HC Deb 17 November 1953 vol 520 cc1678-94

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Kaberry.]

9.18 p.m.

Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)

It is fitting, at the end of two days' debate on the Armed Forces, that the House should spend a little while on the Adjournment considering the conditions in Northern Nigeria, because there is no doubt whatever that political conditions in that very large and important Colony are very volatile indeed.

In May of this year there were riots of a major character involving the deaths of some 36 people, and total casualties, including those to the police, were about 250. Recently, in October, conditions again became so bad that it was necessary hurriedly to send police into Kano, but fortunately, for the time being, things have quietened and those police have been withdrawn.

The basic political instability, however, which gave rise to the riots in May and caused apprehension in the last few weeks, is still there. I submit that it would be wise if Her Majesty's Government took the House into their confidence and showed that they were aware of what was going on there, not only on the surface but beneath it, and were prepared to take strong and urgent action to deal with the situation which may arise again in the very near future.

Nigeria, which is a third of the size of Europe, has 30 million people and is by far the largest and most important of Her Majesty's Colonies. It made very great contributions in the last war and has a great contribution to make as it marches towards the goal of self-government. The fact is, however, that while there have been causes for anxiety in the past the causes for anxiety today are much greater, not only because of the situation which exists in Nigeria but because of the clumsiness and maladroitness of the Secretary of State for the Colonies.

He has performed a political miracle. He has managed to come down on the side of Dr. Zik, against what I should have thought was the conservatism and potential stability of Mr. Awolowo. He has managed to put a Conservative Government behind a movement in Nigeria which, in my judgment, makes for anything but stability.

That is the background against which the events and conditions in Kano must be seen. It is true that the Kano—the Northern Territories of Nigeria—are regarded as backward, that the culture and the way of life is Islamic and has more in common with the Sudan than with Nigeria, but they are part of Nigeria, and if federalism is to work they have to be made whole and have to work together.

It is true that the influences of the British Government—and I do not exclude the influences exerted by the Colonial Office at the present day—have in many cases been for the good of the territory. I should not deny for a single moment that the Lieutenant-Governor, Sir Bryan Sharwood Smith, has handled the situation in parts of Northern Nigeria in a way which redounds to his great credit. The way that he has tackled the Shehu of Bornu and his pack of cattle thieving friends is a feather in his cap and in the cap of an honest Administration.

It required courage, wisdom and farsightedness on his part, and to this extent he must have had the support of the Secretary of State for the Colonies. I should be mean, and lacking in understanding—and certainly in generosity—if I withheld from the Secretary of State for the Colonies and Sir Bryan Sharwood Smith, my view that this was a bold action, and an action in the right direction.

In Kano, there is a very different situation. There we have an Emir. He is old, doddering, senile and ignorant. The world has passed him by, but he is still the Emir. He has a son, the Crown Prince, Ciroma of Kano, a young man of education, a polo player—all the things which, one suspects, would appeal to the upper-class, conservative Englishman, who always tends to see that power should be where power seems to be.

For him, of course, the Ciroma is the coming man, and I want to warn the Government against their belief in the Ciroma. I want to warn them as I warned them against believing that they would find stability in backing Dr. Zik. Neither is a winning horse, and in the long run Dr. Zik will lose in the South, and, of course, in the North the Ciroma is with us only for a day. In the long run there are other forces at work in the Northern provinces of Nigeria which will win.

I do not suggest for a moment that the Ciroma is in the tradition of either Hitler or Mussolini. He belongs to an earlier and more glamorous set. He is a prince. He is, perhaps, modelled much more on Machiavelli. Nothing, in his conception of the handling of political affairs, is barred. Assaults upon his political opponents, the backing of reaction in its most naked and blatant form, is ordinary practice for him; and, of course, he is reaction personified. He has not stopped at anything to hold back the democratic forces which are at work.

What I am saying is common knowledge to those who know what is going on in Northern Nigeria, and I believe that Sir Bryan Sharwood Smith has given encouragement to the Secretary of State, judging by what he did for the Shehu of Bornu when he tried to tackle this problem. He knows what is going on and what the Ciroma and his friends are up to. He knows what has been happening in Kano in the last few weeks. He knows of the assaults upon members of the Northern People's Congress and upon the N.E.P.U. He knows what has happened.

