By; JACOB ONJEWU DICKSON
The United Kingdom (UK) has revealed that it is reluctant to return Nigeria’s looted funds because it cannot trust the country with such funds if returned.
This was disclosed by a Queen’s Counsel, Mr. Philip Hackett, while speaking on the theme: ‘Institutionalising the War against Corruption – New Approaches to Assets Tracing and Recovery’, at the Annual General Conference of the NBA in Abuja on Wednesday, 29th August, 2018.
Reacting to the UK’s position, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) described it as escapist, ridiculous and unjust.
“There is no basis whatsoever for Britain to make such a claim. The main question is: who owns the money? Once it is established that the funds belong to the Federal Government of Nigeria, UK has no excuse holding on to it, talk less of pronouncing conditionalities. Britain cannot be keeping Nigeria’s money. Nigeria is not a land of morons. On the contrary, we are among the most intelligent people in the world.
“Britain is asking us for more transparency. That question might have been relevant in the days of corrupt leadership. Anyone who is serious about refunding money should do so now that we have a transparent and credible leader.
“That excuse is anachronistic and irrelevant in Buhari’s Nigeria. Buhari has made a huge difference and Western countries which have no hidden agenda should reciprocate. Any country that still holds on to stolen funds should be seen as either a thieving nation itself or an accomplice. Why ask for more transparency when we already have a world acclaimed anti-corruption leader as president? It is simply escapist. UK’s reservation is an afterthought, mischievous and irresponsible. Britain has its own agenda. Its economy is benefiting from Nigeria’s looted funds and it wants this to continue.
It is on record that returned money has been used wisely by the Buhari administration. An example is the Abacha loot which was recently returned by Switzerland and shared among poor Nigerians. The $322 million Abacha loot was disbursed through Conditional Cash Transfers (CCT) to 302,000 poor households in 19 states of Nigeria in July 2008. It shows that the present administration can be trusted to use returned money wisely and transparently.
“Now we understand the logic. Western nations have been using the endemic corruption in some African countries as an excuse for keeping money stolen from those countries in their own vaults. Also, it is becoming clear now that the repeated allegation by Western countries that there is still widespread corruption in Nigeria under Buhari is aimed at the same objective. They are using it as an excuse to keep our looted funds in foreign vaults ad infinitum. Nigeria’s money has only moved from one individual and unpatriotic thief to a corporate thief and a rogue nation.
“Yes, we affirm clearly, emphatically and unequivocally that Western nations who refuse to repatriate money looted from developing countries are rogue nations. They are living on the sweat of weaker countries. They have a heavy moral burden to carry”.
MURIC knocked Britain for its attitude on funds looted from Nigeria. “Britain’s attitude to looted funds from Nigeria exposes the underbelly of capitalism. It implies that capitalism is blind to morality. It does not matter where money comes from. Capitalists must grab it from left, right and centre. It does not matter if they step on the dead bodies of millions of poor people of the oppressed nations of the world to get the money. Capitalism is devoid of all human feelings. Capitalism has no veins, no vessels, no blood. Capitalism is like dry wood.
“Britain’s attitude to Nigeria’s looted funds also makes a mockery of democracy. Is this what the West calls democracy? Is it about freedom to sit on looted funds hiding under ludicrous excuses? Is democracy about the freedom to move illegal money from poor nations to powerful countries? If that is true, then democracy is the most pernicious and most inhuman ideology in the world. The decision to continue sitting on our money is impunity of the highest order. Where is Britain’s morality?
“How many looters take their money to communist or Islamic states? How much of Nigeria’s money is in Russia? How much is in China? How many looters have taken their money to Saudi Arabia or Iran? Shame on capitalism and democracy.
“It is an insult to say that Nigeria cannot be trusted with looted funds if returned. The UK government should answer this question: If Mr. A’s house is burgled and the stolen items are traced to Mr. B’s house, has Mr. B any moral or legal right to ask Mr. A that he must first guarantee that he would not allow his house to be burgled again before releasing his stolen items to him? What do you call Mr. B after all said and done?
“Isn’t there some law against receiving stolen item in Britain? We love to remind the UK that we have such a law here in Nigeria in case Britain forgets. The paradox lies in the fact that the law on receivers of stolen items is a legacy from Britain. So who did this to UK? Do we call it colonial amnesia? How did morality go haywire in the Queen’s own land?
“UK is using money looted from Nigeria to finance its economy at the expense of Nigeria. In short, all the noise about the UK supporting the fight against corruption in Nigeria is meaningless as long as the same UK refuses to reprtriate stolen funds. It also means UK is encouraging graft”.
MURIC also taunted Britain over its reluctance to vomit Nigeria’s money. “By the way, what is Britain arguing about? Switzerland coughed out $322 million in July this year. The United States has pledged to return $500 million very soon. What is Britain ready to give? Is the UK holier than the US and Switzerland put together.
“If UK cannot trust us to use repartriated funds wisely, we also cannot trust Britain with our money. It is our money and our money is our money, not Britain’s. This is the same colonialist who exploited Nigeria for more than a hundred years. What did we gain at the end? Britain asked us to close our eyes and pray. By the time we opened our eyes, our land was gone. Our culture was in tatters. How can we trust such people again particularly with our money.
“For the avoidance of doubts, Africans did not have to wait for the common law to be imported from Britain before demonizing and criminalizing the concept of received stolen goods. A popular Yoruba adage says ‘Eni ti o gbe epo laja nikan ko ni ole, eni ti to gba lowo re gan, ole ni’, i.e. the man who steals palm oil from the ceiling is not the only thief, his accomplice who stood below and helped him to collect it from the ceiling is also a thief because without him the thief who climbed the ceiling would have failed in his devilish mission.
“Used in the context of this argument, Britain as well as other Western nations who receive looted funds from Nigeria and other poor nations are as guilty as those who stole the money from their countries. Nigerian looters were in the ceiling siphoning their country’s wealth into big bags, Britain and other receivers of looted money were on the ground below them giving the stolen funds the much needed soft landing.
“As we draw the curtain, we aver that Nigeria may have to approach the International Court of Justice on this matter. Diplomacy is sometimes a potent agent of procrastination. Let us explore the legal angle parri passu. We charge our leading lawyers, renowned human rights activists and the Nigerian civil society to take up the struggle. Britain and other countries who are yet to repatriate Nigeria’s looted funds should be taken to international courts for arbitration. Let the world adjudicate.
“We invite Britain and other countries still keeping Nigeria’s looted funds to expedite action on its repatriation. Nigerians are not imbeciles whose money must be managed for them by ‘clever’ foreigners. We demand unconditional respect for our country. Nigerians are among the best of the best in the world.