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British High Commissioner, Paul Arkwright speaks on the UK perspective on anti- corruption

A Speech by the High Commissioner at the First Annual Conference on Combating Financial Fraud, Cybercrime and other Cross-border Crimes

At the First Annual Conference on Combating Financial Fraud, Cybercrime and other Cross-border Crimes
At the First Annual Conference on Combating Financial Fraud, Cybercrime and other Cross-border Crimes

Scene Setting

• International financial crime is dependent on corrupt practices. There are also well known links between corruption and terrorism. Corruption creates an environment in which organised crime, people trafficking and drug smuggling thrive. Nigeria and the UK stand together in fighting all these criminal elements, but my focus today is on fighting corruption.

• I will cover three themes: - - UK support for Nigeria in fighting corruption here, a fight which Nigeria must lead; - The work of the British Government in tackling corruption on the global stage and how Nigeria is a key part of this; - Operational support delivered by the National Crime Agency in country to numerous Nigerian agencies.

Finally I’d like to end with a few personal thoughts on next steps to achieve success and the benefits success will bring.

• Corruption is one of the greatest challenges of our time - a challenge Nigeria is unfortunately all too familiar with. Addressing that challenge is essential to the future of this country. Failing to do so will mean further decades of poverty, inequality, reputational damage overseas, massively reduced external investment and an undermining of the huge potential represented by Nigerian youth. We have heard already from previous speakers about the huge cost of corruption.

• Most crime is committed for profit. Depriving the criminals of their profits is a key aspect of tackling their illegal activities. In the same way that starving a thriving small business of capital hampers its growth, removing assets from criminal enterprises can also disrupt those illegal activities.

• So there is no better time for our two countries to fight together against corruption. From only a short time here as High Commissioner, it’s already clear to me that President Buhari and Prime Minister Cameron share a determination to root out this blight on the growth of our economies, the health of our societies, our national and collective security, and even the integrity of the sports we love.

• President Buhari has gone on the record to say that “he will kill corruption before it kills Nigeria.” He acknowledges that no matter how vast Nigerian resources are, if they are not efficiently used, they will only benefit a privileged few, leaving the majority in poverty. UK Support • Tackling corruption requires systems to be in place, attitudes in society attuned to the effort and a process to investigate, prosecute and sanction. Institutional reform is at the heart of all of these elements. The UK is supporting Nigeria in all these areas.

• The political environment and personal example of the President gives a superb opportunity to take the necessary action. As part of its bilateral aid review, DFID is considering a significant upscaling of UK support.

• In the past 5 years the UK Government has contributed £7 million under the Justice 4 All (J4A) programme to build capacity of the anti-corruption agencies and help Nigeria in the fight against corruption.

• Justice 4 all is one of the sponsors for this event.

• UK Support has boosted capacity in: Drafting new legislation to underpin the fight against corruption; - Building capacity to investigate and prosecute cases; - Stimulating greater public accountability through civil society; - Operational support delivered by the National Crime Agency in country to numerous Nigerian agencies.

• 2016 is a year of transition into an enhanced set of activities. The J4A anti-corruption effort ends and we are looking at what might succeed it.

• But UK support to Nigeria does not end with this. Strands of activity delivered through the Department for International Development and the National Crime Agency also have strong cross cutting anti-corruption components. - We have committed a further five years of support under a second phase of our Facility for Oil Sector Transparency & Reform (FOSTER) programme. - Last year we launched a £100 million Public Sector Accountability Programme to strengthen systems and reduce opportunities for corruption. - In addition to this anti corruption elements are embedded in our programmes in the health and education sectors.

• British officials are working with the Ministry of Justice, Economic & Financial Crimes Commission and other stakeholders to determine support that Nigeria needs most. We also need to de-conflict with other donors, critical to ensure maximum impact.

• The Anti-Corruption Strategy, which I know many in this room are working on, is key to this. I look forward to seeing this – it will fully set the direction of a fight that Nigeria must lead.

International activity and UK role

• Good progress has been made over the past twenty years in raising awareness of the damage caused by corruption.

• The scale of the problem has if anything grown worse. Laws and regulations are not sufficient if they are weakly implemented or easily circumvented, and growing global integration has in some ways made it harder for individual countries to fight corruption, even where there is a strong will to do so.

• It’s therefore clear that the international community must work together - much more effectively than it has hitherto - to provide the strongest possible support for those determined to fight corruption, like Nigeria.

• This is why the Prime Minister will host an international anti-corruption summit in May in London to which a Nigerian delegation has been invited. I hope that President Buhari himself will lead this.

