Vicky Ford – 2022 Statement on Violence Against Religious Groups in Nigeria

The statement made by Vicky Ford, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, in the House of Commons on 6 June 2022.

I am horrified by the attack that took place against a church in Ondo state, south-west Nigeria yesterday. I publicly express the UK Government’s condemnation of this heinous act and stress the importance of those responsible being brought to justice in accordance with the law. The high commission in Nigeria has also expressed our condolences to the governor of Ondo state and offered our support. I know that the House will join me in sending our condolences to the families and communities of those killed.

Rising conflict and insecurity across Nigeria are having a devastating impact on affected communities. I have raised this issue with the Nigerian authorities on several occasions, including in conversations with Nigeria’s vice-president and Foreign Minister during my visit in February. During that visit, I also met regional governors, religious leaders and non-governmental organisations to discuss intercommunal violence and freedom of religion or belief.

It is clear that religious identity can be a factor in incidents of violence in Nigeria and that Christian communities have been victims, but the root causes are often complex and frequently also relate to competition over resources, historical grievances and criminality, so the UK Government are committed to working with Nigeria to respond to insecurity. At our security and defence dialogue with Nigeria in February, we committed to work together to respond to the conflict. We are supporting local and national peacebuilding efforts in Nigeria, including through the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and National Peace Committee. We provide mentoring and capacity building to support Nigerian police force units, to improve their anti-kidnap capacity, and we support efforts to address the drivers and enablers of serious and organised crime in Nigeria. At our security and defence dialogue, we reiterated our shared understanding and commitment to protecting human rights for all.

We are committed to defending freedom of religion or belief for all, and to promoting respect between different religious and non-religious communities. I discussed FoRB with the Nigerian Foreign Minister only last month, and we look forward to hosting an international conference on FoRB in July. We will continue to encourage the Nigerian Government to take urgent action to implement long-term solutions that address the root causes of such violence.