Plenary speech on the situation in Nigeria

Marietje
Marietje Schaake − Mr President, this House shares the grave concern over the terrorist activities carried out by Boko Haram and related groups which have resulted in no less than 4 000 deaths over the past four years and forced many to flee violence and terror. I well remember how a distribution centre, where the youth of Nigeria served as part of a year of civic duty, was blown up in the days before the presidential elections in 2011, leaving many young people dead. Extremists and terrorists see democracy as a threat. To ensure there is no further escalation, extra-judicial killings should end, the downward spiral of revenge violence should be halted, and Boko Haram members and other suspected terrorists should be charged and tried. The principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ cannot be replaced by the destruction of entire villages where suspected members may live. Nigerian law allows prosecution under the Terrorism Prevention Act of 2011. The role of the media deserves our special attention. It is not acceptable for journalists to be kept out of large areas because there is a state of emergency. Threats to journalists for reporting, as well as censorship, should be prevented, condemned and avoided. While it may seem like a good idea for the government to shut down mobile services to prevent militants and terrorists from communicating, this also restricts the digital freedoms of many ordinary Nigerians. The EU, as Nigeria’s largest financial donor, should forcefully urge the government to work within the law. The International Criminal Court is investigating whether Boko Haram has committed crimes against humanity. The legal path should prevail, as it sets the state apart from those who act outside of the law more clearly and more justly. We should also urge them to change laws. The government should change laws that allow the death penalty and the criminalisation of LGBT people, as they do not only restrict the freedoms and rights of Nigerians, but also deny our aid workers and diplomats from the EU the space to work freely. We need to focus on Nigeria, which has a lot of great opportunities in terms of resources and human capital. If Nigeria develops democratically and successfully into a rule-based society it could be an example for the region: an example in the good sense. Similarly, however, an escalation of extremism and violence, together with the wider unrest in the Sahel region, could lead to a spillover and a worsening situation.