Nigeria

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 3:36 pm on 12th January 2015.

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Photo of Hugo Swire Hugo Swire The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office 3:36 pm, 12th January 2015

I thank the hon. Lady again for asking this urgent question, which gives us the time to return to these matters. There is a problem in that when something crops up elsewhere in the world, we are easily diverted and we forget the appalling suffering that continues in other parts of the world. I pay tribute to the world leaders who gathered in Paris at the weekend, including my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, and the “Je suis Charlie” campaign. I know we would all have liked to be there to show our solidarity.

To return to the question of Nigeria and managing the humanitarian crisis, we are working closely with our international partners to react to the large numbers of people who have now been displaced by the conflict in the north-east, an issue that affects not just Nigeria but its close neighbours. The UK’s contribution to the UN’s central emergency response fund and the European Commission’s humanitarian aid and civil protection department programmes in 2014 was £1.7 million and, of course, DFID’s total budget for Nigeria is one of the biggest in the world at some £250 million, which includes funding for the safe schools initiative and promoting women’s and girls’ rights in northern Nigeria. British aid will help 800,000 more children to go to school in Nigeria, including 600,000 girls.

Corruption is worth highlighting, and it is worth remembering as we discuss these matters that Nigeria has the largest economy in Africa. It spends 20% of its national budget on security, so, properly run, Nigeria should be able to do a lot of this work itself. Our money from DFID does not just alleviate poverty, although there is a disparity in the economies of the north and the south, but helps build robust institutions so that Nigeria can take on some of the problems itself.

The hon. Lady refers to the forthcoming election in February. We have concerns about violence during the election and about the feasibility of running a nationwide election when an area the size of Belgium is now under Boko Haram.