Beyond Self-deceit: Nigeria at the Summit of the Most Fantastically Corrupt World Leaders in London

0

Vie Internationale
with Bola A. Akinterinwa;Telephone : 0807-688-2846 e-mail: bolyttag@yahoo.com

British Prime Minister, David Cameron convened a summit on anti-corruption, held on Wednesday and Thursday, 11th and 12th May, 2016, not only to show concern for the challenges of corruption but also to show superiority of Great Britain and a holier-than-thou disposition. Thus, the organization of the summit is necessarily vertical in design and not horizontal. This is why the British Prime Minister could afford the luxury of presenting Nigeria to the Queen Elisabeth as a “fantastically corrupt’ country.

The word corruption is a derivation from a Latin verb, corrumpo and a Latin adjective, corruptus, both of which simply mean changing from good to bad especially in terms of willingness to act dishonestly for money or personal gains. Consequently, anti-corruption policy or measure is about containment of weaknesses in morals in order to enforce a change from bad to good habits. In this regard, several efforts have been made internationally to enforce good business habits but all to no avail. In fact, international agreements were done and duly signed. However, many countries not only give development assistance to countries in need but have also been directly and indirectly ‘fantastically aiding’ and ‘fantastically abetting’ the failure of development projects funded by them. That is, they joyfully provide warehouses for fantastically ill-gotten funds by leaders of the recipients of their development aid.

And true enough, virtually all countries of the world have anti-corruption laws. Countries that may not have anti-corruption laws are covered by regional and international conventions on corruption. The critical food for thought is how to explain the failure of the various anti-corruption measures already taken at the level of the United Nations and regional frameworks, to the extent that the British Prime Minister David Cameron would be compelled to organize a summit on anti-corruption. This column posits that whoever engages in any act of corruption, or fantastically aids and abets any form of engagement in corruption, is also ‘very fantastically corrupt.’ Put differently, any direct engagement in an act of corruption is not as serious as that of condoning, aiding and abetting it. Consequently, if Nigeria is corrupt, all countries that share in the loot, by way of direct warehousing of the loot and taking economic advantage of it, and by particularly refusing to repatriate the loot to the rightful owner, or by subjecting the repatriation of the funds to conditionality are the most fantastically corrupt.

Conception and Manifestations of Anti-corruption
Anti-corruption, as noted above, is about preventing a change from good to bad or ensuring a change from bad to good. This is generally done by adoption of anti-corruption safeguards and financial controls. The manifestations of corruption can be grouped into plurilateral and multilateral. Under plurilateral manifestations are the 1996 Inter-American Convention Against corruption, which is generally referred to as the OAS (Organisation of American States) Convention. Within this framework, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) in 2007 with the objective of implementing and fostering the attainment of the objectives of the 1996 convention: state modernization, preventing and fighting corruption, particularly bribery of foreign public officials in international business transactions. The agreement with the OECD provided a platform for deliberations on many critical issues: transnational corruption; corporate responsibility for promoting integrity and fighting corruption; transnational bribery; detection, investigation, and prosecution of bribery; liability of legal persons; mutual legal assistance and extradition, etc.

An example of a multilateral manifestation of anti-corruption deal is the International Financial Institution (IFI) Anti-Corruption Task Force set up in 2006 by seven multilateral organisations: African Development Bank Group; Asian Development Bank; European Bank for Reconstruction and Development; European Inter-American Development Bank Group; and the World Bank Group.

As defined in 2006 by the IFI, anti-corruption drive is predicated on a distinction amongst corrupt practice, fraudulent practice, coercive practice, and collusive practice. ‘Corrupt practice is the offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting, directly or indirectly, of anything of value to influence improperly the actions of another party.’ Three points are clear from this definition: intention, manner of action, and purpose. Intention is synonymous with ‘offering,’ that is, promise, offer of help or assistance or gratification. In other words, a bribe cannot be given if it had not been proposed, discussed, and accepted. Manner of action arises from whether a corrupt practice is done directly or otherwise. The offer of a bribe, or ‘settlement’ to use the Nigerian language for it, can take the form of free gift, grants, loans with ridiculous moratorium, etc.

