10 October 2018
Kate Osamor, the Labour MP for Edmonton and Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, condemned the Nigerian government led by President Muhammadu Buhari for failing to take decisive action to protect minorities.
Osamor, who was born to Nigerian parents, was speaking today in the House of Commons during a debate on “freedom of religion or beliefs”. She asked: “The most recent report from the European Parliament intergroup on freedom of religion or belief and religious tolerance states: ‘much of the world’s population is deprived of their right to freedom of religion or belief’. What steps are the Department undertaking to ensure the protection of minority groups in Nigeria, as the Nigerian Government are reportedly unwilling to initiate forceful action?”
The international development minister Harriett Baldwin replied that Osamor “is right to raise the fact that three quarters of the world’s population live in countries with high levels of government restrictions on freedom of religion or belief. Nigeria’s constitution does guarantee that freedom. When my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister recently met President Buhari she was able to raise that important issue, and I am glad the hon. Lady [Kate Osamor] shares the ability to raise it in Parliament.”
But Osamor wasn’t having this for an answer: “I feel the need to prompt the Minister. Nigeria is one of DFID’s [Department for International Development] top five recipient countries and Nigeria has been identified by both the European Parliament intergroup and the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom as a ‘country of concern’ with regards to its poor record on upholding the right of freedom to express religion. So may I ask the Minister again to tell the House what actions her Department has in place to ensure that the Nigerian Government uphold the rights of religious minorities in the country?”
Baldwin closed the debate insisting that Osamor “is right to raise this issue. I am sure she agrees that humanitarian assistance should always be distributed on the basis of need, disregarding any issues of race, religion and ethnicity. I assure her that we regularly raise this issue, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State [Penny Mordaunt] did recently, and that there is a plan in place both at local and national level to address it”.
Mordaunt, the Secretary of State for International Trade (the senior minister in that department and Baldwin’s boss), was in Nigeria in July this year. There is no indication from the press release from her department following that trip that Mordaunt raised any human rights issues while in Nigeria.