Wednesday, 4 October 2006
Department of Foreign Affairs
Question 279: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the ongoing failure of the Nigerian authorities to provide compensation for the victims of violence in Maiduguri earlier in 2006; if he will raise this issue with the Nigerian authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31133/06]
I am aware of the violent incidents which occurred in February this year in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, and then elsewhere in Nigeria. These regrettable incidents occurred following protests in Maiduguri on 18 February against the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. The violence in Maiduguri resulted in at least eighteen confirmed fatalities and the burning of more than thirty Christian churches. Violent incidents subsequently spread to other areas in Northern Nigeria and also led to serious violence and attacks directed against Muslims and northerners in a number of locations in the south of Nigeria.
Our Embassy in Abuja reported extensively on these incidents at the time and also liaised closely with all members of the Irish community to ensure their safety and protection. A number of Irish religious in Kontagora, Niger State suffered loss of some property, including school buses, during the riots and consular assistance was extended to them by the Ambassador and Embassy. Irish Aid was able to provide some assistance to facilitate the continuation of their work. I am advised that any issue of compensation arising for those affected by the violence would be, in this instance, a matter to be pursued with the provincial rather than the Federal authorities in Nigeria.
The Government's serious concerns regarding these incidents, as well as those of the European Union, have been made known to the Federal Government of Nigeria. The EU pursues an active political dialogue with Nigeria within the framework of the Cotonou Agreement which provides an opportunity to discuss the sensitive issue of inter-communal relations in Nigeria as well as the challenge of confronting serious poverty which can often exacerbate ethnic and religious tensions. Our Embassy in Abuja will continue to monitor and report on these issues as they arise and will continue to make the Government's views known as appropriate. It will also offer any further appropriate consular assistance to those affected.