President Muhammadu Buhari has dismissed the remark made by the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, who in a conversation with Queen Elizabeth II described Nigeria and Afghanistan as “fantastically corrupt”.
Buhari, who departed for the United Kingdom yesterday to attend a global summit on anti-corruption, said the British PM’s unguarded remark was not reflective of his administration’s fight against corruption.
A statement by the president’s media aide, Mr. Garba Shehu, said: “It is certainly not reflective of the good work that the president is doing. The eyes of the world are on what is happening here.
“The Prime Minister must be looking at an old snapshot of Nigeria. Things are changing with corruption and everything else.
“That, we believe is the reason they chose him as a keynote speaker at the pre-summit conference.”
Buhari, in the statement, also thanked the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who tried to correct Cameron after his remark, saying: “Thank you to the Archbishop. We very much cherish the good relationship between our two countries and nothing should stand in the way of improving those relations.”
Also coming out in Nigeria’s defence yesterday was Transparency International, the global anti-corruption watchdog, stating the country was making strong efforts in the fight against corruption.
The organisation also suggested that a statement by the British Prime Minister was hypocritical.
Transparency International’s Managing Director, Mr. Cobus de Swardt, in his response to Cameron’s video, said the UK was actually the country that is “a big part of the world’s corruption problem”.
“There is no doubt that historically, Nigeria and Afghanistan have had very high levels of corruption, and that continues to this day.
“But the leaders of those countries have sent strong signals that they want things to change, and the London Anti-Corruption Summit creates an opportunity for all the countries present to sign up to a new era.
“This affects the UK as much as other countries: we should not forget that by providing a safe haven for corrupt assets, the UK and its Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies are a big part of the world’s corruption problem,” Mr. de Swardt said.
According to the BBC, the British prime minister was briefing the Queen about the forthcoming anti-corruption summit when he made the comments.
It was not clear whether he knew the comments were being recorded.
“We’ve got some leaders of some fantastically corrupt countries coming to Britain… Nigeria and Afghanistan, possibly the two most corrupt countries in the world,” Cameron said.
The Archbishop of Canterbury intervened to say: “But this particular president is not corrupt… he’s trying very hard,” before Speaker John Bercow said: “They are coming at their own expense, one assumes?”
The conversation took place at Buckingham Palace at an event to mark the Queen’s 90th birthday.
The BBC described the prime minister’s comments as a “truthful gaffe”, because the two countries involved are widely perceived as having a corruption problem.
Afghanistan was ranked at 167, ahead of only Somalia and North Korea, in Transparency International’s 2015 corruption perception index.
Buhari won elections last year promising to fight widespread corruption in Africa’s largest oil producer.
The British government will host world and business leaders at the summit today in London, aiming to “galvanise a global response to tackle corruption”.
Speaking ahead of the summit, Cameron said: “For too long, there has been a taboo about tackling this issue head-on.
“The summit will change that. Together we will push the fight against corruption to the top of the international agenda where it belongs.”
Cameron has in the past made unguarded remarks, bringing embarrassment to himself and the British government.
Last year, he was recorded talking about Yorkshire people “hating each other” – and he was previously caught revealing how the Queen “purred” with pleasure when he told her about the Scottish independence referendum result.