President Muhammadu Buhari insisted he would not demand an apology from British Prime Minister, David Cameron who was caught on audio feed describing Nigeria alongside Afghanistan as ‘fantastically corrupt’.
He said he would rather have the country return stolen assets to Nigeria.
He however, told Sky News in an interview that he agreed with Mr Cameron that Nigeria was a corrupt country. He was further quoted by the BBC as haven said that he would rather demand ‘something tangible’ in the return of stolen assets than an apology.
“No. I am not going to demand any apology from anybody. What I am demanding is the return of assets. What would I do with an apology? I need something tangible.”
In his keynote address at a seminar at the anti-corruption conference, Buhari admitted that the anti-corruption war was far from easy.
In the keynote address entitled “Tackling Corruption Together: A Conference for Civil Society, Business and Government Leaders,” the President stated that he was ready to ‘ruffle feathers’.
He also said that the ‘freedom and support’ given to anti-graft agencies are indubitable proofs of his government’s commitment to fighting corruption. He however demanded more co-operation from the international community.
“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 said that about 23,000 ghost workers had been eliminated from the FG’s pay roll and that the Treasury Single Account, TSA, and the application of the Bank Verification Number, BVN had proved helpful measures.
As to a few cases involving high profile persons, he noted that ‘stringent rules’, or unorthodox measures, more or less, had been applied in order to prevent their escape from the country.
“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.”
He noted that he was well aware of the complex nature of the repatriation process of stolen funds.
“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.”
He also urged the international community to declare oil theft an international crime. He cited a Chatham House report of 2013 which proved that over 150,000 barrels of Nigerian crude was stolen daily.