The Secretary of State and Sir Bryan Sharwood Smith know perfectly well that people in Kano are going about in fear of their lives. They know that the head of the local native authority police is a relative of the Ciroma who handles police affairs in a way which we have come to accept as normal in a Fascist and police State, but which ought not to be permitted under the British flag. The Lieutenant-Governor and the Secretary of State, I am sure, know that forced labour in Kano is commonplace.

Surely they must know that if this condition of affairs goes on for very much longer there is bound to be a blow up. I said in the debate yesterday that in my judgment the next place to which our non-existent strategic reserves would be flown would be Nigeria. I think that is true. I think there is a condition of affairs in Kano, and which is boiling up not only in Kano but in other parts of Nigeria, too, which is very dangerous, and in which the use of British Forces for the defence of law and order becomes more than probable.

That is the reason why I should like the Government to give us their account of the events of last May. I should like to know, for example, why there was not a fair and objective and detailed inquiry for which the names of the witnesses and the evidence were made available for public opinion here, and why what happened last May was glossed over. What has happened in the last two or three weeks and the reasons that led up to the sending of the police forces into Kano have not been fully disclosed. I should like to know whether the Minister of State for Colonial Affairs is wholly satisfied with what is going on. I should like him to tell us whether he accepts my version of the goings on in Kano.

Let me make it quite clear that I do not see that any Secretary of State, whatever his political views happen to be, could do other than recognise that the emirates of Northern Nigeria are an essential part of the administration of Nigeria. However much one would like to see democracy as we know it grow up there overnight that is not possible; indeed, to push the plant at too great a pace is perhaps to court trouble.

I do not believe that we can get rid of these Administrations even when they contain very objectionable people and I am not asking for that. What I say is that if we have to face up to the problem of using force, or using British troops or West African troops in defence of law and order I would much sooner use them at the beginning than when the trouble has got out of hand. That has been my quarrel with the Secretary of State all the way along. He has let things go and then stampeded. He has done that in Kenya and in British Guiana and there is very great danger of that happening again in Nigeria.

I should be sorry if I have made the task of the Lieutenant-Governor more difficult. I hope that I have not done so. He did a good job in handling the Bornu problem and I want to see him do as good a job in Kano. I want the Government to do with the Ciroma of Kano what they did with the Shehu of Bornu. No man, however exalted his birth, is free to behave outside the law. I want the Government to make clear that we inside the British Commonwealth of nations believe above all in the rule of law and in the support of the rule of law and that what happened in Kano in the spring of this year and in the last few weeks is the very negation of the rule of law.

I want that made clear to the Ciroma and his immediate relatives and hirelings. I am willing to supply the right hon. Gentleman with a list of the gentlemen who operate on the Al Capone grand scale in Kano. I want the Government to make it plain that this kind of thing ought not to happen inside any British Colony. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to tell us how many of the N.E.P.U. are in prison at the present time. The information which I have varies almost from day to day. There is this extraordinary business that one finds 20 are arrested then 17 are released, and of those 17 released 15 are re-arrested. The practice of arrest and re-arrest seems to operate in accordance with no known functioning of law, but in accordance with the wishes and inclinations of the native authority.

I should like to have an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that members of political parties are not as a matter of administrative convenience tried before Native Authority courts when they ought not to be so tried. I should also like to have an assurance from him that no man, whatever his religion or creed happens to be, is being allowed to languish in jail or go in fear of attack on his person or property merely because he holds political views which are not acceptable to the Ciroma and his friends.

I do not think that I have painted the picture too black, and if the right hon. Gentleman would be kind enough to give us the fullest possible information and give us an assurance that he will back the Lieutenant-Governor in tackling this problem we may well see a happier time without the kind of thing that has disfigured our colonial administration during the last year or two.

9.35 p.m.

Mr. James Johnson (Rugby)

In my view there is much substance in what my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) has said. I want to warn the Minister that Nigeria is in a very troubled state at the moment. I want to fit this into the wider context of Nigeria, particularly in the post-constitutional situation of the moment.

As my hon. Friend said, it is difficult—in fact at times impossible—to hold political meetings in Kano because of hooliganism. I want the Minister to take note that, whilst the Northerners, the Mohammedan Northerners of N.E.P.U., can come to Lagos and hold meetings there in peace perfectly openly, the Action Group, or Western political party find the utmost difficulty in holding meetings in Kano the Northern capital. That itself should call for examination by the Minister. I agree with all that my hon. Friend has said about the Northern Governor Sir Bryan Sharwood Smith. I was there not many months ago. He has earned the highest commendation from all sections and all races in Nigeria. He has done a first class job in clearing up the situation in Bornu and I wish him luck in making Kano a little more peaceful for political meetings.

