Nigerian president calls for UK to help return “stolen assets”

12 May 16

Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari has called for the return of billions of dollars which he said has been stolen from Nigeria and routed through the UK.

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Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari. Credit: Chatham House

Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari. Credit: Chatham House

 

Speaking at the Commonwealth anti-corruption conference yesterday, a precursor to today’s global Anti-Corruption Summit in London, Buhari also announced his country would join the Open Government Partnership.

The news came just a few days after UK prime minister David Cameron was overheard telling the Queen that Nigeria and Afghanistan are “fantastically corrupt” on camera.

Buhari said yesterday he does not want an apology from Cameron, but instead for the money taken from the country and sent to the UK to be returned. Nigeria’s anti-corruption chief, Ibrahim Mahu, has estimated that around $37bn from corruption activity in Nigeria had been routed through London.

“What would I do with an apology?” Buhari said. “I need something tangible. I am not going to demand any apology from anyone. What I am demanding is a return of assets.”

The president has also requested help from the World Bank in recovering $320m worth of assets held in Switzerland.

Buhari, who was elected on an anti-corruption ticket and since taken office has taken a number of steps to counter the issue, agreed corruption is a big issue in his country.

When asked during the event if Nigeria was fantastically corrupt, he answered “yes”. He said his administration faces much resistance in trying to clean up Nigeria’s act.

However Chukwuka Utazi, who chairs a committee on financial crimes and corruption in Nigeria, pointed out that the UK needs to get its house in order too, dubbing Cameron a hypocrite and the summit a “talking shop”.

“Great Britain, as a great ally of Nigeria, should do better than they’re doing for this country,” referring to the fact that Nigerian funds were moved to the UK.

“Hypocritical – that’s just the word,” he continued. “It takes two to tango. The problem of this country is in receiving stolen assets, ill-gotten money, and keeping it here, and telling our country that they’re not doing the right thing is not the way to solve the problem.”

Buhari also called for international anti-corruption infrastructure to monitor and facilitate the return of assets to countries of origin.

Today, the UK government announced it will establish an international Anti-Corruption Coordination Centre, in partnership with a number of other governments and Interpol, to help investigate and punish the corrupt and recover stolen assets.

It also said that the Nigerian government is expected to join the UK and a number of other jurisdictions in committing to launching a public register of the true owners of foreign companies operating in their territories.

Yesterday, Buhari also said that Nigeria will join the Open Government Partnership, which works to make government activities around the world more transparent.

The ONE Campaign said this shows the continued commitment of Buhari and his government to take on the corrupt “without fear or favour in Nigeria and globally”.

Nigeria is attending today’s Anti-Corruption Summit in London, which will see world leaders, businesses, civil society, law enforcement and sports bodies convene in London to step up global action against corruption. 

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