Nigeria

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 2:18 pm on 3rd May 1995.

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Photo of Mr Ian Bruce Mr Ian Bruce , South Dorset 2:18 pm, 3rd May 1995

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what measures his Department is taking to persuade the military regime in Nigeria to hand over power to the elected President. [20438]

Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

We condemned the annulment of the presidential elections of 12 June 1993 and the subsequent ousting of the civilian interim national Government. The measures against the military announced in 1993 by the European Union and the United States remain in force. We continue to consult closely with our partners and with a wide range of political contacts in Nigeria. We continue to urge the Nigerian military Government to implement an early and peaceful transition to civilian democratic rule.

Photo of Mr Ian Bruce Mr Ian Bruce , South Dorset

I thank my hon. Friend for his answer. I am sure that he will agree that Britain is a great friend of the Nigerian people, and that it would be wholly wrong for us to abandon them to their fate.

The Nigerian military Government possess all the dictatorship features of military Governments. They had set up the presidential elections under rules approved by themselves, but they then annulled the result. What more can we do to press the Nigerian Government to allow the Nigerian people to have their elected President in office?

Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

Our position is clear and straightforward. We continue to be concerned by events in Nigeria, where there is an urgent need for progress towards accountable civilian government. We deplore all human rights abuses, which contradict the Nigerian Government's declared commitment to make early progress towards democracy. It is essential that all detainees are subject to due process, and are either charged or promptly released. My hon. Friend can be confident that we will spare no opportunity to press upon the Nigerians the need to have early elections to restore the democratic Government.

Photo of Diane Abbott Diane Abbott Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

Does the Minister agree that Nigeria's population and wealth mean that internal stability in that country is essential to the future of the whole region? When will the British Government press the Nigerian Government to release Chief Abiola from prison—where his medical condition is deteriorating badly—and to endorse him as the democratically elected president?

Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

We have been pressing the Nigerian Government to do exactly that, and also to ensure that political detainees are either brought to trial or released speedily. We also want the speediest possible return to a democratic Government in Nigeria. I cannot believe that there are any differences among Members about the need to achieve that as speedily as possible.