Looking back at the conference held a few weeks ago and lining that up with the situation in Nigeria, one feels perhaps not cynical but a little sceptical about the findings of the conference. I agree with my hon. Friend about Doctor A. Zikiwe; I will not say that it is an unholy concordat, but an unusual association for the Minister. I want to warn him that he would want a long spoon to dine with Doctor Zik, particularly in view of the conference of the N.C.N.C. in the North last year. Doctor Zik has gone back to Nigeria and is using his usual somewhat eloquent language about being given a settlement on a platter of gold. Very few Nigerians would think it a settlement on a platter of gold.

When I get Nigerian newspapers and news from Nigerians, as I often do, I am very disturbed about the situation in the Western region. I do not want to go into a long discussion tonight about the award, or future award, of Lagos to the Federal Territory as a whole, but that again is causing enormous disquiet. The significance of the results of the Lagos municipal elections have not, I hope, passed unnoticed by the Secretary of State. The Action Party gained a sweeping victory. I hope that in this context of Nigerian unity, peace and order, about which we have been talking, these results will not have passed unnoticed. Prince Adedoyin who has had little in common with Mr. Awolowo of the Action group in the past is now supporting the policy of Mr. Awolowo.

Following Kenya and Guiana, we do not want to see a hasty last-minute despatch of troops. I do not want to see any disorder, but it is a very dangerous situation. I hope the Minister will convey to his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies the things hon. Members on this side of the House have been saying and the feeling of Members of the Nigerian Parliament. I hope we shall have a second and even a third look at this award, for what at the moment seems to be an award, of Lagos to the new federal set-up, remembering the spiritual shock which the loss of Lagos means to the Yoruba peoples.

9.39 p.m.

Mr. John Tilney (Liverpool, Wavertree)

I had the privilege last January of being in Kano and being received by the Emir and talking with him for half an hour. He was very far from being "doddery," which I think was the adjective used by the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg). We discussed for a long time the problems of the North, and he appeared to me to be very much alive to what ought to be done. I understand that he is a very ill man at present. We all hope that he will recover and that all will be well. I think that it would be wrong, however, for the message to go out from this House that we accept all the epithets used by the hon. Member for Dudley.

My plea to my right hon. Friend the Minister of State is that if one does decentralise power one has to be extremely careful before one interferes unduly from many thousands of miles away. I would equally agree with the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) that it is essential that freedom of speech, thought and religion should be allowed throughout the British Commonwealth and Empire.

9.41 p.m.

The Minister of State for Colonial Affairs (Mr. Henry Hopkinson)

The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) has this evening brought before the House a matter which we all agree is of great importance—the political tension which exists in Kano. It is also important as part of the general problem of Nigeria, on which the hon. Member and the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) touched, and to which I shall refer later in my speech. This question of Kano is certainly causing my right hon. Friend serious anxiety, and I hope very much that our short debate tonight will make a contribution to an understanding of the problem involved, both in this country and in Nigeria, and to an easing of the situation.

Before I go into this question I should like to dispose of one allegation which the hon. Gentleman made in regard to the report on the Kano disturbances last May. I think he was inclined to doubt the objectivity—shall I put it like that?—of the report. I do not propose to go into that matter fully tonight because it is a very detailed question, but I have read the report, and I am satisfied that it not only embodies the result of a most rigorous administrative inquiry into the circumstances but, also, that there can be no question whatever of its veracity and objectivity.

In support of that view, I would remind the hon. Member that the periodical "West Africa," which is well-informed and certainly often very liberal as a critic of our activities in Africa, said in its editorial on 15th August: The report gives us an exact and, we are satisfied, accurate account of the events of May 14th to 22nd.

Mr. Wigg

The right hon. Gentleman quotes "West Africa." Will he also agree that it comes down on my side of the fence rather than his?

Mr. Hopkinson

What I say is that the contents of the report may be criticised, but that as to its objectivity and veracity there can be no doubt.