• The principle objectives of the summit are to: - - Put fighting corruption at the heart of our international institutions; - Support the investigators and prosecutors who can help bring the perpetrators to justice.
- Maximise the way we use international aid to drive better governance and to fight against corruption.
- Make the rules and practices which govern global commerce even more resilient to threats from corruption. - Give more support to those in business, in civil society and the media who are working to fight corruption - Ensure we have a more efficient and effective means to return stolen assets to where they belong – with the people from whom they were stolen

• Having earlier quoted the President I would also like to quote the British Prime Minister who, in reference to the summit said his core objective is “to agree what more we will do to fight this cancer at the heart of so many of the problems we face around the world today”.

• Ambition for this event is reflected in the breadth of attendees from across the international community including the G7, G20, countries at the forefront of the fight against corruption and major international organisations. I am convinced Nigeria has much to bring to this event and should seize the opportunity to present its case on the international stage.

• The Summit will be built around the themes of Ending Impunity, Reducing Opportunity and Empowering Citizens. We envisage an ambitious overarching declaration signed by all attendees.

• We look forward to liaising closely with Nigeria on what more we can do to assist in tackling this serious problem, and to make the Prime Minister’s summit in London a success.

Next steps and benefits of success

I said that I would share a few personal thoughts on next steps to achieve success and the benefits that success will bring.

Passing complementary legislation

• I have mentioned that in previous years UK has supported the drafting of anti-corruption legislation. The purpose of this work was to improve Nigeria’s legal framework to combat corruption.

• It is encouraging that President Buhari recently requested the National Assembly to consider and approve the Money Laundering Prevention and Prohibition Bill and the Mutual Legal Assistance bill.

• I hope other complementary legislation like a Proceeds of Crime, Nigerian Financial Intelligence Centre and Terrorism Prevention act will be prioritised in a similar way.

• The Proceeds of Crime Act legislation will do much to support the process for the return of assets seized outside Nigeria. UK is committed to the return of such assets and officials visited Nigeria last week to discuss this process. I am aware of criticism – unjust though it may be – that the UK has not returned Nigerian stolen assets quickly enough. As you will appreciate, there are legitimate legal hurdles which need to be overcome, But we are looking actively at how we can accelerate that legal process. In any event, recent actions by the UK law enforcement agencies demonstrate clearly that there is no impunity in the UK for those who seek to conceal stolen assets in the UK.

Sanctions and fairness

• I have spoken of UK support to build investigative and prosecution capacity in Nigerian Ministries, Departments and Agencies. This will continue with the objective of successful convictions.

• Successful convictions are critical but it is imperative that the Nigerian public see cases brought and sanctions applied as being done so in a fair and unpartisan manner. Respect for the rule of law is fundamental.

• This will ensure continued public support for the fight against corruption. The people’s belief that this fight could be won played a significant part in the election of this government. Their belief that the process is fair and transparent is critical to maintaining that support.

Reform and sustainability

• Significant progress in this challenge is undoubtedly an area that President Buhari wishes to form part of his legacy. The UK shares that ambition.

• To realise this, it is imperative that ‘change’ brought about by this administration is made in a way that that cannot be reversed by future administrations.

• Institutional reform must be a key part of any anti-corruption strategy. Building strong institutions is key to controlling corruption and does much to ensure that any reform embarked on is sustainable.

• Well-functioning public management systems, accountable organisations, a strong legal framework, an independent judiciary, a free press and a vigilant civil society are all components required to protect a country from the corrosive effects of corruption. I was extremely encouraged to hear the comments by His Lordship the Lord Chief Justice on his commitment to a judiciary that is efficient, speedy and just.

• Over the past four years, J4A has already supported several initiatives in this regard but much more needs to be done across all sectors involved in fighting corruption.

International presence

• The London Summit in May is one opportunity, but Nigeria can do more, and can benefit from broadening its international commitment on transparency and accountability.

• One route is to sign up to the Open Government Partnership (OGP). The OGP as an innovative mechanism for making governments more open and responsive to citizens. This has a clear link with President Buhari’s reform agenda. Having met the minimum criteria, Nigeria currently qualifies to join the initiative.

Conclusion

• The UK Government is responding to the renewed willingness in Nigeria for reform by scaling up our comprehensive support to tackling corruption in Nigeria.

• In the long-run we aim to continue to support our Nigerian partners to build more accountable institutions, formal and informal, that deliver services, prosperity and security for all.

We have heard from the Honourable Minister about the damage corruption has done in this country. The prize is great. In my view, under this administration, there is a genuine prospect of real and meaningful ‘change’ for future generations of Nigerians. Making that real is your challenge. That is our challenge. And I, my team here in Nigeria and the British Government are ready to help you meet that challenge. Thank you.

Published 2 February 2016