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On Wednesday 14th May 2014, Baroness Cox contributed to a question raised by Lord Bach in the House of Lords asking what steps Her Majesty’s Government had taken to rescue the 200 girls kidnapped from Chibok, Nigeria.
Baroness Cox asked if the minister was aware that, although the scale of this incident is unprecedented, the kidnapping of Nigerian girls has been occurring for many years where they are forced to marry or convert religion, sometimes with the connivance of local authorities. Baroness Cox urged that the rescue of the girls is a priority, although she stressed that action must be taken to ensure that the Government of Nigeria works with both state and local authorities to end this abhorrent practice and ensure it is not tolerated anywhere in Nigeria.
Baroness Warsi responded with the acknowledgement that abductions in Nigeria are not new and agreed that the Chibok kidnapping is shocking. She confirmed that DfID has been working with Nigeria on the education and protection of girls, specifically in Northern regions. The UK advisory team, drawn from across government, went to Abuja on May 9th to meet the Nigerian Government, to understand the situation and determine how the UK can help.
Lord Bach questioned why Her Majesty’s Government has not made an oral statement or instigated a debate in either House, and why there has been a gap of three weeks of inactivity.
Lord Warsi replied that the UK was the first government to offer assistance – within hours of the incident. He confirmed that the government has provided surveillance aircraft, military teams to embed with the Nigerian army and a team to work with US experts to analyse information on the girls’ location and set up a safe school initiative.
Lord Bishop of Oxford then asked if it was necessary to engage with Boko Haram at different levels and if so, what support and encouragement is the UK Government offering to the dialogue between the Government of Nigeria and Boko Haram?
Baroness Warsi condoned the discussion with Boko Haram and responded to Lord Chidgey’s question of a longer-term solution that although the long-term challenge is to tackle Boko Haram, it does not need to be done over the lives of the girls. She stressed that the issue should be led by Nigerians, but that it’s right to make offers of support. She highlighted that although a long-term solution is needed, the priority is to ‘bring back our girls’.