I wish to turn to the main question which we are discussing tonight, the present tension. I wish to emphasise that it is essential that it should be realised, both in this House and in this country, that the recent activities of extremist hooligan elements in Kano are a direct reaction against some three years of abuse and vilification of established authority and its upholders in that area, by a small number of political groups which I am bound to say, in the interests of truth, includes the Northern Elements Peoples' Union, to which the hon. Member referred. These groups have not been suppressed or impeded by authority in any way, but they have deliberately exploited or abused freedom of speech and of the Press.

It has been argued both here and elsewhere that the N.E.P.U. have been forbidden to hold meetings in Kano City. I must point out that for many years no political party has ever been allowed to hold meetings in Kano City, that is to say, inside the city walls. It is a densely populated city and that rule was made because of danger to the peace. But permission has been given for meetings outside the walls, both for the N.E.P.U. and other political parties. And when on occasions, as happened last May, in the case of the Action Group, permission for meetings outside the walls was withheld, that was done solely in the interests of preserving peace. That is brought out in this report.

In reply to the suggestion by the hon. Gentleman that the northerners can hold meetings in Lagos, but the southern parties cannot hold meetings in the North, the fact is that one of the main causes of the present tension was the treatment accorded to members of the Northern People's Congress in Lagos following on the last Session of the House of Representatives there. There is absolutely no truth whatever in the suggestion that the N.E.P.U. have not been allowed to function as a political party. They have been allowed to carry on their activities locally. They have taken part in elections. I saw a deputation from them who came over to this country last year as a political party.

When I was carrying out my factfinding tour in Nigeria in April last, before the conference held later in the summer, I made a particular point of breaking my journey in Kano to see them and to hear their views. Although they were a small group, they were invited to send a delegation to the conference which was held to consider the revision of the Nigerian Constitution. They did so and took a full part in the work of the conference.

The fact is that the N.E.P.U., at any rate at present, represent only a small minority in the City of Kano and a still smaller proportion of the three million inhabitants in the rest of the Kano district. But they and other small groups have made themselves anathema to a large section of popular opinion in the North. The underlying cause of the present troubles is what appears to the northerners to be their frequent abuse of the normal British freedom of speech and so on, which the British Administration have been at pains to preserve. Because of their attacks on and villification of established authority and its leaders a strong reaction has set in against them. That explains, but does not justify, the outbursts of hooliganism by a group of reactionary extremists who are violently hostile to the N.E.P.U. and their followers.

I should like to emphasise with all the force at my command that Her Majesty's Government and the Government of Nigeria and the Lieutenant-Governor, to whom I was glad to hear the hon. Member for Dudley pay tribute, because he well deserves it—all these people and my right hon. Friend and the authorities out there are determined that under no circumstances will they tolerate from anybody any attempt to thwart the execution of their duties by the lawfully constituted authorities in the North. I give that assurance to the House and to the hon. Gentleman. Nothing which has occurred recently will shake them in their support of that line which they intend to pursue.

At the same time, it is only right to draw the attention of the House to a rather different aspect of the picture which we have heard this evening. The fact is that under the vigorous, liberal, enlightened, and I would say realistic, direction of the Governor and the Lieutenant-Governor, very rapid progress has been made in the past two years in the development of representative and elected organs of local government in the Northern region. These were reforms which were certainly much needed.

I would say, too, that they have the support of many of the Emirs and Chiefs among enlightened rulers in the Northern Territory. The progress which has been made has certainly not been uniform, but it has been marked. I will give the House an example. The position as revealed by the Maddocks-Pott Report on Local Government in the North, three years ago, showed that at that time out of 114 Native Authorities in the region no fewer than 86 were sole Native Authorities. Last June there was only one sole Native Authority, and I understand that that is already in process of becoming an authority in council. That is a most remarkable achievement in little over two years.

The Lieutenant-Governor, when he addressed the House of Chiefs in February last, described it as sensational and pointed out that what it involved was the establishment of a whole chain of effective representation which extended from the lowest level in the land to the highest. He said that it was coupled with delegation to the limit of practicability from top to bottom.

The hon. Member for Dudley has focused his attack upon the Ciroma, who is the principal counsellor of the Emir in the Native Authority council with special responsibility for the maintenance of district administration. I should like to say, first, about the Ciroma, that he was in no way connected with the May riots. There is no question at all of that. It has also been suggested that he has been responsible for putting people into gaol for political reasons. I know of no case where people have been put into gaol for political reasons. The only case of which I am aware is one which occurred, I think, in July last, where there was some trouble on the airfield and a certain number of members of the N.E.P.U. were, first of all, convicted and then, because of some technical matter, the sentence was quashed. I think that the hon. Gentleman must have been misinformed when he said that anyone had been put in gaol for political reasons.