Secondly, ‘a fraudulent practice is any act or omission, including a misrepresentation, that knowingly or recklessly misleads, or attempts to mislead, a party to obtain a financial or other benefit or to avoid an obligation.’ From this definition, there is nothing like intention anymore. A fraudulent practice is necessarily a fait accompli. What is therefore noteworthy is the inducement into error of a party for the purposes of a benefit.

Thirdly, ‘a coercive practice is impairing or harming or threatening to impair or harm, directly or indirectly, any party or the property of the party to influence improperly the actions of a party.’ Differently put, it is the use of force or intimidation (coercive) to compel a party or harm its interest for the purposes of enhancing corrupt or fraudulent practice. Coercive practice is common at the level of donors and the development partners but there cannot be a receiver without a giver. It is the giver that dictates the tune or the conditions for grant of aid, which again serve as dynamics for sharp practices by the recipients of the aid.

Fourthly, ‘a collusive practice is an arrangement between two or more parties designed to achieve an improper purpose, including influencing improperly the actions of another party.’ This definition simply underscores the fact that the act of corruption may not be restricted to only one person. No big-time corruption can succeed without accomplices. In fact, funds illegally stolen in Nigeria are taken to some safe havens in Europe and America.

And without any whiff of doubt, everyone knows what corruption is all about but not everyone takes it up seriously for the purposes of eradication. For instance, even though the ADB has a policy of zero-tolerance for corruption in all its operations, its 2004 study aimed at assessing ADB’s efforts to limit incidence of corruption, has shown that the ‘ADB never complied with the policy requirement’ for three main reasons: non-provision of appropriate guidance on how to assess corruption risks and integrate them in their analysis and decision-making; wrong incentive structures which put strong emphasis on staff to disburse fund and finance new projects than to ensure success, completion of on-going-projects; and weaknesses in institutional leadership, which has been more of a disincentive in the fight against corruption.

Additionally, in his foreword to the UN Convention Against Corruption in 2004, Koffi A. Annan, then UN Secretary-General, noted that ‘corruption is an insidious plague that … undermines democracy and the rule of law, leads to violations of human rights, distorts markets, erodes the quality of life and allows organized crimes, terrorism and other threats to human security to flourish.’ Perhaps more importantly, he said that ‘corruption is found in all countries – big and small, rich and poor – but it is in the developing world that its effects are most destructive. Corruption hurts the poor disproportionately by diverting funds intended for development, undermining a Government’s ability to provide basic services, feeding inequality and injustice and discouraging foreign aid and investment. Corruption is a key element in economic underperformance and a major obstacle to poverty alleviation and development.’

The Convention provides for some preventive measures, criminalisation and law enforcement, international cooperation, asset recovery, technical assistance and information exchange, as well as mechanisms for implementation, all of which are aimed to assist and guide all States Parties to the Convention. For instance, Article 5 of the Convention requires States Parties to ‘develop and implement or maintain effective, coordinated anti-corruption policies that promote the participation of society and reflect the principle of the rule of law, proper management of public affairs and public property, integrity, transparency and accountability. Article 6 also requires the establishment of a body or bodies as appropriate that will prevent corruption.

Article 31 on Freezing, Seizure and Confiscation requires each State Party, to the extent possible within its domestic legal system, to confiscate ‘proceeds of crime derived from offences established in accordance with this Convention or property the value of which corresponds to that of such proceeds. More importantly, Article 43 on international cooperation provides for mutual assistance in the areas of investigations of and proceedings in civil and administrative matters relating to corruption. Cooperation is also provided for when there is a request for extradition (Article 41 and need for mutual legal assistance (Article 46). Article 51 of Chapter V on Asset Recovery and Article 55 on International Cooperation for purposes of confiscation are particularly noteworthy.

Article 51 considers the return of assets as a ‘fundamental principle and therefore ‘States Parties shall afford one another the widest measure of cooperation and assistance in this regard.’ In the same vein, Article 55 provides that when a State Party receives a request from another State Party for confiscation of proceeds of crime, property, equipment or other instrumentalities covered under Article 31 of the Convention, a State Party shall ‘submit the request to its competent authorities for the purpose of obtaining an order of confiscation and, if such an order is granted, give effect to it.’

