Apparently piqued by the escalating insecurity challenges in Nigeria where life has become brutish, the United Kingdom’s (UK) parliament, the House of Commons, held consistent debates between April 12 and 22 over the continued abductions of students and the sustained attacks by Boko Haram’s insurgents.
The debate of the lawmakers in the UK centred around understanding the situation in Nigeria and subsequently providing assistance to her government. For example, on April 12, lawmaker Jim Shannon, the Democratic Unionist Party MP for Strangford, sought to find out what discussions the UK government had had with President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration on helping to prevent the kidnap of children from schools.
In response, James Duddridge, the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, said, “We are deeply concerned by the kidnapping and continued captivity of schoolchildren by Boko Haram (BH) and Islamic State West Africa (ISWA) in North-East Nigeria.
“The British High Commission continues to raise these cases with the Nigerian government, most recently in March 2021. We are also concerned by the recent attacks on schools in Zamfara, Niger, Kaduna, and Katsina states, conducted by criminal groups.”
“I publicly condemned these attacks and stressed the importance of all children being able to access an education without fear. The UK Deputy National Security Advisor discussed the abduction of Nigerian schoolboys in Kankara in Katsina State with the president’s Chief of Staff, Ibrahim Gambari, on December 15, 2020.
“Our High Commissioner in Abuja spoke to the Inspector General of the Nigerian Police on improving school safety and addressing kidnapping in March 2021.”
Duddridge explained that the UK provided mentoring and capacity building for units of the Nigerian Police Force to improve their anti-kidnap capacity and response to organised crime groups in Nigeria.
The following week, on April 19, another UK lawmaker, Stephen Doughty, the Labour (Co-op) MP for Cardiff South and Penarth, demanded from the British government an assessment of the security and humanitarian situation in the North-East following recent attacks and the displacement of people in the Damasak area. Duddgride explained that the UK government was concerned by the security and humanitarian situation in the North-East, where terrorist groups, including Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa, continue to attack local communities.
Shedding more light on his assessment, he noted, “Recent attacks on Damasak in Borno State, in which civilians, humanitarian workers, and facilities were targeted, have led to a worsening humanitarian situation, and the displacement of local residents and internally displaced people to Niger or other areas of north-east Nigeria. As the UK government has repeatedly made clear, humanitarian workers should never be a target.”
He reiterated to the House of Commons that the UK remained “committed to helping Nigeria tackle the threat posed by the terrorist groups” in the North-East, adding, “We are providing significant humanitarian and stabilisation assistance to support affected communities, including those who have been displaced.”