Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari wants the U.K. to help return stolen assets from his country and does not need an apology from David Cameron for calling his country “fantastically corrupt.”
Buhari delivered a keynote speech at an anti-corruption conference in London on Wednesday, ahead of an international summit on the same topic in the English capital on Thursday. His speech came a day after British Prime Minister Cameron described Nigeria and Afghanistan as “possibly the two most corrupt countries in the world.” Buhari’s spokesman Garba Shehu had said that Buhari was embarrassed by the comments and that Cameron “must be looking at an old snapshot of Nigeria.”
The Nigerian president said that he was not demanding “any apology from anybody” after Cameron’s unguarded remarks, which were made during a conversation with Queen Elizabeth II and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby at a Buckingham Palace reception on Tuesday. Rather, Buhari implored the U.K. to assist in returning Nigerian public funds that he alleged had been stolen and hidden in British banks. The Nigerian president referenced Britain's role in helping to impeach the late Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, a former Nigerian state governor who skipped bail in the U.K. and fled back to Nigeria by wearing women's clothes. When asked on Wednesday if Nigeria was fantastically corrupt, Buhari replied: “Yes.”
Buhari recently appealed to the international community and United Nations for “more cooperation” in assisting Nigeria with recovering its assets that have been secreted abroad. No conclusive figure has been put on the amount of Nigerian money laundered abroad, but Buhari has pointed to the oil and gas industry in particular as an area where “mind-boggling” sums have been stolen by public officials
A 2013 report by U.K. think tank Chatham House found that Nigerian crude oil “is being stolen in an industrial scale” and that the country was losing $3.6 billion annually as a conservative estimate, with proceeds from the oil being laundered in international financial centers including the U.K. and U.S. One former military ruler of Nigeria, the late Sani Abacha, is believed to have looted up to $5 billion in public funds during his five years in power, with an estimated $2.2 billion thought to be stored in European bank accounts.
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond defended Cameron for his comments. “The Prime Minister was merely stating a fact. These are both countries with serious corruption problems and the leaders of both those countries know they have those problems and are determined to deal with them,” said Hammond on Wednesday during a visit to Gibraltar, the BBC reported.
- SOURCE: NewsWeek and Reuters (video)