Nigeria

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 1:45 pm on 12th March 1997.

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Photo of Richard Burden Richard Burden , Birmingham, Northfield 1:45 pm, 12th March 1997

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the human rights situation in Nigeria. [18315]

Photo of Liam Fox Liam Fox Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

We remain extremely concerned about the human rights situation in Nigeria.

Photo of Richard Burden Richard Burden , Birmingham, Northfield

I welcome the Government's expression of concern, which so many of us feel about the human rights situation in Nigeria, and ask the Minister to do two things: first, call clearly for Chief Abiola and the other people who are in prison on the basis of their political beliefs to be released quickly; secondly, if the regime in Nigeria has evidence against detainees, call for them to be brought to trial, rather than left in prison without trial.

It is important that there is consistency on the part of the British Government. Will the Minister make representations to the Home Office? It sits ill with his statement that the Home Office is appealing against the decision of an adjudicator to grant political asylum to a torture victim from Nigeria. The fact that he was tortured was established by independent medical evidence. The Home Office should not attempt to deport someone who was the victim of torture by that regime.

Photo of Liam Fox Liam Fox Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

You, Madam Speaker, would not, I am sure, allow me to trespass on Home Office territory. On the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question, we fully support the Commonwealth ministerial action group position and regularly reinforce that message to Nigeria. It calls for the immediate release of all political prisoners, including Chief Abiola; the restoration of a democracy in which all can participate; the early resolution of the case of the Ogoni 19; and a review of prison conditions.

We want those steps to be taken as soon as possible. The Government are deeply disappointed that the two United Nations Commission for Human Rights thematic rapporteurs have not been able to visit Nigeria and fulfil their mandate. That causes us concern. We will consider with our EU, Commonwealth and other partners the scope for further action at the UN Commission for Human Rights in the light of the report, when we have it.

Photo of Tony Lloyd Tony Lloyd Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

The Opposition welcome the Minister's remarks about political prisoners. I invite him once again to address the legitimate question raised by hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Burden). If the Foreign Office view is that the situation in Nigeria is bad and deteriorating, it is incomprehensible that the Home Office—part of the same Government—is not prepared to take the same view in respect of those fleeing political pressures in Nigeria.

Photo of Liam Fox Liam Fox Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

The job of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in this case is to make it clear to Nigeria what we think about the current situation there. We are extremely concerned about the human rights situation. I have laid out the position that we pushed through CMAG, and we intend to continue to push that position. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman raises his question with the Home Office and the Ministers who have responsibility for that matter.