LONDON, England – UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s remarks about Nigeria drew harsh criticism Wednesday from Nigerian senators and President Muhammadu Buhari who said he would not want an apology but “something tangible.”
Chukwuka Utazi, chairman of Nigeria’s senate committee on anti-corruption and financial crimes, slammed Cameron’s “hypocritical” remarks, saying he was “taken aback” by the comments.
“Let these governments return all these stolen funds in London, then we can believe what he is saying. If he just comes here and makes guarded statements like he did yesterday, we as a nation are not happy about it.”
“Great Britain, as a great ally of Nigeria, should do better than they’re doing for this country. Hypocritical – that’s just the word,” the Nigerian senator added.
“If there’s no market for stolen goods, then there would not be a thief. As long as the criminals steal, and Britain is ready to welcome them over here… it smacks of irresponsibility.”
On Tuesday, Cameron was caught on camera telling the Queen that “leaders of some fantastically corrupt countries” would be present at the UK government’s anti-corruption summit scheduled to be held on May 12.
The British premier singled out Nigeria and Afghanistan as two of the most corrupt countries in the world, the Guardian reported.
Cameron was overheard making the remarks during a reception at Buckingham Palace to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday.
Nigeria’s President Buhari will deliver a keynote address at the summit.
Another member of the Nigerian Senate, Dino Melaye, said he wanted an apology for Cameron’s “reckless” and “demeaning” remarks about Nigeria.
He said Cameron himself is still grappling with the aftermaths of the publication of the so-called Panama Papers, which exposed illegal activity of his father in running an off-shore firm.
“I would expect David Cameron should be busy answering questions on the Panama saga than insulting the integrity of my nation,” Melaye said, adding that UK continues “to encourage and warehouse the proceeds of corruption and then accuse nations of being corrupt.”
President Buhari, however, adopted a softer tone, saying he did not want an apology, but said Britain could return assets stolen by Nigerian officials who fled to London.
“I am not going to demand any apology from anybody. What I am demanding is the return of the assets,” Buhari told the anti-corruption event hosted by the Commonwealth Secretariat in London.
Buhari, who has embarked on a widespread anti-corruption campaign since taking office last year, specifically referred to the case of Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, a former governor of oil-rich Bayelsa state who was detained in London on charges of money-laundering in 2005, but skipped bail by disguising himself as a woman.
The Nigerian president said he is asking London for the handover of cash and fixed assets which Alamieyeseigha left behind in Britain.
“What would I do with an apology? I need something tangible,” President Buhari stated.