UK not doing enough for conflict-stricken northern Nigeria, report warns
Britain is not doing enough to help northern Nigeria,
where millions of people have had their lives ruined
by the Islamic militant group Boko Haram, according
to a report by the UK parliament.
The gap between Nigeria’s poor and conflict-stricken
north and more prosperous south could widen, a
report by the international development committee
Nigeria went through its first democratic transfer of
power last year amid conflict with Boko Haram and a
collapsing economy , and the parliamentary
watchdog’s review of the UK’s Department for
International Development (DfID) programme in
Nigeria said it had directly contributed to a credible,
fair and peaceful election.
However, it said more attention should be paid to
fighting corruption in the security sector, improving
education and changing the approach to
unemployment, to address issues in north-east that
led to the rise of the group that has killed tens of
thousands of people and displaced millions.
Poverty reduction should be central to everything
DfID does, said Stephen Twigg, Chairman of the
Committee, adding that with DfID carrying out
several major internal reviews this year, and in the
wake of the seismic changes in the British
government, it was an “opportune moment” for the
“We are urging DfID to ensure that its aid and
development work in Nigeria going forward needs to
have at its heart poverty reduction, and one of those
aspects is the regional inequality within the country
and how that can be dealt with,” he said. “I accept
that security and conflict have become more
significant factors … [but] within that, resources
should be prioritised towards poverty.”
Nigeria has received a fraction of the humanitarian
support that DfID has given to other crises, the
report said. Syria, for example, received $635m in
2015 compared with Nigeria’s $6m. The UK has
however announced an extra $42m in humanitarian
aid to Nigeria over the next three years – money
meant particularly for refugees .
But more long-term development is needed to stop
young men joining groups like Boko Haram in the
first place, including improving employment chances.
The private sector, which is much stronger in
southern Nigeria, has been relied on too heavily for
this, according to Kate Meagher, from the London
School of Economics.
“In the context of historically low levels of western
education, the encouragement of private sector-led
strategies of employment generation have
exacerbated regional inequalities between northern
and southern Nigeria,” she told the report’s authors.
“Private sector processes of economic inclusion are
selective, and that means that northern youth are
being left ever farther behind.”
In particular, the report said, DfID doesn’t understand
the informal employment sector, where most
Nigerians work, adding that the committee had been
told this was one of the big weaknesses in DfID’s
Shortage of teachers
On education, the report said neither the Nigerian
government nor DfID seem to recognise the severity
of the shortage of teachers and textbooks, noting
again that education is worse in the north.
DfID is warning that Nigeria is “unlikely to achieve”
the sustainable development goal on education by
2030, even though the goals were only set last year.
DfID is also failing to fight corruption in the security
sector, according to the report. It said the army had
to deal with many soldiers deserting because they
were disillusioned with the state. “There were even
reports that whole units are selling weapons,
intelligence, and even their services to Boko Haram,”
the report said, quoting Transparency International.
The report suggests DfID could tackle military
corruption, drawing on its success supporting the
petroleum industries bill, which was designed to
stem graft in the oil and gas sector and which is
awaiting approval by the Nigerian parliament.
Billions lost in corruption, routed through London
The report made no mention of President
Muhammadu Buhari’s plea to Britain to help Nigeria
claw back the billions allegedly stolen and hidden in
London banks under Buhari’s predecessor, Goodluck
According to Ibrahim Mahu, Nigeria’s anti-corruption
chief, $37bn in assets stolen from Nigeria in 2014
and 2015 was routed through London .
Nigerian public services, which the UK spends time
and money helping to build, are crippled by this, said
Ojobo Ode Atuluku, ActionAid country director.
“We desperately need action to stop tax havens
fuelling the twin scourges of tax dodging and
corruption, which leave public services like schools
and hospitals starved of funding,” Atuluku said.
“Nigeria has signed up to new rules to publicly reveal
who owns [non-trading] shell companies. The UK
government should demand the same level of
transparency from British overseas tax havens so
that Nigerian campaigners can track down the
money being siphoned out of the country.”
Twigg said the report would have addressed Britain’s
responsibility to take action, but that it had been
written before Buhari made his comments.
“It’s absolutely crucial that addressing corruption [is]
a universal commitment,” he said. “All governments
including our own – the starting point for any of
these issues has to be that we address the problems
in our own country as well as working with other
countries to address the problems in theirs.”