May 12, 2016

Fantastically Corrupt: ‘Queen’s silence commendable’

Fantastically Corrupt: ‘Queen’s silence commendable’

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II speaks with British Prime Minister David Cameron (2nd R) during a reception in Buckingham Palace in London on May 10, 2016 where called Nigeria and Afghanistan “possibly the two most corrupt countries in the world” as he hailed their leaders’ attendance at an anti-corruption summit in London.

Fayose: You don’t deserve apology, you caused it
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Queen’s silence commendable —Senator Lawan

By Emmanuel Aziken,  Wahab Abdallah, Henry Umoru,  Emman Ovuakporie, Levinus Nwabughiogu, Johnbosco Agbakwuru & Joseph Erunke

President  Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, waived apology from British Prime Minister, David Cameron over his depiction of Nigeria as a fantastically corrupt country as he rather demanded that Britain and other custodians of ill-gotten wealth from Nigeria return such.

Buhari’s  assertion at the beginning of an international conference on anti-corruption in London came as he confessed that the anti-corruption battle was more challenging than he anticipated at the commencement of his administration 11 months ago.

Buhari’s claim nonetheless, a near universal condemnation of Mr. Cameron’s assertion   came from Nigerian politicians, lawyers and members of in civil society. A contrary view, however, came from Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State who blamed Buhari for feeding the international community the negative impressions of Nigeria during his travels.

The uproar in Nigeria and abroad came after Mr. Cameron was caught on audio feed describing Nigeria and Afghanistan as being among the most corrupt countries in the world.

Mr. Cameron was speaking to a select audience that included Queen Elizabeth II on Tuesday ahead of an anti-corruption summit that commenced yesterday.

Apology, repatriation

Speaking at the venue of the conference, Buhari was quoted by the BBC as saying that instead of an apology, he would prefer the repatriation of assets stashed in the UK by corrupt Nigerians.

“No. I am not going to demand any apology from anybody. What I am demanding is the return of assets,” he said.

“What would I do with an apology? I need something tangible,” he said.

Remarkably, Buhari in an interview with British broadcaster, Sky News said he agreed with Mr. Cameron’s description of Nigeria as a corrupt country.

Anti-corruption war

Cameron talking to Queen of England and others.

Cameron talking to Queen of England and others.

In his keynote address, at the seminar, Buhari admitted that the anti-corruption war was more tasking than he had anticipated, saying that “many feathers have to be ruffled,” to make it successful.

In his keynote address entitled “Tackling Corruption Together: A Conference for Civil Society, Business and Government Leaders,” the President stated that the seriousness which his administration had given to fight corruption was evident in his decision to revive the national anti-corruption agencies.

He said: “Tackling the menace of corruption is not an easy task, but it is possible, even if many feathers have to be ruffled. Our government’s dogged commitment to tackling corruption is also evident in the freedom and support granted to national anti-corruption agencies to enable them carry out their respective mandates without interference or hindrance from any quarter, including the government.”

He cited the implementation of the Treasury Single Account, TSA, and the application of the Bank Verification Number, BVN, which according to him, have led to the elimination of 23,000 ghost workers from the Federal Government salary roll.

Noting the challenges in the battle against corruption, the President said unorthodox measures had to be taken in some high profile cases just as he pleaded with the international community to help Nigeria repatriate the suspects and the stolen loot.

“I admit that there are a few cases where apparently stringent rules have been applied as a result of threats to national security and the likelihood that certain persons may escape from the country or seek to undermine the stability of Nigeria. It is for this reason that we are seeking the support of many countries for the prosecution of certain individuals residing in their jurisdictions. Of course, we will provide the necessary legal documents and whatever mutual assistance is required to secure conviction of such individuals, as well as facilitate the repatriation of our stolen assets.

Repatriation tedious, time-consuming

“Unfortunately, our experience has been that repatriation of corrupt proceeds is very tedious, time-consuming, costly and entails more than just the signing of bilateral or multilateral agreements. This should not be the case as there are provisions in the appropriate United Nations Convention that require countries to return assets to countries from where it is proven that they were illegitimately acquired.