Mr. Wigg

On 13th August of this year the assistant secretary-general general, the deputy president general and the president of the Kano Branch, the secretary of the Kano Branch, the president of one other branch, the financial secretary of the Kano Branch, the executive member of the Kano Branch, the vice-president and what is called the field secretary, had all been imprisoned by the native authority. When one tries to keep a check on imprisonments and releases, not only of members of the N.E.P.U., but now of the N.P.U. as well, one is driven inexorably to the conclu- sion that somebody, if it is not the Ciroma and the native authority, is using arbitrary arrest as a means of political persuasion.

Mr. Hopkinson

I can only say that my information is that there have been no arrests for political reasons. I can only assume that the case to which the hon. Gentleman is referring is that which I have already mentioned, concerning the people who were involved in the trouble at the airport at the end of July and were convicted by a native court and whose sentences were afterwards quashed.

As to convictions, or any attempt to convict, on political grounds, I ought to inform the House, for the benefit of hon. Members who are not already aware of it, that all criminal convictions in native courts are subject to review by the Administration, that is by the British Resident and his district officers. I can assure the House that in no circumstances would imprisonment for political motives ever be countenanced. There could be no question at all about that.

Contrary to what the hon. Gentleman suggested, the Ciroma is an able, hardworking and intelligent administrator. He is well known for his encouragement of the development of the district councils, in which he has much interested himself, and in the general development of the districts, which has won him great support, particularly in the rural areas.

I will not conceal from the House the fact that it has been suggested from time to time that he has been guilty of malpractices, but at no time has there been any clear evidence at all on this subject, and I can assure the hon. Gentleman and the House that had such evidence been forthcoming, the Administration would have acted, and acted promptly.

While I have emphasised the quite remarkable progress which has been made in the past few years in the liberalisation of the Government in the Northern Region, I should be wrong if I did not utter a word of warning, as the hon. Gentleman did, against the dangers of going too fast. I would remind the House of the results which accrue from attempting to introduce Western ideas and practices too rapidly into an Islamic State. I am referring to the so-called reforms—some of them were reforms—which King Ammanullah introduced into Afghanistan. The result of his endeavours was, simply, to produce first chaos, and then misery, and finally a reversion to an even more extreme traditional rule.

I do not claim that all the traditional rulers in the Northern Region of Nigeria and their councils are perfect. On the contrary, the Government have had to embark on a purging and cleansing process in certain areas. However, this had the support of the chiefs concerned, and, in general, they and their councillors, who constitute the majority of the better educated sections of the population, have certainly not closed their minds to progress. Hon. Gentlemen who have studied this matter will bear me out in that. It is very largely because of the wisdom, foresight and help of those rulers that the changes which have been introduced in the past two years have been accepted so quietly and have obtained the support of the population.

The position today is that the background is good, the progress made in the past two years has been good and the immediate danger of bloodshed has been averted, but there remains a deep-seated malaise, what the hon. Gentleman called a basic political instability. I should be wrong if I suggested that its cure will be anything but slow and difficult. Very much will depend, in fact, on the responsibility shown by political elements, not only in the north but in the south; that is to say, if further outbreaks of rioting and bloodshed are to be averted.

It being Ten o'Clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Kaberry.]

Mr. Hopkinson

I would appeal to all responsible leaders in the South not to attempt to force the less reputable devices of European political warfare on a region where, in fact, traditional respect for authority is ingrained.

As to the North, there are, fortunately, I am glad to say, some recent signs of a dawning sense of responsibility and awareness of the dangers of the present situation among all political parties in Kano. A committee of political reconciliation representing all parties, including the N.E.P.U., has been set up. They have agreed that mass meetings outside the city walls should only be held under a permit. They have agreed that personal abuse should cease.

This is a beginning, and it is all to the good, but it is only a beginning, and if peace and good order are to be preserved in the North, and if the traditional British freedom is to be maintained, as we all wish, all political parties must show tolerance and reasonable respect for the opinions of their political opponents. They must do that and not attempt to undermine lawfully constituted authority by seditious or violent action.

That brings me to the point on which the hon. Gentleman asks whether the necessary steps were being taken to avert such action. I can assure him that the answer is in the affirmative. I believe that, throughout these difficult months, the police have been handled with great skill by those responsible. The hon. Gentleman will remember that, in the May riots, although there was great provocation, there was no firing and there was no loss of life owing to action by the police or military.

