President Muhammadu Buhari has asked the United Nations to put pressure on western countries to return Nigeria’s stolen funds kept in their banks.
Buhari said this while speaking at the high-level meeting of the UN General Assembly to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Declaration on the Right to Development.
According to a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, the President said when developing nations were deprived of such funds, it would become difficult for them to meet their needs.
Buhari said, “Illicit financial assets stashed abroad deprive developing countries including Nigeria, and invariably deny people the enjoyment of their national wealth and resources needed for development. The non-repatriation of illicit financial assets could impinge on the determination of states to achieve an all-inclusive 2030 sustainable development.”
The President therefore called on the UN to “remain vocal and active in addressing the negative impact of non-repatriation of illicit financial assets on their countries of origin,” adding that “as soon as stolen assets are legally established, they should swiftly be repatriated.”
He explained that his administration was fighting corruption headlong because “it contributes to the denial of the resources required for development.”
The President, while welcoming the commemoration of three decades of the Declaration on the Right to Development, observed that it coincided with the first anniversary of the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
This, he said, should “remind all of us of the essence of development and provides us with the opportunity to reaffirm commitment to converting this right into the policies and operational activities of relevant actors at the national, regional and international levels.”
He said that as a developing country, “Nigeria considers the right to development an inalienable right of fundamental importance,” stressing that at the national level, his administration had been making strenuous efforts to ensure that the right to development was at the centre of all growth initiatives.
While reaffirming Nigeria’s commitment to the UN Charter and other international conventions that uphold the right to development, he also drew the attention of the international community to the need to address the lopsided terms of trade between developed and developing countries.
This, he noted, had impacted negatively on the capacity of many developing countries to embark on development programmes for the benefit of their people.
“Nigeria is convinced that the right to development is a shared responsibility considering the growing inequality and poverty resulting from climate change impact, natural disasters, violent extremism, social unrest and deprivation,” the President said.
But in a statement he issued on Thursday, a human right lawyer, Femi Falana, (SAN), urged President Buhari to stop begging the western nations, particularly the United States of America and the United Kingdom, to repatriate stolen funds to Nigeria.
He said the western countries were all benefitting from the looted funds and would not return the money except a legal action was taken against them.
Falana said, “Finally, for the umpteenth time, I am compelled to advise President Buhari to stop appealing to the conscience of the leaders of western countries to repatriate the nation’s looted wealth.
“In spite of several promises, the British government did not return any fund under former Prime Minister David Cameron. In the same vein, the outgoing Barack Obama administration will not repatriate a dime to Nigeria.
“Since they have continued to benefit from the nation’s illicit funds kept in their banks and tax havens, western governments are not going to let go without a serious legal challenge. The Federal Government should therefore set up a team of local and foreign lawyers to initiate legal proceedings in the appropriate jurisdictions for the recovery and repatriation of the nation’s looted wealth.”