HL Deb 12 July 1984 vol 454 cc1055-8

4.15 p.m.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, with your Lordships' permission I should like to repeat a Statement to be made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs about the abduction of Mr. Umaru Dikko. The Statement reads as follows:

"I told the House on 9th July that police inquiries were continuing. As a result of these inquiries four men, three Israeli nationals and one Nigerian national, have each been charged with kidnapping—a common law offence—and with administering drugs with intent to kidnap. They have been remanded in custody.

"The police inquiries also disclosed evidence which appeared to implicate members of the Nigerian High Commission. It was in those circumstances that, as I told the House on Monday, the Nigerian High Commissioner was asked to allow the police to interview members of the Nigerian High Commission staff. I have to inform the House that the Nigerian Government declined to comply with this request.

"Accordingly, the High Commissioner was seen again yesterday. He was told that we had noted the Nigerian Government's denial of any involvement in Mr. Dikko's abduction. However, in the light of the circumstances I have described, he was told that a counsellor, Mr. Peter Oyedele and an attache, Mr. Okon Edet, must leave the country within seven days, that is by next Wednesday, 18th July. The High Commissioner stated that his Government were recalling him for consultations. He has now left the country.

"I am sure the whole House will join me in expressing the hope that these events will not inflict lasting damage to our long-term relationship with Nigeria, a Commonwealth country with which we have had good relations over many years.

"The present situation is not of our making. But, as I have made abundantly clear in earlier statements to the House, Her Majesty's Government are bound to take the gravest view of any evidence which appears to implicate members of diplomatic missions in serious crimes in this country".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

Lord Elwyn-Jones

My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Lord for repeating the Statement by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in another place. While the Statement is right to stress the importance of maintaining our long-standing and friendly relations which Nigeria, is it not also right—as, indeed, the Statement implies—to say emphatically that we shall not tolerate the commission of acts of violence on British territory or the importation, by whoever it may be, of violent quarrels from other countries on to our own shores? I think it is right to raise some questions which perhaps are more directly to be answered by the Nigerian authorities than by the noble Lord.

If, as is claimed by them, the Nigerian Government and their High Commission in London and its staff were not involved in the alleged abduction of Mr. Dikko, are we not entitled to require full co-operation from the Nigerian authorities in joint investigation as to who was responsible and for whom they were acting; who organised this operation; and who financed it? Would it not also strengthen the Nigerian Government's protestation of innocence in this affair if the members of the High Commission staff who were at Stansted at the material time were made available to be questioned by the police? Does not the refusal of that request tend to confirm, rather than allay, the suspicion that the Nigerian authorities were indeed involved?

Already we have been troubled by the illegal holding up by the Nigerian authorities of the British Caledonian plane. There is much to be made good already out of this dreadful affair and I ask these questions of the Nigerian authorities in the interests of good relations between us. But there are many questions that have been left, as yet, dangerously unanswered.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, I have little to add to the pungent questions asked on behalf of the Labour Opposition. Can the Government go any further than they have on earlier occasions about the background to this affair in extradition law? Are we to believe the press, that Mr. Dikko was a billionaire, and is it correct that the Government do not extradite persons to countries where they are likely to stand secret trial? If that is the case, is it not almost an extension of the secret trial system onto our soil in Britain that such persons should be attempted to be kidnapped in the way which happened in this case?

The Statement hopes that this matter will not cause lasting damage to our relations, and indeed I am sure that the whole House shares that hope. But if it does, is it not clear that that damage will not be of the making of this country? Will the Government confirm once more that they will not compromise the integrity of our own laws, however much oil money may be involved, by sparing the secret agents of a military tyranny on our soil? Lastly, perhaps I may remind the Government that we are awaiting a statement at the end of a review on the workings of the Vienna Convention, dealing with diplomatic bags and diplomatic baggage. Can the Govenment now give us a date when we may expect that review to be reported to Parliament?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I am grateful to both the noble and learned Lord and the noble Lord for their response. Perhaps I may deal first with the questions put to me by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. I am afraid that I am not yet in the position to tell him when my right honourable friend's examination of the provisions of the Vienna Convention will be complete; but I can tell him that it is underway. As for the legal position of foreigners resident in this country, of course they have to obey our laws—not only laws of the kind which we have seen broken recently, but also the immigration regulations.

On the question of extradition, no application in due legal form has yet been received in respect of anybody. We are aware of the Nigerian Government's intention to seek the extradition of Mr. Dikko and others. Any request in proper form will be considered on its merits, and in accordance with the provisions of the Fugitive Offenders Act 1967. The noble Lord asked me about the personal circumstances of Mr. Dikko. I am afraid that I have no information about that and cannot comment on the reports that I have seen.

Turning to the remarks of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, generally I agree with the assertions which he made at the outset of his remarks. As he anticipated, most of the points he put to me were really matters for the Nigerian Government. We very much regret that they were not able to agree that we should question some of their officials at their High Commission. Two of them at least were implicated in this matter, and that was why we thought it appropriate that those officials should leave the country.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, can the noble Lord confirm that the Nigerian Government will be requested to give an explanation? Will he not agree that the vigilance of people at Stansted seems to indicate that in a country where there is the greatest freedom there is also the greatest vigilance against any form of attempted murder? When the Foreign Office made inquiries of the Nigerian High Commission they said that the case should not be opened because it came under the aegis of being dispatched officially by the Nigerian High Commission to Nigeria. Have the Nigerian Government yet proferred any reasons as to whether or not that is true?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the Nigerian Government have denied any involvement in this very serious matter. Nevertheless, I have to say that police inquiries have suggested that some Nigerian High Commission officials were implicated. That is as far as I can go.

Baroness Macleod of Borve

My Lords, can my noble friend say whether Mr. Dikko has regained his health, and if he has whether he is now at large?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I understand that Mr. Dikko has now left hospital, though no doubt the long-term effects will take a little longer to dissipate.