HC Deb 10 June 1953 vol 516 cc211-3
31. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies the causes of the present unrest in Nigeria; and what steps he is taking to remove them.

Mr. Lyttelton

I would refer the hon. and learned Member to the statements on the constitutional situation in Nigeria which I made in the House on 22nd April and 21st May.

Mr. Hughes

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House his plans for solving the fundamental root causes of this disturbance; and does he realise that the causes will not be solved merely by force?

Mr. Lyttelton

It is not a question of force that arises. The present proposals I have made are for a conference upon the constitutional position to be held in London. The root causes of this thing, to which the hon. and learned Gentle, man refers, go beyond the power of anyone entirely to eradicate.

Mrs. White

Can the right hon. Gentleman inform the House what his hopes are in approaching this conference?

Mr. Lyttelton

I cannot yet, no. The conference will probably be convened. So far, as the hon. Lady knows, two people I have invited have refused to come, and I am making further representations to them.

51. Mr. J. Johnson

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement regarding the replies he has received from Dr. M. Azikiwe and Mr. O. Awolowo to the invitation to discuss the redrafting of the Nigerian Constitution.

52. Mr. T. Reid

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement in respect to the recent developments of the Nigerian constitutional problem.

Mr. Lyttelton

In pursuance of the statement which I made in the House on 21st May, the Governor issued invitations at the end of last last month on my behalf to representatives of each Region to the proposed conference in London. Those invited included Mr. Awolowo and Dr. Azikiwe. Some acceptances have already been received. Mr. Awolowo and Dr. Azikiwe declined the invitations for reasons already made public.

The Governor has now appealed to them to reconsider their decision and has assured them that the full exchange of views which the proposed conference will render possible would not be confined to the method of revising the constitution. He has pointed out that each representative would be able to indicate to me both in what respects, in his opinion, the present constitution is unsatisfactory and in what particulars it should be re-drawn, and has said that if there is a sufficient consensus of opinion the conclusions could be used in any discussion for a settlement of the constitutional difficulties. Their replies are awaited.

Mr. Johnson

Does the Minister agree with me that the future behaviour of these two gentlemen is not likely to change? In the event of deadlock, where do we go from there? Is it not likely that they will also refuse to work in the Western House at Ibadan and the Eastern House at Enugu? Where do we go beyond that? Does it not mean that we are coming to an impossible situation in Nigeria?

Mr. Lyttelton

I do not think this situation will be improved by my attempting to answer hypothetical questions concerning a situation which has not yet arisen. I must confine myself to issuing these invitations and to saying how desirable it is that these gentlemen should come.

Mr. J. Griffiths

While we realise that the attendance of two important leaders of this kind would be essential as well as desirable, do I gather from the right hon. Gentleman's reply that the Governor has been inviting the two leaders of the political parties, indicating to them that if they come to the conference they can put forward their point of view and it will be considered? Have they been told that they will be entitled to put forward their ideas about the future constitution if they come to the conference?

Mr. Lyttelton

The Governor said that specifically but the very invitation to a conference means asking somebody to come to put his views before the conferance. It would be a farce to call a conference and then to say that nobody was allowed to express his views.

Mr. T. Reid

Have the representatives from the Northern Provinces agreed to attend?

Mr. Lyttelton

I am without advice about how many have now accepted invitations, but I shall be quite prepared to answer a Question on the subject early next week.