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FG, others kick as Cameron says Nigeria ‘fantastically corrupt’

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FG, others kick as Cameron says Nigeria ‘fantastically corrupt’

FG, others kick as Cameron says Nigeria ‘fantastically corrupt’
May 11
05:33 2016

There was outrage yesterday over British Prime Minister David Cameron’s description of Nigeria and Afghanistan as “fantastically corrupt”.

Although an official of Downing Street, the British PM’s office, said the statement was not meant to be derogatory, the Federal Government expressed dismay.

Cameron, briefing the Queen on the anti-Corruption Summit he is hosting in London tomorrow, said Nigeria and Afghanistan are “two of the most corrupt countries in the world”.

He spoke last month at one of the events marking the 90th birthday of Queen Elizabeth 11. But the short footage of his speech was aired yesterday by British television station ITV News.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby was present when Cameron made the remark.

Cameron said: “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.”

But the Archbishop chipped in that President Muhammadu Buhari is not corrupt: “But this particular president is actually not corrupt; Oh yes, he’s trying very hard this one,” he said.

President Buhari and Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani are due to attend the summit alongside United States Secretary of State John Kerry and the heads of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

President Buhari left for London yesterday from Katsina State, where he had been on a visit since last Friday.

The Presidency described the comment as “embarrassing”.

The Senior Special Assistant on Media and publicity to the President, Mallam Garba Shehu, said: “This is embarrassing to us, to say the least, given the good work that the President is doing

“The eyes of the world are on what is happening here.”

He argued that the “Prime Minister must be looking at an old snapshot of Nigeria. “Things are changing with corruption and everything else.”

Shehu, however, welcomed the remarks by the Archbishop of Canterbury who said President Buhari is not corrupt.

“Thank you to the Archbishop. We have great admiration for the good relationship between our two countries,” he added.

Transparency International, an international anti-corruption watchdog, also rose in Nigeria’s defence, blaming the UK and its overseas outposts for encouraging corruption.

Its Managing Director Cobus de Swardt said: “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.”

According to the Press Association, asked whether Cameron regretted his comment, a Downing Street spokesman said: “Both leaders of ( Nigeria and Afghanistan) have been invited to the summit because they are driving the fight against corruption in their countries. The UK stands shoulder to shoulder with them as they do so.”

The spokesman declined to say whether the two countries had contacted Downing Street following the Cameron’s remark

He, however, said that Cameron was aware that he was being filmed when he made the comment. “The cameras were very close to him. There were multiple cameras in the room.”

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Prof Fidelis Oditah, who is also a Queen’s Counsel (QC), believes Cameron’s statement is true, but politically incorrect and impolite.

“The comment may be impolite and is politically incorrect because as far as we know, Nigeria and Britain are friendly nations.

“I don’t think it’s good politics to make such a statement about an ally on the eve of the anti-corruption convention.

“Much as it is diplomatically incorrect, I think that the substantive content of that comment is generally correct,” he said.

Oditah does not think Nigeria should demand an apology from Downing Street following the prime minister’s remarks.

“Is Nigeria not ‘fantastically corrupt’? Why should it demand an apology for speaking the truth? It may be impolite, but the fact is that the President said his agenda is to fight corruption to a stand still, and pretty much the first 12 months of his administration has been dominated by headlines of ‘corruption’. I don’t see why people should be so sensitive about the statement.

“When I read the broadcast of the late Gen. Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi in relation to the 1966 coup, he was talking about the need to rid the country of corruption. That’s 50 years ago. In January 1984 when Buhari/Idiagbon came to power, it was to rid the country of corruption. When Buhari returned this time, it is to rid the country of corruption.

“I think that Nigerians should be happy that the British prime minister is telling them that Nigeria is ‘fantastically corrupt’ because the country is indeed fantastically corrupt,” he said.

Oditah said there were exceptional Nigerians who are not corrupt. Therefore, he does not think the statement is a characterisation of all citizens.

“I think the statement has to be understood in that context. I don’t think he’s speaking about every of the 170 million Nigerians.

“In general, the country is fantastically corrupt, both in the public and private sectors. I think that such statement should be understood to be addressing the generality,” he said.

A Constitutional lawyer, Mr Ike Ofuokwu, believes Cameron’s statement did not consider President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption crusade.

“What he said is true, but it is an undiplomatic statement. It is not a fair comment, especially considering that this administration is putting a process in place and is working hard towards ridding the country of corruption.

“For the first time, very top personalities are being charged to court and some are also refunding what they stole.

“In that sense, it is not a fair comment to make at this time, but it is the truth and Nigerians have a duty to correct that perception,” Ofuokwu said.

Chairman, Nigerian Bar Association(NBA) Ikeja Branch, Yinka Farounbi, said the statement credited to British Prime Minister, Cameron might not be far from the truth.

Farounbi said the fact that the present administration is waging a war against corruption attested to the claims of the PM.

He however said that should not disuade President Buhari from attending the summit.

He advised the president to use the platform to explain to them the successes of the war and how he has been enjoying the support of Nigerians on the matter and successes of the crusade.

Member, Ogun State Judicial Commission, Abayomi Omoyinmi, said: “With the revelation about how money and funds belonging to Nigeria people are being masively looted coming up everyday in the news, the British prime minister has not said anything different from what we all knew about. “After all, our former minister for petroleum is in the UK. They are aware of how much she has siphoned in to UK bank without a shadow of doubt.” Omoyinmi said President Buhari should go ahead with the meeting regardless of this comment.

“He should let the western world know their country has been a save haven for the looters for too long a time and this conspiracy must stop now”, he advised.

Executive Director, Prisoners Rights Initiative (PRAI), Ahmed Adetola-Kassim, said: “I believe every Nigerian can’t really fault what the British Prime Minister has said given the massive embezzlement carried out during Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.

“It only hurts because Nigeria is put on the spotlight for a very bad reason and because we were singled out as the most corrupt country with Afghanistan out of all the countries attending the summit.

Adetola-Kazeem advised the President not to brood too much, “we should rather concentrate on building a positive image for the country going forward. Some countries like Singapore were in similar situations years back, but with purposeful leadership, anti-corruption crusade and building of enduring institutions they attained a lofty and enviable height amongst the committee of nations.

“The present government should continue its anti-corruption crusade and ensure anyone found wanting is brought to book no matter his or her political religious or ethnic affiliation.

President Buhari should attend to tell the world what his administration is doing to combat the cankerworm called corruption”, he advised.

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