Auwal Ibrahim Musa Rafsanjani
As the British Prime Minister, Theresa May embarks on a trade mission to African continent being part of the strategic diplomatic efforts to establish and deepen ties with nations ahead of the Britain’s exit from European Union in 2019, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), United Kingdom (UK) demands total sincerity, openness, transparency and accountability in repatriation of various Nigeria’s illicit monumental financial outflows in the coffer of the UK Government into the country.
While we welcome the proposed visit to Nigeria, CISLAC UK calls on Nigerian Government to prioritise mutual benefits, given congnisance to the country’s lingering but whopping sums—in custody and tax havens, stashed in the British economy awaiting repatriation, as such have tendency to adequately finance Nigeria’s poorly funded critical sectors and positively transform the economy.
We are not unaware that as Britain prepares to exit the European Union in 2019 being a fallout of the 2016 referendum, with 52% voting leave, edging out the remain votes by a 4% margin, trade concerns in sustaining the UK economy afterwards has become the nation’s priority, almost beyond the issues of immigration it seemed to be all about in the beginning.
While trade could serve as a catalyst for economic and human development if trends in equity and fairness, but this underachieved in Africa, given the continent’s experience in trade relations with the West; as it is evident in 2005 Human Development Report revealing that “the trade barriers faced by developing countries exporting to rich countries are three times higher than those faced by rich countries when they trade with each other”. The report also found that poor countries account for less than one-third of rich country imports but for two-thirds of tariff revenues collected, and calls such tariffs a “perverse taxation.”
In order to mitigate or avert the recurring colossal economic losses, CISLAC UK calls on African leaders to give serious concerns to the extent of mutual benefits/ opportunities and trade terms the UK government is willing to consent to under this new “partnership for opportunities”, the theme of the trade mission to South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya by Prime Minister Theresa May.
We find it pertinent for the Nigerian Government to propose a crucial way of forging ahead through an open, transparent and mutual relations with Nigeria like the swift return of the illicit funds of Nigeria in tax havens and in the custody of the UK government; as it is not a coincidence, that just after the Prime Minister embarked on this trip did the UK return £70 million pounds of such funds to the Nigeria government.
We demand robust dialogue centred on returning all remaining illicit funds in UK government’s territory and a better coordination to block all loopholes in corporate financial laws that encourage illicit outflow of Nigeria.
CISLAC UK recalls that the Former Prime Minister David Cameron once referred to Nigeria as “fantastically corrupt”, to which President Buhari responded to in the fashion of a true statesman, that there is the need to look ahead, where this both nations can work together when the UK fully throws its support behind the fight against corruption and efforts towards domestic resource mobilization by the Nigerian Government. This will require the UK government taking demonstrable action and removing the red tapes but needed cooperation towards returning the remaining funds.
We call on African nations and Nigeria in particular to read the lines and lips of the visiting Prime Minister and discussions with her 29-man business team and negotiators that make up her entourage, which by the way at her first port of call South Africa she has hinted on the UK looking to invest up to £4 billion in the African economy come post Brexit, but at the notion of whining Africa of aid in return for investment and partnership.
We understand that presently, the UK comes third after the US and France in Africa trade investments, while all three are remain behind China who since 2011 has remained Africa’s dominant investor is tagged and at better trading terms in all and already with talks of investing £4 billion pounds into the continents economy.
Rafsanjani is Executive Director, CISLAC