'Corruption is at the heart of the world's problems'
UK Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria Simon Shercliff delivered speech at the opening of Stakeholder Workshop on the London Anti-Corruption Summit and the Open Government Partnership (OGP).
Please let me stand on existing protocols.
Let me start by thanking the Hon Attorney General for being here today to open this event, and for his strong opening speech. I would like also to thank him for his personal role in taking forward President Mohammadu Buhari’s strong leadership commitment towards Anti-Corruption. No one can doubt the President’s commitment; it is critical that this commitment is turned into concrete action – and that is the job of the Hon Attorney General and his Ministry, along with all interested stakeholders here today.
Nigeria played a prominent role at the May London Anti-Corruption Summit. As an internationally recognised leader in the global fight against corruption, the President himself led the Nigerian delegation, showing his personal commitment to the agenda.
The Summit presented Nigeria a chance to stand on the world stage and share real life experiences of the devastating consequence of endemic corruption. This was done with real impact: messages strongly resonated with other delegations and our former Prime Minister was delighted with this valuable contribution and the many commitments Nigeria made.
But it is of course the implementation of these commitments by which Nigeria will be judged, and that is why we are here today.
Everybody here will agree that “Corruption is the cancer at the heart of so many of the world’s problems”. It erodes public trust in government, undermines the rule of law, and gives rise to political and economic grievances that fuel violent extremism. Many of the migrants drowning in the Mediterranean on a daily basis are fleeing from corrupt states.
No country is immune from corruption. Governments need to work together and with partners from business and civil society to tackle it successfully. We need to face this challenge openly and frankly to fulfill our shared commitments under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to ‘substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms’ and strengthen the recovery and return of stolen assets.
A global problem needs a truly global solution. The London Summit was an unprecedented, courageous commitment from world leaders to stand united, to speak into the silence, and to demand change.
Representatives of over 40 countries came together to begin the process of a more co-ordinated, ambitious global effort to defeat corruption. Participants agreed on package of practical steps to:
- expose corruption so there is nowhere to hide
- punish the perpetrators and support those affected by corruption
- drive out the culture of corruption wherever it exists
As well as agreeing a historic package of actions to tackle corruption in all its forms, the Summit dealt with issues of corporate secrecy, government transparency, the enforcement of international anti-corruption laws, and the strengthening of international institutions.
Some other significant milestones were:
- Five countries (led by Nigeria and the UK) agreed to create public registers of beneficial ownership and six more will explore similar arrangements.
- 22 countries committed to introduce new asset recovery legislation, 14 will strengthen their protections for whistle-blowers and 11 countries will review the penalties for companies that fail to prevent tax evasion.
What will the UK do?
Notwithstanding the change in leadership of the UK government, I can assure you that the UK will continue to see tackling corruption as a top priority, at home and abroad. We will retain the same level of commitment to the agenda set by the London Summit. We will keep to our own summit commitments to take action to prevent corruption and to ensure it does not fester in our government institutions, businesses and communities. We will seek to uncover corruption wherever it exists, and to pursue and punish those who perpetrate, facilitate or are complicit in it. We will commit to make it easier for people to report suspected acts of corruption, and to support communities that have suffered from it.
We will do this by promoting integrity, transparency and accountability, by exploring innovative solutions and new technologies, and by strengthening international cooperation. We will monitor the success of our policies and strategies, learning from and embedding best practice.
Nigeria set a high bar at the Summit. You committed to range actions that should substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms. These actions will be discussed here today.
A key commitment Nigeria made was to join the Open Govt. Partnership. A chance for Nigeria to participate in valuable peer learning. I am delighted the necessary technical letter of intent was sent so swiftly after the Summit. The next task is to constitute the steering committee comprising representation from government and civil society. I know there is a real desire to do this quickly and applaud this. But it is critical that the representatives from all sides need to be those best qualified for the role.
To be effective, these ambitious objectives will require collective action by all of you seated here: government, businesses, CSOs and media. Play your roles seriously and with commitment, remain relentlessly focused on the task, hold yourselves and each other to account, think what you can do as an individual to help President Buhari rid this country of corruption. Do not think that the responsibility lies elsewhere, and do not seek to blame others – do what you can do, and we can all do things every day, however small, to help this agenda.
It also requires international action. As we committed at the Summit, the UK will continue to support Nigeria to ensure that its anti-corruption efforts are successful.
We call on providers of development assistance to help Nigeria on this journey, including making available the tools and expertise that will help accelerate progress, and providing our international institutions with the resources they require.
We also call on businesses, foundations and other providers of finance and expertise from outside the government sector to contribute.
In conclusion, the journey to fulfill our shared commitment for Nigeria begins with this workshop. I encourage all stakeholders present here to have an open, honest and challenging conversation. Be honest with yourselves –the outcome here cannot just be words, it must be concrete action and progress. Ask the tough questions of each other about the challenges in implementing these agreements and explore new ideas and next steps that can really raise the ambition further.
I wish you the best in these important endeavors. Thank you