UK is ‘horrified’ by ‘heinous’ Nigeria church attack, says minister

·3-min read

The UK is “horrified” by a “heinous” attack on a Catholic church in south-western Nigeria which took place on Sunday night, a minister has said.

Vicky Ford’s comments came as Conservative MP for Congleton Fiona Bruce raised an urgent question in the Commons on the killing of church worshippers in Ondo State Nigeria and on wider issues of violence against religious groups.

The Foreign Office minister said: “I am horrified by the attack that took place against a church in Ondo state, south-west Nigeria yesterday.

“I publicly express the UK Government’s condemnation for this heinous act and stress the importance that those responsible being brought to justice in accordance with the law.

“The High Commission in Nigeria has also expressed our condolences to the governor of Ondo state and offered our support.

“I know that the House will join me in sending our condolences to the families and communities of those killed.”

Ms Ford added the British High Commissioner in Nigeria had spoken to the local parish priest and later said: “Incidentally, I am going to have the huge honour of meeting the Archbishop of Canterbury tomorrow and I will certainly be discussing this with him.”

Meanwhile, Labour urged the Government to make protecting democracy in Nigeria a “top priority”.

Shadow Foreign Office minister Bambos Charalambous described the attack on a Catholic church in the country’s Ondo state as “utterly horrific”, adding: “To target a church where so many were gathered to peacefully pray and celebrate Pentecost is truly appalling.”

Referring to growing instability in Nigeria, he also said: “Surely we must recognise that insecurity even poses a threat to the stability of Nigeria as a democracy, and supporting such an important regional and global partner must be a top priority.”

Ms Bruce had earlier said: “This was a brutal attack on a place of worship, St Francis Catholic Church in Owo, and on worshippers gathering on Pentecost Sunday, a time of celebration turned into a time of carnage.”

Liberal Democrat spokesperson for foreign affairs Layla Moran criticised the Government for cutting the aid budget in Nigeria by half.

She said: “The minister has very rightly identified that the causes of this are complex, but are to do with lack of resources and indeed insecurity. But I’m afraid that the Government’s money is not where its mouth is.

“Not only has it cut the aid budget in Nigeria by half but the forward projections are no good either.”

Ms Ford stressed “it’s really important to look at what we have done” pointing at a number of different projects in Nigeria.

She added: “When I visited the region, I was very moved to hear how the relationships between the community members and members of forces had significantly improved in the Lake Chad basin.

“It is a very difficult part of the world. It has got very, very high levels of conflict, one of the highest countries in the world for conflict, but there were some slivers of optimism that I think we should continue to try and develop.”

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