By Sunday Onyemaechi Eze
President Buhari is aware of the enormity of sleaze and the scourge of corruption in the land when he vowed to confront it squarely. The nation was already sitting on time bomb of an endemic condition which is an aftermath of greed, failure of governance and bad leadership. So, without being told by “saint” David Cameron or her majesty the queen, we all know and must admit that Nigeria is a fantastically corrupt nation. Cameron’s line of thought about Nigeria was right but not new. Many nations and leaders all over the world who unarguably have penchant for committing the same sin as Nigeria are at the fore front of this condemnation.
With the mind boggling revelations of sleaze involving the high and mighty in the country, one has to concur with saint David Cameron and other individuals like him who sees Nigeria in that bad light. No apology to lack of transparency and visible development that has characterised the government of Nigeria since independence. However, the statement made by Cameron, has opened a line of discussion on the evil roles England has been playing as a major accomplice to financial crimes committed by some known individuals who launder their country’s wealth and resources abroad. The travails of a fantastically corrupt Nigerian system dwell in the foolish belief that stashing away funds in bank vaults abroad guarantees safety of their ill-gotten wealth.
The world including Britain is full of corruption and corrupt tendencies. The infamous Panama Paper’s leaks reveal corruption, and financial wrongdoings prominently featuring David Cameron, his father and a lot of powerful Brits. In an article by Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead, entitled “Panama-Papers-Show-How-Institutional-Corruption-UK-Perpetuating-Wealth-Inequality” he said, Britain’s involvement in tax havens, money laundering and other hidden corruption intermittently raises its head. In fact, the U.K. is known as one of the most attractive destinations for dirty money in the world. In 2015, such suspicions were confirmed when official data revealed that almost 90 percent of more than 40,000 high-value London properties held by foreign companies were incorporated in tax havens, including the British Virgin Islands, which do not require them to disclose information about ownership.
The Panama Papers revealed that Britain’s involvement in tax havens and money laundering runs deeper than merely turning a blind eye. Prime Minister David Cameron’s father, Ian Cameron, is one high-profile name caught up in the revelations. According to the leaked documents, Ian Cameron ran an offshore investment fund that managed to avoid ever paying tax. As the Guardian reported, Cameron’s Blairmore Holdings Inc. company, which was set up in the 1980s, managed tens of millions of pounds for the wealthy – but has never paid tax on U.K. profits.
Jon Benton of the Proceeds of Corruption Unit spoke of how the proceeds of money laundering and tax haven corruption are nearly always used to purchase high-end properties. “Properties that are purchased with illicit money, which is often stolen from some of the poorest people in the world, are nearly always layered through offshore structures,” Benton told the Financial Times. The current housing crisis in London offers the clearest example of how institutional corruption through tax havens is exacerbating already extreme levels of wealth inequality in the country. Global Citizen writes in the wake of the Panama Papers: “As wealthy individuals and companies shield their income in tax havens, schools for poor children may lose resources; food and housing assistance programs may be rolled back; health care may become less reliable; and other developments may occur that entrench poverty.”
Developed nations cling unto slush funds laundered into their coffers and are unwilling to return them to owner countries because it boosts their economic development. With this development, England and the rest of the nations who are recipients of looted funds and laurels from developing nations should be put in their proper perspectives. They are the hypocrites who always rise up in condemnation of corrupt nations and individuals but still feed fat on the same with policies encouraging and advancing corrupt tendencies in their countries. The law of Karma will visit any nation which connives with individuals or leadership of developing nations to short change their people. Most of those fingered in corruption cases in Nigeria and other African nations harbour their looted funds and acquired properties in highbrow areas of England. President Buhari made my day as he demanded no apology from Cameron but enjoined Britain to return Nigeria’s looted funds in their kitty. Simple! However, he forgot to add with interest. Britain should put immediate mechanism in place to commence repatriation of stolen funds hiding in their bank vaults and safe havens. Cameron can only be justified by doing just this.
Nigeria has become a laughing stock and a negative brand among the comity of nations. The negative perception is daily complicated as a result of our actions and deeds in the international arena. For this reason, Nigerian passport has becomes a subject of thorough scrutiny at various airports. Our duty it is to redeem our image and prove the doubting Thomases wrong. The nation must not be seen as a child whose father sells chewing stick only for that child to go about with chewing stick hung all over his body. On the other hand, the international community must be held to account for their dubious roles in encouraging corruption and movement of slush funds from developing nations to the developed. Many developed nations have escaped with crimes committed in contravention of international laws without the requisite punishments meted to them. England and her allies who are perennial, unrepentant hypocrites, safe havens for laundered monies, corruption and financial crimes should be queried also for volunteering their economic spaces for the sustenance of graft.
President Buhari is one man who cannot fight corruption alone without our unalloyed support. We must all buy into this laudable policy of his government as a way forward. Strengthening policies, crime fighting and anti- corruptions institutions that will stand the test of time should be encouraged by this government and others coming after it. So much sleaze takes place at the point of contract awards and procurement in ministries, MDAs and government agencies. Therefore, proper enforcement of standards in the procurement processes and strengthening of Procurement Act must beginning with an effective National Council on Procurement. Our leaders must lead by good examples. They stay put in their positions whenever there are allegations of graft against them. This sends a wrong signal to the international community that they are untouchable. Therefore, they must cultivate the habit of letting go their positions of authority first by resigning to clear their names. The law enforcement agencies are often biased in the fight against corruption. The perceived enemies of government are the only ones seemed to be corrupt while the courts cannot be said to be fair in adjudications. The cost of governance and pecks of political offices must be reduced to make it less attractive for those who see it as a national cake. All these must change before Nigeria can regain its pride of place in the comity of nations.
Sunday Onyemaechi Eze, a Media and Communications Specialist is the publisher of thenewinsightng.blogspot.com. He wrote via firstname.lastname@example.org and can be reached on 08060901201