Wednesday 11 May 2016

President Buhari tells UK to return Nigeria’s stolen assets; ...dismisses Cameron’s 'fantastically corrupt' remark

President Buhari at the Tackling Corruption Together Conference
President Muhammadu Buhari has dismissed the remark made by the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, who in a conversation with Queen Elizabeth II described Nigeria and Afghanistan as “fantastically corrupt”.

Buhari who is currently in London said Nigeria does not need any apology from the United Kingdom, but a return of all its stolen assets stashed away in Britains and its Crown territories.

The president said this in less than 24 hours after the publication of a video which shows Cameron describing Nigeria and Afghanistan as the two most corrupt countries in the world.
In his words, “All I will demand is return of assets. What would I do with apology? I need something tangible. Unfortunately, repatriating stolen assets is tedious, time-consuming, costly. It entails more than just signing of bilateral agreements.”
Garba Shehu, Nigeria’s presidential spokesman, in an earlier response to Cameron’s comments said the country was embarrassed by the comments and noted that it did not reflect present realities.
The statement in part: “It is certainly not reflective of the good work that the president is doing. The eyes of the world are on what is happening here.

“The Prime Minister must be looking at an old snapshot of Nigeria. Things are changing with corruption and everything else.
“That, we believe is the reason they chose him as a keynote speaker at the pre-summit conference.”
Buhari, in the statement, also thanked the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who tried to correct Cameron after his remark, saying: “Thank you to the Archbishop. We very much cherish the good relationship between our two countries and nothing should stand in the way of improving those relations.”

Also coming out in Nigeria’s defence yesterday was Transparency International, the global anti-corruption watchdog, stating the country was making strong efforts in the fight against corruption.

The organisation also suggested that a statement by the British Prime Minister was hypocritical.

Transparency International’s Managing Director, Mr. Cobus de Swardt, in his response to Cameron’s video, said the UK was actually the country that is “a big part of the world’s corruption problem”.
“There is no doubt that historically, Nigeria and Afghanistan have had very high levels of corruption, and that continues to this day.
“But the leaders of those countries have sent strong signals that they want things to change, and the London Anti-Corruption Summit creates an opportunity for all the countries present to sign up to a new era.

“This affects the UK as much as other countries: we should not forget that by providing a safe haven for corrupt assets, the UK and its Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies are a big part of the world’s corruption problem,” Mr. de Swardt said.
Nigeria currently ranks 136 of 168 countries and territories ranked in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index for the year 2015.
According to the BBC, the British prime minister was briefing the Queen about the forthcoming anti-corruption summit when he made the comments.

It was not clear whether he knew the comments were being recorded.
“We’ve got some leaders of some fantastically corrupt countries coming to Britain… Nigeria and Afghanistan, possibly the two most corrupt countries in the world,” Cameron said.
The Archbishop of Canterbury intervened to say: “But this particular president is not corrupt… he’s trying very hard,” before Speaker John Bercow said: “They are coming at their own expense, one assumes?”
Afghanistan was ranked at 167, ahead of only Somalia and North Korea, in Transparency International’s 2015 corruption perception index.
Buhari won elections last year promising to fight widespread corruption in Africa’s largest oil producer.

The British government will host world and business leaders at the summit today in London, aiming to “galvanise a global response to tackle corruption”.
However, President Buhari has insisted that Nigeria is ready to partner with the UK in order to combat corruption while hoping that the two countries would be able to agree on rules-based architecture to combat corruption at the end of the Summit on Thursday.
He said: “I call for establishment of an anti-corruption infrastructure that will trace and return stolen assets to their countries of origin. Corruption does not differentiate between developed and developing countries. It is serious threat to good governance, peace and security”.
He also re-emphasised that his government’s zero tolerance for corruption is standing and would fight the ‘monster’, “even if many feathers would be ruffled.”

Credit: ThisDay/PM News

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