Noting the country’s challenges in combating corruption in the oil sector, Buhari urged the international community to declare oil theft an international crime as he cited a Chatham House report of 2013 which averred that over 150,000 barrels of Nigerian crude was stolen daily.

Persecution of political rivals

Fayose, flaying the anti-graft war of the present administration as a persecution of political rivals.  said: “Rather than this grandstanding from the Presidency, concerted efforts should be made to redeem the image of Nigeria that the President has destroyed.”

Kalu, on the other hand, flayed Mr. Cameron and asked him to apologise, describing his assertion as greatly discourteous.

“Such utterances coming from the convener of the summit himself, just before the commencement, suggest that either he doesn’t take the summit seriously, or he is deceptive in terms of his commitment to the Nigerian government in the fight against corruption.”

Serving and former members of the National Assembly were also divided on the issue.

Senator Ahmad Lawan, chairman of the Senate Committee on Defence in his reaction, praised the stoical silence of Her Majesty, The Queen to her prime minister’s vituperation as reflective of her silent disapproval. Senator Lawan, however, said that taking the shame from Cameron could be an acceptable price if only he would return Nigeria’s loot stashed in Britain.

“After all, the loud silence of the Queen was a royal disapproval of his remarks and the intervention of the Archbishop was a spiritual and moral approval of President Muhammadu Buhari and his administration.”

Senate Chief Whip, Senator Olusola Adeyeye, however, dismissed the uproar as unnecessary.

“Have Nigerians not perennially decried the corruption in their own country? Why is there hoopla because a Briton said of Nigerians what many Nigerians have often said about themselves?

“If Nigerians are hurt about what others say about us, then we should look inwards and mend our ways. Righteousness exalts a nation, not hypocritical anger!

“As for Cameron, since charity must begin at home, let him also tell Queen Elizabeth why his own father, Ian Cameron, hid funds in the tax haven of Panama.”

Senators Chukwuka Utazi, Chairman, Senate Committee on Anti-corruption and Financial Crimes and Dino Melaye also condemned the assertion of the British Prime Minister.

Senator Ovie Omo-Agege on his part said:

“Nigerians should see the statement of the  British Prime Minister as a challenge and give total support to the anti-corruption crusade of the present government, so that in  future, no foreign leader will make such a derogatory statement about our dear country. “

Former Senator Joseph Waku on his part said Mr. Cameron was right but that he should do the right thing in facilitating the return of Nigeria’s stolen treasures in his country,” he said.

He said: “Well, if the British Prime Minister is aware that Nigeria is corrupt, then let him return the stolen and the corrupt property that are invested in the UK to Nigeria, that is all.”

Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, Nnenna Elendu-Ukeje, on her part, said the comment was unfavourable.

She said, “Once the Transparency International starts publishing the figures, the wrong impression about us will rapidly change for the better.

“We are combating corruption, and I do know that this whole thing will change.”

Rep Adamu Kamale, PDP Michika Madagali Federal Constituency of Adamawa State, on his part, agreed with the Prime Minister, saying:

“Well, any person that tells you that Nigeria is not corrupt is economical with the truth. The point remains that we should admit this country is corrupt.

Also reacting, former spokesman of the House of Representatives and a chieftain of the APC in Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Eseme Eyiboh, said:

“David Cameron breached his diplomatic privileges in public communication and exposed his insensitivity to the obvious and glaring irony of Britain serving as one of the today’s cesspools for global economic and financial crimes.

Prof Lakin Akintola, executive director, Muslim Rights Concern, MURIC, said the comment was a belated move to make Nigeria wake up against corruption.

“Cameron’s remark is belated because it failed to take cognizance of three landmark policies presently making change possible in Nigeria,” he said.

Former chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Mr. Monday Ubani, on his part said, “He was only saying the truth about Nigeria. Cameron knows how much Nigerian politicians store in the UK. Several of the politicians have several money and property in UK.”

In a statement by Mr. Issa Aremu, General Secretary of NUTGTWN and Chairperson, Industrial Global Union, Sub- Sahara Africa, organized labour, said: “It is Nigeria under the leadership of President Muhammed Buhari, that commendably unearthed serial looted funds running into trillions of Naira. It is also Nigeria that has commenced serial trials of some of the suspects, notably ones also linked to London.