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Nigerian civil society calls on UK to end role as a safe haven for corrupt individuals

To support President Muhammadu Buhari’s ongoing war on corruption in Africa’s most populous country and biggest economy, a coalition of 95 Nigerian civil society groups has demanded that the British government ends the country’s role as a safe haven for Nigeria’s looters

An army of 95 Nigerian civil society groups has banded together to demand that the United Kingdom end the country’s role as a safe haven for Nigeria’s looters. 

The call is contained in a letter sent to Prime Minister David Cameron on 28 April 2016 as he prepares to host global leaders in London for the International Anti-Corruption Summit on 12 May.

The groups said they would ask President Muhammadu Buhari, who was elected principally to combat corruption in Nigeria, to represent their views at the Summit, and that they will be prepared to further its outcomes once commitments have been made.

They told Prime Minister Cameron: “The leadership you have taken on fighting corruption has seen the world begin to grasp the devastating effects of corruption, not only for human development and economic prosperity but also in contributing to violent conflict and mass migration, which in turn feed the cycle of poverty and corruption.”

Citing Nigeria as one of those countries that have most bitterly suffered the impact, the groups noted that despite the blessings of nature which endowed the nation with abundant oil wealth, its infrastructure is deplorable.

“Classrooms overflow while teachers go underpaid and parents are forced to give ‘gifts’ to ensure their children get attention; police officers spend their time shaking down motorists or locking them up on some spurious pretext so as to extort a few naira. It is because of these abuses that the people of Nigeria participated with unparalleled energy in the 2015 presidential election.  Now we are embarked on a nationwide anti-corruption campaign.”

They declared those efforts to be “sadly undermined” if countries such as the UK are welcoming Nigeria’s corrupt to hide their ill-gotten gains in its luxury homes, department stores, car dealerships, private schools and anywhere else that will accept their cash with no questions asked.

“The role of London’s property market as vessels to conceal stolen wealth has been exposed in court documents, reports, documentaries and more,” the letter said.  “The problem is clear, now is time to do something about it.”

They drew attention to several Nigerian officials named in the Panama Papers, including the allegation that Nigeria Senate President Bukola Saraki, who has dual British-Nigeria citizenships, has an undeclared £5.7 million property in his wife’s name in London, saying it raises concerns about how it was possible to hide undeclared wealth in the UK property market.

They described the 12 May-summit as an opportunity for the major financial centres to finally acknowledge the role they are playing in perpetuating corruption, pointing out the irony that the countries that pride themselves on their own lack of corruption are the very ones providing most of the corruption services to Nigeria’s corrupt officials.

“Corruption is not an issue limited to developing countries or the global south,” they said.  “It’s a truly international problem. We hope your summit will help bring about real change and raise the ambition of anti-corruption efforts around the world.”

Among the signatories to the letter are Auwal Ibrahim Musa of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, Mallam YZ Yau (Centre for Information Technology and Development), Jimoh Salman (Good Governance Team) and Salaudeen Hashim (West Africa Civil Society Forum – Nigeria Platform). Some of the other civil society activists who signed the document are Ezenwa Nwagu (Partners for Electoral Reforms), Adefolahan Lukman (Zero Corruption Coalition), Moses Oluwaseyi (Civil Advancement Research and Rural Empowerment Initiative) and Sister Rosemary Ukata of the Centre for Women Studies and Intervention.

Colins Edeyi

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