President Muhammadu Buhari has called for an effective international initiative to deal with cross-border corruption and facilitate return of stolen assets.
Speaking at the Commonwealth’s Tackling Corruption Together conference, President Buhari stressed the “immediate and credible threat” to economic stability that corruption poses, including large-scale oil theft.
He added that he was depending on the international community to ensure that the infrastructure and institutions of other countries do not allow participation in these corrupt practices.
“I therefore call for the establishment of an international anti-corruption infrastructure that will monitor, trace and facilitate the return of such assets to their countries of origin. It is important to stress that the repatriation of identified stolen funds should be done without delay or preconditions,” he said.
When journalists at the conference asked for his reaction to David Cameron’s reference to Nigeria and Afghanistan as “fantastically corrupt”, he responded by saying that he didn’t want an apology from the UK Prime Minister. Rather, his focus was on the return of assets to Nigeria.
“A main component of this anti-corruption partnership is that governments must demonstrate unquestionable political will and commitment to the fight. The private sector must come clean and be transparent, and civil society, while keeping a watch on all stakeholders, must act and report with a sense of responsibility and objectivity,” he stated.
The clear need for a multinational approach to tackling corruption was also the focus of other panellists in the opening session of the conference.
Mo Ibrahim, founder of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, which assesses the quality of governance in African countries, spoke about a “complacency in many developed countries in upholding the laws against corruption,” and said it was time for international action on the issue. He described the creation of “so-called anonymous companies” as a gift to dictators, criminals, drug dealers and terrorists.
On Thursday, President Buhari will attend Mr Cameron’s Anti-Corruption Summit: London 2016, and said he would sign an Open Government Partnership initiative at the event.
Matt Hancock, a UK cabinet minister speaking at the Commonwealth event, said the summit will “make the fight against corruption a priority for world leaders”.
President Buhari said he was determined to work towards an “architecture to combat corruption in all its forms and manifestations” and commended the Commonwealth for playing a role in putting the spotlight on the issue.
Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland, urged participants to transform their enthusiasm to tackle corruption into concrete action, a statement by the Commonwealth secretariat said.
She stressed the Commonwealth’s commitment to tackling corruption: “We have common language, common law, common institutions, our judges, our law enforcement agencies are similar.
“If we can create common rules which will be transparent and open, what I hope we will be able to do is to create real toolkits, so we are not going to be just talking we will be doing and putting the tools in the hands of those who really want to challenge corruption and enable them to cut right into it and make the difference we need to see.”