HC Deb 13 December 1950 vol 482 cc1127-8
20. Mr. Keeling

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he can make a statement about the recent women's riot in Eastern Nigeria caused by the proposal to erect a pioneer palm-oil mill to replace or supplement hand-pressing.

Mr. J. Griffiths

As the reply is rather long I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Sir Richard Acland

While recognising that the Secretary of State has no direct power over the Nigerian Development Board, may I ask him whether he would make representations to that Board to make sure that they are employing a sufficient number of people to explain the need of the pioneer mills in villages which are likely to be affected?

Mr. Griffiths

The question of explaining this matter to the people is of great importance. Unless there is a full explanation we cannot possibly secure their co-operation, which is most essential.

Mr. Sorensen

Is my right hon. Friend aware that these mills have been established in many parts of Nigeria, which has enabled many women who were previously employed on old methods of milling to be transferred to new methods, with successful results?

Mr. Griffiths

Yes, Sir.

Following is the reply: The introduction of pioneer palm-oil mills in the Eastern Provinces has been proceeding for some time, and 18 mills are at present in operation. During 1950 the Regional Production Development Board negotiated leases of sites for additional mills and work has been proceeding smoothly except in the Abak and Itu Divisions of Calabar Province. In the former Division a crowd of women gathered to protest against a site being leased to the Board and invaded a native court. There were subsequently minor disturbances in Itu Division and one native authority was attacked while sitting in council, members were assaulted and damage was done. Some arrests were made. Objections to the mills appear to be due to fear of competition and loss of employment by hand operators. As the Board has repeatedly stated its intention of establishing mills only in areas where they are acceptable to the people the programme for mills in these two Divisions has been abandoned for the time being. Efforts are being continued by the Administration to persuade the people of the future benefits which these mills will bring to the palm-oil industry.