HC Deb 11 December 1995 vol 268 cc691-2
31. Mr. Jim Cunningham

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how British aid to Nigeria is being used to encourage its ruler to introduce democracy. [3316]

Mr. Hanley

In concert with others, we have made it clear that no aid will be given in support of the Nigerian military regime. Since 1993, our good government scheme, administered locally, has allocated about £100.000 a year for initiatives related to the rule of law, respect for human rights and sound government.

Mr. Cunningham

Given the Minister's answer, will he explain why in mid-October the Foreign Office held a reception for the Nigerian chamber of commerce? What signal does that send to the Nigerian people and, in particular, to victims of the regime in Nigeria?

Mr. Hanley

The hon. Gentleman is aware of the programme of restrictions that have been introduced by the Commonwealth and, subsequently, by the European Union against Nigeria. There is not a trade ban with Nigeria, but other initiatives are being considered.

Mr. Anthony Coombs

Following last week's visit to the House by Dr. Owens Wiwa, brother of Ken Saro-Wiwa, does my right hon. Friend agree that persuasion or diplomacy of any sort is not producing any results in relation to a more humanitarian regime in Nigeria? Is it not time for the British Government to consider an oil embargo, which would be universally exploited, and the freezing of Nigerian leaders' assets in Europe as they seem to have salted away about $12.3 billion of unaccounted for oil revenue?

Mr. Hanley

My hon. Friend will know that on 4 December the European Union announced the adoption of further common positions that extended measures in three spheres: the withdrawal of all military personnel attached to diplomatic representations of EU states in Nigeria and the expulsion of military personnel attached to Nigerian diplomatic representations in member states; further visa restrictions to ensure that members of the Nigerian regime and their families in possession of long-term visas are not admitted; and an interruption of sporting contacts through the denial of visas for official delegations and national teams. That means that we are considering actions as they become appropriate.

As my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary said last week, the problem is that the United States of America takes some 50 per cent. of Nigerian oil, and an oil embargo would have to be policed by naval forces. That is being considered at the moment, but no firm decision has yet been made.

Dr. Bray

Is the Minister aware that there is a difference between consideration and advocacy? Are the Government advocating the imposition of oil sanctions? Is he further aware that the freezing of bank accounts could have an even more dramatic effect?

Mr. Hanley

As I have said, we are considering what further actions to take in the light of discussions with our allies.

Mr. Mark Robinson

Will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming the stand taken by many developing Commonwealth countries in Africa—countries that are, of course, in receipt of aid and assistance from the British programme—in condemning the situation in Nigeria?

Mr. Hanley

Indeed I will.