Between April 12 and 22, the House of Commons in the United Kingdom held consistent debates on the ongoing abductions of students and assaults by Boko Haream insurgents.
The lawmakers’ discussion centered on comprehending the situation in Nigeria and then offering assistance to her administration.
For example, on April 12, Democratic Unionist Party MP for Strangford Jim Shannon wanted to learn what talks the UK government had with President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration about assisting in the prevention of school kidnappings.
In response, Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Affairs James Duddridge said, “We are profoundly disturbed by the abduction and continuing captivity of schoolchildren in North-East Nigeria by Boko Haram (BH) and Islamic State West Africa (ISWA).”
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“The British High Commission has raised these cases with the Nigerian government on numerous occasions, most recently in March 2021.
We are also troubled about recent terrorist assaults on schools in Zamfara, Niger, Kaduna, and Katsina states.”
He further stated: “I publicly condemned these attacks and stressed the importance of all children being able to access an education without fear. The UK Deputy National Security Advisor discussed the abduction of Nigerian schoolboys in Kankara in Katsina State with the president’s Chief of Staff, Ibrahim Gambari, on December 15, 2020.
“Our High Commissioner in Abuja spoke to the Inspector General of the Nigerian Police on improving school safety and addressing kidnapping in March 2021.”
Duddridge explained that the UK provided mentoring and capacity building for units of the Nigerian Police Force to improve their anti-kidnap capacity and response to organised crime groups in Nigeria.
The following week, on April 19, another UK lawmaker, Stephen Doughty, the Labour (Co-op) MP for Cardiff South and Penarth, demanded from the British government an assessment of the security and humanitarian situation in the North-East following recent attacks and the displacement of people in the Damasak area.
Duddgride explained that the UK government was concerned by the security and humanitarian situation in the North-East, where terrorist groups, including Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa, continue to attack local communities.
Shedding more light on his assessment, he noted, “Recent attacks on Damasak in Borno State, in which civilians, humanitarian workers, and facilities were targeted, have led to a worsening humanitarian situation, and the displacement of local residents and internally displaced people to Niger or other areas of north-east Nigeria. As the UK government has repeatedly made clear, humanitarian workers should never be a target.”
He reiterated to the House of Commons that the UK remained “committed to helping Nigeria tackle the threat posed by the terrorist groups” in the North-East, adding, “We are providing significant humanitarian and stabilisation assistance to support affected communities, including those who have been displaced.”
On April 20, another lawmaker, Labour MP for Leeds Central Hilary Benn, asked directly about the danger to Christians in the midst of Nigerian killings.
In addition, Duddridge claimed that the United Kingdom condemns all forms of violence against civilians in Nigeria, regardless of religion.
He said that jihadist organisations in the North-East, such as Boko Haram and ISWA, “continue to inflict tremendous misery to both Muslim and Christian communities.”
“These movements aim to suppress the right to freedom of worship or belief by targeting people of all religions who do not share their extremist views,” he added.
He further told the House of Commons that intercommunal violence across multiple states also “has a devastating impact” on Christian and Muslim communities and disclosed that the “underlying drivers of violence are complex, and frequently relate to competition over resources and increasing criminality.”
On April 26 and 27 April, the UK minister disclosed that he met with “a range of Nigerian interlocutors, including governors” from some northern states and Nigerian government representatives, including the foreign affairs minister, Geoffrey Onyeama.
“I raised the need for all communities to be protected amidst increasing insecurity…We will continue to encourage the Nigerian government to take urgent action to protect all communities and to implement long-term solutions that address the root causes of violence,” he told the parliament.
The UK envoy also told the House of Commons about the issues of LGBT in Nigeria, noting that the UK government is worried about the criminalisation of homosexuality, recognising that there is a long way to go before all LGBT people can live free and equal lives in Nigeria.
Speaking of the country and others in Africa, Duddridge explained, “We make regular representations to governments around the world on this issue, including in Uganda, Ghana, Namibia and Nigeria. We work through our Embassies and High Commissions, as well as international organisations, including the UN, Council of Europe, Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the Commonwealth, to promote non-discrimination towards LGBT people, and to address discriminatory laws.”
“We directly oppose regimes that criminalize homosexuality at the highest political levels,” he said.