17 July 2018
Baroness Goldie, a British government minister and government spokeswoman in the House of Lords, today admitted that the endless violence from Fulani herdsmen was “having a devastating impact on lives and communities as well as being a major barrier to Nigeria’s economic development, which does not help the people of Nigeria”.
Goldie, whose official title as a government “whip” in the House of Lords is “Lord in Waiting (HM Household)” was speaking during “oral questions” in the House of Lords in response to a question from Baroness Cox. Cox had asked the British government: “what assessment they have made of recent developments in Nigeria, including violence by the Fulani herdsmen and Boko Haram”.
Responding earlier Goldie said: “We remain concerned by clashes involving pastoralists and farmers. The root causes are complex, including access to land, grazing routes, and water, exacerbated by population growth and insecurity. We have raised our concerns at federal and state government levels. Urgent action is needed by the Nigerian authorities to prevent further loss of life. We remain committed to supporting Nigeria’s fight against Boko Haram, and we are providing a substantial package of military intelligence and humanitarian assistance”.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who is reportedly close to President Muhammadu Buhari, made this contribution to the debate: “I am sure that the Minister shares my deep concern about the violent attacks on Christians. For instance, the compound of my colleague the Archbishop of Jos was attacked a couple of weeks back, and one of his friends was killed. The Minister has rightly said how complex the situation is, but can she answer more specifically on what assistance the UK Government can give in the short term to strengthen the Government of Nigeria in their role of enforcing security and local mediation; in the medium term, to ensure reconciliation, which will enable the lives and economies of farmers and herders to be protected; and, in the long term, actively and tangibly to support regional efforts to combat the effects of climate change—the development of desertification, which is exacerbating ancient rivalries?”
Baroness Goldie responded: “In relation to violence, the UK has offered our assistance to the Government of Nigeria through the vice-president’s office. We stand ready to support Nigerian-led initiatives. As for what else we can do, we are working closely with international partners. We have encouraged the EU and the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel to extend their influence and develop sustainable solutions to the conflict, including through support to community conflict resolution initiatives, which we believe are essential”.
Baroness Cox reminded the House that Nigeria’s House of Representatives passed a resolution describing the crises as “genocide”. Lord Alton added: “How does the Minister respond to the respected former chief of staff of the Nigerian army and defence chief, Lieutenant General Danjuma, who said that the armed forces are “not neutral. They collude”—in, in his words—’ethnic cleansing’? Does she disagree with the Archbishop of Abuja, who says that the atrocities of the Fulani militia and Boko Haram mean that: ‘The very survival of our nation is at stake’?”
Baroness Goldie replied: “In relation to the noble Lord’s question about the Nigerian security services, we have made clear to the Nigerian authorities the importance of protecting civilians in conflict and detention. Any member of the Nigerian security services found to have been involved in human rights violations must be held accountable.”