Thank you for writing to me about the Universal Periodic Review of Nigeria’s human rights by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
Following similar correspondence from other constituents, I wrote to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) for a Government response on this matter. Please see below a response I have received from the Rt Hon. Andrew Mitchell MP, Minister for Development and Africa.
With best wishes.
Jonathan Lord MP
Member of Parliament for Woking
8th June 2023
Thank you for your correspondence of 5 June regarding Christian persecution in Nigeria and the forthcoming Universal Periodic Review of Nigeria’s human rights by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). I am replying as the Minister for Development and Africa.
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process which involves reviewing the human rights records of all UN member states. We strongly support the UPR process which provides an opportunity to raise questions and recommendations on a country’s human rights record. Nigeria is due to undergo it’s next UPR early next year. The UK Government will be an active participant in this process as we are committed to protecting human rights, including freedom of religion or belief (FoRB), and have provided recommendations on this during Nigeria’s previous UPR in 2018.
The UK Government is committed to supporting Nigeria to defend FoRB, which remains a longstanding human rights priority in our partnership. Nigeria’s constitution guarantees FoRB for all its citizens. However, rising insecurity has undermined this and affected all faith and non-faith communities in Nigeria, including in predominately Christian areas. The root causes of this insecurity are complex, and religious identity can play a role. It is crucial that all the fundamental driving factors are addressed, including rising criminality, the loss of economic opportunity, disruption to traditional ways of life created by climate change, and historical grievances. The UK Government is committed to supporting Nigeria address these challenges.
For instance, the UK Government’s ‘Strengthening the Delivery of Peace and Security’ programme in Nigeria has funded peacebuilding projects in several Nigerian states that build links and dialogue between civil society groups, religious leaders, and religious communities. These projects have also supported work to train peace ambassadors and strengthen the capacity of faith leaders to engage with young people who are at risk of radicalisation.
UK Government officials and I regularly raise FoRB, including the impact of insecurity on communities and bringing perpetrators to justice with the Nigerian Government. Most recently, I discussed the impact of rising conflict in Nigeria with President Tinubu, as part of my engagements with Nigeria’s presidential candidates ahead of the February elections. Across Nigeria, Our High Commissioner and his team also work closely with the authorities, local communities, and faith leaders to raise and address these issues, including through our engagement with the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, National Peace Committee and National Human Rights Commission.
Rising insecurity in Nigeria has led to increased incidences of kidnapping, which has affected all communities, including Christians. The UK Government condemns this and has been supporting the Nigerian Police Force, through training, mentoring, and capacity building, to improve the prevention and response to kidnappings. High profile instances of kidnappings include the abductions and ongoing captivity of Leah Sharibu and the Chibok girls by Islamic State West Africa (ISWA) and Boko Haram respectively. Our officials regularly raise both these cases with the Nigerian Government, and I raised the Chibok girls during my discussion with President Tinubu in December 2022. The UK Government continues to call for their release and the release of all those held by terrorist groups in Nigeria.
Thank you again for writing to raise this important issue. I hope this letter is helpful when responding to your constituents and reassures them that the UK Government is committed to FoRB for all and will remain a priority in our engagement with the new Nigerian administration.
With warm regards.
Rt Hon. Andrew Mitchell MP
Minister for Development and Africa