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UK Ready to Return Looted Funds

Posted by By Lere Ojedokun on 2006/02/15 | Views: 899 |

UK Ready to Return Looted Funds


FEDERAL Government's war on corruption paid off yesterday when Britain announced its readiness to freeze and return to Nigeria, all illicit and stolen wealth currently stashed in the United Kingdom (UK) by public office holders and their agents.

FEDERAL Government's war on corruption paid off yesterday when Britain announced its readiness to freeze and return to Nigeria, all illicit and stolen wealth currently stashed in the United Kingdom (UK) by public office holders and their agents.

British and Commonwealth Foreign Secretary, Mr. Jack Straw who gave the assurance in Abuja said this followed UK's ratification of the United Nations (UN) Convention on Corruption, on February 9, which empowers destination countries of stolen wealth to return same to the countries of origin.

By implications, there may not be any safe haven for some state governors who are currently under investigations by the Code of Code Bureau (CCB) and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over money laundering charges.

Delivering the 10th Murtala Mohammed Memorial Lecture at the ECOWAS Secretariat in Abuja, Mr. Straw, said the much desired new African would not come unless the developed countries rise up to help the developing nations.

Straw in his address titled; Africa: A New Agenda declared: "The international community has a role to play too, of course. I am pleased to announce today that on February 9, the UK ratified the UN Convention on Corruption, which will help us seize illicit and stolen assets and return them more quickly to their countries of origin. We are committed to returning to the Nigerian government assets stolen from Nigeria, in accordance with UK law.

An elated President Olusegun Obasanjo saw this as a buoy for his anti-graft crusade, telling Britain that he would soon make more requests for the repatriation of public funds laundered by some public officers.

Mr Straw further advised the developed nations to encourage countries that have abundant mineral resources to use the windfalls there for profitable investments that could promote sustainable development and lift the people out of poverty.

The guest speaker highlighted 10 issues that were of paramount importance to the emancipation of Africa. They include development, good governance, conflict resolution, fight against terrorism and migration.

He also listed crime and drugs, energy security and environment.

Straw while acknowledging the pursuit of good governance, market development, regional cooperation and peace building by African governments as signs of positive optimisms said the challenges were still many.

For instance, he alerted that "poverty in Africa is currently getting worse, not better", noting that unless growth is accelerated and its fruits properly distributed, more than 100 million Africans may be living below the dollar-a-day poverty line by 2015.

He also stated that the continent may become "increasingly marginalised" due to competition induced by globalisation, except there were deliberate efforts to meet up.

The British official emphasised that building a lasting peace, prosperity and justice on the continent would be dependent on Africa, even through Britain and the rest of the world continue to assist.

Straw while announcing that the visa restriction placed on first - time Nigerian applicants, between aged 21 and 30, last year has been lifted, revealed that an estimated $2 billion was being remitted home annually by Nigerians living in UK alone.

But he said poverty eradication through sustainable development should remain upbeat, even as he advised that the savings from last year's debt relief granted many poor nations should be judiciously used.

He commended the African Union (AU) and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for the restoration of democracy and rule of law in troubled African countries, but tasked the bodies to double efforts in other countries like Cote d'Ivoire, Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

On terrorism, he said it was a collective fight that must be fought, just as he expressed worries at the high rate of asylum seekers, especially from continent.

Said he: "Africa is now the leading source of new asylum seekers in UK. We have seen of late a significant rise in the number of Nigerians applying for asylum in the UK: bizarre given that this is not a country where people are prosecuted."

He however, assured that genuine applicants for asylum and migration would be protected, stressing that the temporary suspension of visa applications by first timers to Britain would be lifted next month.

Aside, he said faster means of visa application and processing would be put in place as from next month, even as he lamented increase in participation in crimes and drugs.

Mr Straw charged the federal government to solve the problems in the Niger Delta because of the country's strategic position in global oil production while admitting that continued environmental degradation in Africa would also negatively affect the west.

He called on religious faith adherents to live in unity, decrying perennial violent clashes arising from religious differences.

While urging the administration to press ahead with its reform programme, he said Britain looked forward to peaceful, free and fair elections in the country next year.

President Obasanjo in the closing remarks, said that good governance and development went together as one would be difficult to achieve without the other.

Thanking British Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair for assisting Nigeria secure a 60 per cent debt relief from Paris Club, last June, President Obasanjo said he was expecting more laundered public funds to be repatriated to Nigeria.

He further said that Nigeria has something to teach the West about peaceful co-existence because of the way people of varying religious and ethnic background have co-habited without hazzles.

But he warned politicians and religious bigots who may want to use religion and ethnicity to destablise the country, vowing that such acts would not be tolerated.

"I am sounding a note of warning to those who take recourse to religion when all things have failed, that it will not serve their interest. I don't think any responsible leaders will fold their hands to allow others use religion to destroy what they have laboured for because of those who want to serve other purpose," he stated.

President Obasanjo restated that loyalty as prevalent in the military, when he was the second-in-command to the late Head of State, Gen. Murtala Mohammed, was still desirable in democracy.

While eulogising his late boss, he said he wept on his death because of "the team spirit that goaded us together," while revealing that the coup plotters who struck on February 13, 1976 listed Gens. Mohammed, Yakubu Gowon and himself for elimination in that order.

Obasanjo paid tributes to officers who were killed alongside the former head of state.

He solicited the strong support of development partners to take Africa out of the hood, while noting that whatever was being done should be right.

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Comments (3)

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Okfold(Sobe, Edo, Nigeria)says...

I want the meaning of female owan name Ekeke (Edo state)

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Toluwalase Samuel Olufemi(Ijebu, Ogun, Nigeria)says...

Authority belongs to God, once He decrees it is final and binding

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Ikponmwosa Osamede(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Your meaning of Osamede is wrong. Osamede means God has given me a crown