Freedom of Religion and Belief in Nigeria — [Ian Paisley in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:23 am on 6 February 2024.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Leo Docherty Leo Docherty Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) 10:23, 6 February 2024

I am very pleased to say that as a consequence of this debate we will ensure that our high commissioner is made aware, if he is not already, of Aid to the Church in Need’s perspective and requirements. I am happy to make that commitment.

I turn to violent attacks by Boko Haram and Islamic State in West Africa Province, predominantly in north-east Nigeria and the Lake Chad basin, against those who do not subscribe to their extremist ideologies. The region’s predominantly Muslim populations have borne the brunt of the insurgency, but those groups have also targeted Christians, including through the large-scale abduction of women and children. We of course unequivocally condemn those acts. This has been an absolute saga of tragedy. Colleagues mentioned Leah Sharibu, who, following her abduction, remains in captivity. We continue to raise her case with the Nigerian Government, and we have called for her release and the release of those who continue to be held by terrorists. That case continues to concern us all.

We are a leading provider of lifesaving humanitarian assistance to support Nigerians affected by this conflict. Since 2022, we have contributed £66.8 million to the humanitarian response in north-east Nigeria, including providing food and cash assistance to more than 600,000 people, including religious groups, and helping more than 1 million children with lifesaving nutrition services. That is in the context of our bilateral ODA contribution to Nigeria over the past 10 years of some £2.4 billion. Our contribution is substantial and has a very significant practical impact.

For religious tolerance to flourish, we must also tackle insecurity and close the space for criminals and extremists to operate. During our annual security and defence partnership dialogue with Nigeria this week, which colleagues raised, we will discuss strengthening our practical support to defend Nigeria against such threats. In that dialogue, we will consider what more the partnership can do in the pure security context to advance these issues.