29 January 1968
On 29 January 1968, Lord Shepherd, the Minister of State for the Commonwealth, was asked in parliament, by Lord Brockway, whether Britain was supplying Nigeria’s federal military government with arms. The generals, who had come to power in a coup d’etat the previous year, were prosecuting a genocidal war against the Biafran region of the country, where the people were demanding independence. Lord Brockway wondered if Lord Shepherd had anything else to add to the government’s previous declaration that any military aid was limited to ‘only previous contracts and spares.’ Shepherd’s reply was shocking. He admitted that, although he had no knowledge of the earlier statement and ‘while we deplore the tragic and sad civil war in Nigeria, we have been supplying Nigeria with pretty well all its military equipment.’1
Less than four months earlier, Nigerian federal forces had used this military equipment to massacre at least 1000 men and boys in the town of Asaba, though the exact number will never be known, after the officer in command, alleging that the Ibo living there sympathised with the Biafran forces, ordered his men to execute all Ibo males over twelve years old.2 The women and girls were then raped or forced into ‘marriages’. Asaba however was just one of many massacres and over a million people were to die from starvation as a direct result of the conflict and a prolonged blockade of Biafra imposed by Nigeria’s generals.
- Lord Shepherd cited in Frederick Forsyth, The Biafra Story: The Making of an African Legend, Pen and Sword Military, Barnsley, p. 163.
- Dr. Cyril Uchenna Gwam interviewed by Godwin Udoh in ‘Asaba Massacre: After the killings Asaba became a town of just women, no men,’ Punchng.com 18 November 2017 accessed online at url https://punchng.com/asaba-massacre-after-the-killings-asaba-became-a-town-of-just-women-with-no-men-gwam/ and Frederick Forsyth, The Biafra Story: The Making of an African Legend, Pen and Sword Military, Barnsley, p. 163.
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