I should like to say a few words about the general picture. The hon. Gentleman accused my right hon. Friend of clumsiness and maladroitness in this matter. Whatever he may think, that is certainly not the view of the Nigerian leaders. Whether it is Sardauna of Sokoto in the North, Dr. Awolowo in the West or Dr. Azikiwe in the East, every one of them, in my presence at the end of that conference, congratulated the Secretary of State on his skilful handling of the matter in very difficult circumstances.

When I was out in Nigeria in April, it was very difficult to see how there could be any solution of the Nigerian problem which would not possibly involve a break-up into two or three portions, but patience and skilful handling by my right hon. Friend not only brought these gentlemen together, but got them to agree at this conference on the principles for a revision of the Constitution on a basis which would preserve Nigerian federal unity.

There was only one point on which real disagreement took place, and that was in regard to Lagos. I should make quite clear to the House, as it has been made clear in another place, what has happened. The position in regard to Lagos was that the conference reached a deadlock, and it was finally decided by all three parties that the matter should be left with the Secretary of State for arbitration. It was agreed by all three parties that they would loyally accept his decision.

The Secretary of State considered the matter and decided that Lagos, the Federal capital, should not form any part of the three regions. We must bear in mind that it has only been part of the Western Region for two years, since the present Constitution began, and had always been a separate Colony up to then. The Eastern people were pleased with the Secretary of State's decision. The Northern people, for whom Lagos forms a vital means of communication with the sea, were also pleased, of course. The Western Region Action Group, under Mr. Awolowo, having said they would accept it, went back on it and said they were unable to agree. They claimed that there had been certain conditions which they had intended should form part of the arbitration. If that was their intention, they had not made it clear at the time.

Mr. J. Johnson

Is it not a fact that in all the discussions beforehand this final solution, this award of Lagos, was never even mentioned? Is it not a fact that the Commission upon this matter thought that it should go to the Centre?

Mr. Hopkinson

It has been one of the possibilities which have been considered constantly in the past locally, as the hon. Gentleman will know from reading local papers and hearing speeches. It has been thoroughly thrashed out. It arose in this conference as one of the factors particularly affecting the North, and it was agreed that the Secretary of State should arbitrate in the matter.

However, the fact is that the great majority of Nigerians, including a substantial number of people in the Western Region, did accept this solution. Even in the municipal elections which took place in Lagos only a few days ago—incidentally, only 30 per cent. of the electorate went to the poll so they cannot have felt very strongly in the matter—the N.C.N.C., Dr. Azikiwe's party, who were in favour of Lagos being separated from the Western Region, polled 43 per cent. of the vote. It is a very well balanced matter, and in this question of Lagos the interests of Nigeria ought to prevail. It has been made quite clear by my right hon. Friend that he would not refuse to consider any feasible alternative if it were agreed upon by the three main political groups of North, East and West. If such an alternative can be produced, Her Majesty's Government would be quite willing to consider it. Failing that, they are determined that the present decision must be carried through.

I think I have touched upon most of the points which were covered by the two hon. Gentlemen opposite. My hon. Friend referred to de-centralisation. We are very well aware of that, but we found in discussing the revision of the Constitution that the only way in which to reconcile the different points of view—the two Southern Regions aim at self-Government by 1956, whereas the North do not wish to go too fast and are reluctant to get rid of their British advisers before they have built up their own Civil Service—the only way to reconcile these different points of view was to give greater regional powers, at the same time preserving the essentials of the Federal structure at the centre.

We know that the future will be difficult, but I do not share the fears of the hon. Member for Dudley about immediate difficulties or immediate threats of danger. I can assure him that Her Majesty's Government fully realise how difficult it is going to be to work out in detail this revised Constitution and to carry it through, and that it will require the good will of all sections of the population and of all parties.

Let me make it quite clear at once that the Government are not behind Dr. Azikiwe or any particular party in Nigeria. We would like to see the cooperation of all the main parties in the Federal State in carrying through a revised Constitution because we believe that if that can be done, and if the present political instability can be got over, there is a great future for Nigeria.

In conclusion, I wish to thank the hon. Gentleman for bringing this matter before the House because I think that the airing of it here will do good both in this country and in Nigeria.

Adjourned accordingly at Eleven Minutes past Ten o'Clock.