Thank you for contacting me regarding the persecution of Christians in Nigeria and the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
The events you point to are deeply concerning, and the UK Government condemns all violence in Nigeria, irrespective of religion or group.
The UPR is a state-driven process which provides the opportunity for each State to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to fulfil their human rights obligations. The UK will consider recommendations and advance questions as part of Nigeria's next UPR in early 2024, after the submission of its national report in October this year.
In the meantime, I would like to outline the steps the UK has taken thus far to support Nigeria in upholding its constitutional commitment to freedom of religion or belief.
The principal threats to this commitment are the multiple complex security challenges facing Nigerians. In particular, from extremist groups, including Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa, who attack both Christians and Muslims who do not subscribe to their beliefs. To support Nigeria’s efforts to tackle this issue, the UK has contributed £16.9 million since 2019 to the UN Development Programme’s regional stabilisation facility, which improves security, services, and economic opportunities for people in affected areas, and contributes to the demobilisation, de-radicalisation and reintegration of former group members.
Nigeria also faces other security challenges that undermine human rights and freedom of religion, including inter-communal violence and criminality. The UK’s wide-ranging bilateral security and defence partnership with Nigeria provides practical support to defend against all these forms of insecurity. This includes training Nigeria’s police force to tackle criminality and kidnappings, as well as helping them to prioritise the protection of vulnerable groups, such as religious minorities.
The UK also works with Nigeria to address the root causes of these issues including poverty, climate change and historical grievances between ethnic and religious communities. The UK Government’s ‘Strengthening the Delivery of Peace and Security’ programme in Nigeria has funded peace-building projects in several Nigerian states that build links and dialogue between civil society groups, religious leaders, and religious communities. Additionally, through the UK-Nigeria Security and Defence Partnership, the UK monitors the progress and effectiveness of our support to Nigeria to tackle insecurity and promote human rights.
The UK of course, recognises that Nigeria is a capable and sovereign state, and the British High Commissioner raised the insecurity issues undermining freedom of religion in his first meeting with Nigeria’s new Vice President Kashim Shettima in July this year.
Regardless, I am assured that staff in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office will continue to work closely with the new Nigerian Government, state governors, local community and faith leaders and NGOs to promote social cohesion and understanding between communities, including religious minorities.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Angela Richardson MP
Member of Parliament for Guildford, Cranleigh and our villages