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Nigeria’s President Says His ‘Fantastically Corrupt’ Country Wants Its Stolen Assets Back from the U.K.

Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari at Wednesday's anti-corruption summit in London. Photo courtesy of ChannelsTV.com
Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari at Wednesday’s anti-corruption summit in London. Photo courtesy of ChannelsTV.com

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron is in hot water over comments he made concerning corruption in the African nation of Nigeria.

In a videotaped conversation with Queen Elizabeth Tuesday, Cameron can be heard calling Nigeria a “fantastically corrupt” country, Reuters reports. He also went on to say that Afghanistan and Nigeria were “possibly two of the most corrupt countries in the world.”

Despite the Prime Minister’s out-of-pocket comments, Muhammadu Buhari, the president of Nigeria, isn’t looking for an apology. Instead he demanded the return of stolen assets to Africa’s largest economy, according to Bloomberg.com. Buhari didn’t identify exactly what those assets were, however.

“What would I do with an apology?,” Buhari said during a Commonwealth anti-corruption conference. “I need something tangible.”

Per Bloomberg.com, a spokesman for Buhari named Garba Shehu called the prime minister’s comments “embarrassing” and said they did not reflect Buhari’s efforts to combat corruption.

The president of the African nation said it was well-known that Nigerian assets were being stolen and pushed through financial centers like London, The Guardian reports. He also revealed that billions of dollars had been lost to stolen oil and money illegally taken by prominent politicians.

“With the collapse of the oil price we need every cent we can get now just to pay salaries, if not for anything else,” Buhari said.

Per The Guardian, Nigeria’s anti-corruption chief, Ibrahim Mahu, confirmed that profits from the sale of stolen Nigerian oil were among the funds routed through the U.K.

“London is the capital of money-laundering,” he said.

According to Reuters, British police have launched numerous investigations into assets being held in Britain by Nigerian political leaders, including one involving two former state governors and an ex-oil minister. The news site also reports that one of the former governors pleaded guilty to money laundering and is now serving a prison sentence in Britain.

An ex-governor by the name of Diepreye Alamieyeseigha even went so far as to skip bail and flee back to Nigeria dressed as a woman, Reuters reports. Alamieyeseigha was later impeached and convicted of stealing millions in public money.

Patricia Scotland, secretary general of the Commonwealth, has applauded Buhari’s efforts to crack down on corruption in Nigeria ever since he took office last year, The Guardian reports.

“The corruption is there … I don’t think the prime minister was wrong to say that corruption is a real issue for these countries. But the problem … the question is, what are we going to do about it and what is the president [Buhari] doing about it and are we globally willing to help him,” she said in an interview with BBC Breakfast.

At Wednesday’s summit, Buhari called for the illicit theft of oil involving international and domestic suspects to be treated as a crime similar to that of blood diamond theft, per The Guardian. He also requested that Lloyd’s of London put forth more effort tracking ships carrying crude oil and increased government transparency when it comes to commodity trading.

“We need an international anti-corruption infrastructure that can monitor, trace and facilitate the return of assets to the countries of origin,” Buhari told the conference. “The repatriation of proven stolen assets should be done without delay or precondition.”

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