UK Admits Pressure from Nigeria to Try Corrupt OfficialsFrom Constance Ikokwu in Washington, D.C., 11.06.2007
The United Kingdom has admitted that its decision to go after corrupt Nigerian public officers who use its country as a safe haven to launder stolen wealth was at the prompting of the Nigerian government.
Talking with THISDAY in Washington, D.C., former leader of the House of Lords in the UK, Baroness Valerie Amos, said the British government had to make legislations following pressure mounted by Nigeria and concerns expressed about money laundering through financial institutions in the UK.
Amos did not mention any particular administration but Nigeria’s high profile fight against corruption and money laundering came to world attention under President Olusegun Obasanjo, with the creation of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
According to Amos, “on the issue of stolen assets, we have legislation now. You will know that we’ve been pushed very hard by the Nigerian government in the past where there was concern that there were assets which had been stolen from the people of Nigeria which were then laundered through financial institutions in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.
“I am very proud that my government passed the legislation with respect to the issue of stolen assets wherever they come from and it’s now possible for governments outside the UK to use that legislation to recover assets where they could prove that those assets were stolen from the people of that country. So that’s why I think it has become a much more high profile issue in the last few years,” she said.
Former Governor of Plateau State, Chief Joshua Dariye, was the first state executive to fall in the anti-corruption crusade but jumped bail and returned to Nigeria. Former Governor of Bayelsa State, Dieprieye Alamieyeseigha, was also arrested at Heathrow Airport for money laundering. He however escaped the UK in mysterious circumstances and later claimed his escape was facilitated by Britain, a charge the country has denied.
Asked if the British government is appalled at the state of affairs in Nigeria, Amos said no government has the right to make comments of that nature. She said any government, including that of Britain, needs to soften their criticisms of Nigeria considering that it is not even 50 years old as an independent country.
“Nigeria hasn’t been an independent country for 50 years yet. So I think we should focus on reporting the positive and talking in robust terms in private about the things we think need to be improved. I think it’s inappropriate for me to come out with a long list of things and say that we are disappointed with the government of Nigeria. I know we will be disappointed if they came out and said the British government hasn’t done that,” she said.
She stated that the UK would continue to work in partnership with Nigeria, recognising the country’s importance to the development of the continent.
Amos, who has been nominated by Prime Minister Gordon Brown as the European Union (EU) Special Representative to the Africa Union (AU), was in Washington, D.C. for a conference. If her nomination is approved, her office will focus on the wider issues of governance, transparency and accountability, she said.
Amos was the first black woman to sit in the Cabinet of the UK. She was the Leader of the House of Lords from 2003 to June 2007.
This article was taken from thisdayonline.com, the online version of the Nigerian This Day newspaper.