Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who based his presidential campaign on an anti-corruption platform, is not interested in an apology regarding David Cameron’s Nigeria corruption comments.
“What do I need an apology for? I need something tangible,” said Muhammadu Buhari during a keynote address at the Commonwealth anti-corruption summit in London.
Cameron’s “fantastically corrupt” comment was caught on mic during a conversation with the Queen, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, and Commons Speaker John Bercow at the Buckingham Palace event marking her 90th birthday.
Prime Minister Cameron said during the conversation, We had a very successful cabinet meeting this morning, talking about our anti-corruption summit. We have got the Nigerians – actually we have got some leaders of some fantastically corrupt countries coming to Britain.”
He added, “Nigeria and Afghanistan – possibly two of the most corrupt countries in the world.”
Rather than take offense, when asked at the summit if Nigeria was “fantastically corrupt,” Mr. Buhari answered, “Yes,” according to a BBC News report.
While reportedly being “shocked and embarrassed” by Cameron’s comment, the Independent reports that a spokesperson for Buhari inferred that Cameron was a reference to Nigeria’s reputation as a corrupt nation rather than a personal attack.
Buhari’s anti-corruption efforts have been acknowledged by British officials. During the conversation in which David Cameron made the comments, Justin Welby defended Buhari, stating, “But this particular president is not corrupt… he’s trying very hard.”
Speaker John Bercow added, “They are coming at their own expense, one assumes?”
David Cameron later in the conversation acknowledged Welby’s comments and agreed that Buhari is making an effort to fight corruption.
During his speech at a conference, Buhari described corruption as a “hydra-headed monster” he is determined to crush and states that it’s a problem that “does not differentiate between developed and developing countries.”
David Cameron has been connected to the Panama Papers controversy himself, which highlights the issue of tax avoidance and evasion in developed countries.
President Buhari called for a joint effort across nations to fight corruption and return assets that are siphoned out of Nigeria, some of which are hidden in Britain.
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said that David Cameron was “merely stating a fact” with his corruption comments.
Hammond goes on to address Nigeria and Afghanistan.
“These are both countries with serious corruption problems and the leaders of both those countries know they have those problems and are determined to deal with them.”
Transparency International’s corruption perception index puts Nigeria at 136 out of 168 countries while Afghanistan ranks much higher at 166 out of the 168 countries. Estimates suggest that Nigeria may have lost over $400 billion of stolen assets since its independence from Britain.
Former president Goodluck Jonathan was allegedly connected to oil scandals that involved bribery and missing oil revenue upwards of $20 billion.
Labour has accused Cameron’s Tory government of hypocrisy “hosting an anti-corruption summit is like putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop,” reports the BBC News.
“The government is refusing to take meaningful action to close Britain’s constellation of tax havens, which together constitute the largest financial secrecy network in the world,” said shadow international development secretary Diane Abbott.
While acknowledging that corruption is not an endemic in the UK, Transparency International said that Britain has a mixed record in tackling tax evasion in light of the Panama Papers controversy. The charity wants the UK to increase its efforts in protecting whistleblowers and preventing firms with ties to corruption from bidding for public contracts.
Cameron’s comments may lead to an awkward meeting with Buhari and Afghan officials during the anti-corruption summit in London. However, it is an opportunity to address corruption issues and find possible solutions.
What do you think of David Cameron’s comments and Buhari’s response? Discuss in the comments below.
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