The British Prime Minister, David Cameron declared yesterday that Nigeria and Afghanistan are the worst corrupt countries of the world. In a swift reaction, however, the Nigerian Presidency described Cameron’s statement as ‘embarrassing’. It argued that the British Prime Minister had failed to take into consideration Nigeria’s current anti-corruption campaign.
Although the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) agrees with David Cameron’s rating of Nigeria on corruption, we posit that the comment is belated, misleading and hypocritical.
It is belated because it does not reflect the true picture on ground today, particularly in Nigeria’s corridor of power as well as its civil service. Things have changed. It is misleading because his comment is capable of being misinterpreted as representing the general opinion of the British people but Archbishop Justin Welby’s interjection put paid to that. It is hypocritical because Western countries, Britain inclusive, which open the doors of their financial institutions for looters from other countries are to blame for the persistence of corruption in developing countries.
It must be noted that Archbishop Welby’s endorsement of President Buhari’s anti-corruption crusade and his testimony to the latter’s credibility is a trillion-dollar feather in the Presidency’s hat.
Cameron’s remark is belated because it failed to take cognizance of three landmark policies presently making change possible in Nigeria. Firstly, the introduction and implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) has blocked many leakages and has succeeded, within one year of its introduction, in netting more than N3 trillion for the Federal Government (FG).
Secondly, FG forbade public officials from travelling first class on aircrafts at government’s expense. Thirdly, foreign medical treatment for government officials has been put on hold. These were the conduit pipes used to siphon public funds in the past.
Had Cameron made his remarks 365 days ago he would have hit the mark. His corruption comment of yesterday should have come in the days of financial recklessness which was championed by ex-President Goodluck Jonathan. The latter shocked Nigerians when he declared that stealing was not corruption and looked the other way as his ministers and aides looted the treasury silly.
Britain should not be pointing at the speck in Nigeria’s eyes. Rather, it should do something about the log in its own eyes and very quickly too. Why does Britain allow looters from Nigeria to keep stolen money in British banks? Why does Britain make it extremely difficult for funds stolen from Nigeria to be repatriated even after indubitable evidence has been provided? Britain is therefore an accomplice in this corruption saga.
Can Cameron tell the world that his country has not been benefitting from the stolen funds? What does British law say about a person who receives stolen property? Or is it in British character to aid and abet stealing? These posers are not for Britain alone. Countries like Switzerland and the United States of America have a moral burden on their conscience. A Yoruba proverb says the man who steals things kept in the ceiling is not the real thief, the big thief is the one who stayed on the ground to receive the stolen goods.
The same questions should be answered by the World Bank and the United Nations Organization. The West is sitting on Nigeria’s wealth. The World Bank and the UN are using ‘natural selection’ and looking the other way as these powerful but selfish countries strangulate poor nations. The Darwinian theory of the survival of the fittest remains pertinent here because it is clear that the UN has failed to enforce global financial morality.
As a concluding remark, MURIC calls on Britain to seize the opportunity of hosting the World Summit on Corruption to clear itself of the charge of being an international accomplice of looters. This can be done by declaring a short deadline for the release of all stolen funds presently domiciled in Britain back to their original countries.
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC),