liverpool Wavertree

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether any request for aid of any kind has been received from the Federal Government? Considering what is now at risk for all parts of Nigeria, is it, even at this twelfth hour, not possible for some Commonwealth mediation?

Photo of Mr Herbert Bowden Mr Herbert Bowden , Leicester South West

As the hon. Member is probably aware, offers have been made at a number of different levels to mediate in this dispute, directly through our representation, through a number of African countries, and particularly by General Ankrah, of Ghana, but without success at this stage.

On the question of the help that may be given, we are prepared to do all we can at any given moment, but it is difficult to see what can be done now. There are now probably about 2,000 British nationals left in the Eastern region. Many women and children came out a month ago. There was contingency planning for them to be brought out in case of need.

Photo of David Winnick David Winnick , Croydon South

Can my right hon. Friend explain the position concerning The Guardian correspondent, Mr. Schwarz, who is, apparently, being held by the breakaway State of Biafra? If this is true, does not my right hon. Friend agree that it is absolutely outrageous that Mr. Schwarz is having this difficulty? Can the most urgent representations be made so that he can be released within the next few days?

Photo of Mr Herbert Bowden Mr Herbert Bowden , Leicester South West

Mr. Schwarz was arrested on 5th July by the Eastern secessionist group when crossing the Niger. Representations have been made on his behalf by our High Commissioner, so far without success.

Photo of Mr Robert Howarth Mr Robert Howarth , Bolton East

Does my right hon. Friend appreciate what may be the fate of British subjects in Eastern Nigeria if we were to intervene in some way on behalf of the Federal Government?

Photo of Mr Herbert Bowden Mr Herbert Bowden , Leicester South West

The position of British subjects in the whole of Nigeria is very much in our minds. What has to be remembered is that they are distributed over a very wide area. A month ago we advised British women and children to come out of the area, and many did so. If the remaining 2,000 want to come out at any time—400 are employed by Shell-B.P.—contingency plans have been made, and they can be brought out.