And perhaps most importantly, Article 63 of Chapter VII on Mechanism for Implementation established a Conference of the States Parties to the Convention to achieve the objectives of the Convention and to promote and review its implementation. In this regard, the Conference of the States Parties, for which a Secretariat is also established (Art. 64) is to facilitate anti-corruption activities of States Parties, exchange of information among States Parties, make appropriate use of relevant information produced by other international and regional organizations for combating and preventing corruption in order to avoid unnecessary duplication of work, as well as reviewing periodically the implementation of the Convention.

The Convention, which was open to all States from 9 to 11 December 2003 in Merida, Mexico and thereafter until 9 December 2005 at the UN Headquarters in New York, entered into force on the 19th day after the date of deposit of the 30th instrument of ratification or accession was provided for in Article 68 in …..
It is against the foregoing background that the essence of the London Anti-Corruption Summit and Nigeria’s keynote address should be raised.

Increasing Disregard and Need for Apology
In the past one year, buhariplomacy emphasizes the repatriation of ill-gotten funds stolen in Nigeria and starched away in many Euro-American financial institutions which now accept to repatriate the money but subject to degrading conditionality. The most recent case is that of Switzerland. PMB wants the money but without giving due regard to national respect and dignity. It is this attitudinal disposition that PMB took again to the London anti-corruption summit, thus deepening the disregard for corporate Nigeria. It is most unfortunate.

Two main issues generated much public interest at the summit: PMB’s plea for international criminalisation of oil theft and David Cameron’s description of Nigeria as ‘fantastically corrupt.’ PMB wants the international community ‘to designate oil theft as an international crime similar to the trade in “blood diamonds” as it constitutes an imminent and credible threat to the economy and stability of oil-producing countries like Nigeria. This request is in order as previous Nigerian leaders had also made such pleas but all to no avail because of lack of political will. PMB is quite right in reminding that lack of political will ‘has been the missing link in international efforts hitherto.’ Without doubt, political will cannot but continue to be lacking for as long as the powerful members of the international community remain recipients of oil theft.

On Nigeria as a ‘fantastically corrupt’ country, David Cameron privately told Queen Elisabeth that Nigeria and Afghanistan were ‘possibly the two most corrupt countries in the world’ and that their leaders would be attending the anti-corruption summit. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, also pointed out at the meeting with the Queen that PMB was not corrupt. Perhaps more disturbingly, when PMB was asked by the Sky News Diplomatic Editor, Dominic Waghorn and CNN’s Amanpour on whether Nigeria was corrupt and whether he intended to request for apology, PMB admitted that Nigeria was very corrupt and that he was not prepared to seek for Cameron’s apology. What he simply wanted was the repatriation to Nigeria of the ill-gotten funds belonging to Nigeria but currently starched in British financial institutions.

David Cameron’s statement is most indecent, undiplomatic, imperialist, non-courteous and, of course, self-indicting. PMB’s reply was good to the extent that it indirectly indicted Britain as an accomplice of Nigeria’s fantastic corruption. Although Archbishop Welby presented PMB as a non-corrupt leader, he forgot that PMB was invited to London not to represent himself but also all other Nigerians, both good and bad who are said to be fantastically corrupt. Cameron’s statement considers most, if not all, Nigerians as fantastically corrupt contrary to the reality. It has implications for would-be Nigerian applicants for visas.

It seriously taints the integrity of non-corrupt Nigerians. Consequently, PMB should require a sincere apology on behalf of all the non-corrupt Nigerians. In Nigeria, it is basically government officials and politicians that are in the business of corruption and they are in the minority. Have the non-corrupt Nigerians benefitted from the already repatriated funds? Government will need to defend the interest of ordinary and powerless citizens like us who chose not to be corrupt come what may.

More importantly, the London summit is not a big deal as there is no issue or recommendation by the summit that had not been covered by the 2004 UN Convention on Anti-Corruption. The London summit is nothing more than self-deceit and a further attempt to undermine the anti corruption efforts of PMB who was accused in April 2016 by the UK Telegraph newspaper of misusing British funds to persecute his political opponents. Consequently PMB will need to attend only international meetings in which due regard and respect will be accorded to all Nigerians and not only to PMB.
pix: CAMERON VS BUHARI.jpg