HC Deb 20 May 1943 vol 389 cc1256-7W
Mr. Harvey

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has received a report from the Governor of Nigeria on the practice of the pawning of persons as security for debt; and whether further steps are being taken to protect persons who pawn themselves as security for debt?

Colonel Stanley

Yes, Sir. The Governor states that since 1938, he has caused a return to be rendered of all prosecutions under Section 369 (3) of the Criminal Code which provide that any person who places or receives the services of any person in servitude as a pledge or security for debt is guilty of slaving and is liable to imprisonment for 14 years. The resulting figures are as follow:

Year. Prosecutions. Persons. Convicted.
1938 9 12
1939 2 1
1940 1 1
1941 3 2
1942 1

From these figures and from the fact that the Governor has had no report which in any way indicates that pawning in its more objectionable form is prevalent, he is satisfied that the practice is gradually dying out and that the present position need cause no disquiet. The subject was discussed at the 1942 Conference of the Western Province chiefs and a clear distinction was made between the pawning by one person of the services of another and adult self-pawning in which the services rendered go towards the reduction of the original debt and interest. It was agreed that the former could not be countenanced in any circumstances, and in the case of self-pawning it was recommended that the debtor should have the right to ask the native courts to assess the amount owing and order repayment either by work for a definite period or cash payments by instalments. Steps are being taken to implement this recommendation and the Governor has also under consideration the question of giving jurisdiction to certain native courts to enforce Section 369 (3) of the Criminal Code.