On a day President Muhammadu Buhari was scheduled to attend an anti-corruption summit in London, British Prime Minister David Cameron described Nigeria and Afghanistan as the two most corrupt countries in the world.
Cameron was caught on camera telling Queen Elizabeth that leaders of some “fantastically corrupt” countries, including Nigeria and Afghanistan, were due to attend his anti-corruption summit.
But, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby quickly defended Buhari’s credential as not corrupt.
Video of the meeting, obtained by Reuters, went viral at the same time Buhari was airborne to the United Kingdom for the summit.
United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Christine Lagarde and World Bank President, Jim Yong Kim are some of the dignitaries expected at the meeting which will also have Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, in attendance.
“We had a very successful cabinet meeting this morning, talking about our anti-corruption summit,” Cameron told the queen.
“Everything has to be open… There are no sort of closed-door sessions. Everything has to be in front of the press. It’s going to be…It could be quite interesting.
“We have got the Nigerians, actually we have got some leaders of some fantastically corrupt countries coming to Britain.
“Nigeria and Afghanistan, possibly two of the most corrupt countries in the world.
The Queen did not respond to Cameron’s comment but Archbishop Welby said: “But this particular president is actually not corrupt.”
Nigeria is 136 in Transparency International’s latest corruption perceptions index, while Afghanistan is 166.
…He didn’t refer to Buhari’s administration –Presidency
•Transparency Int’l slams PM over comments
The Presidency, yesterday evening, reacted to a statement credited to British Prime Minister, David Cameron, that Nigeria is a “fantastically corrupt” country.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media, Garba Shehu, shortly after the news of the Prime Minister’s comment went viral on the Internet, said, Cameron’s statement was “embarrassing to us say the least, giving the good work that the president is doing. The eyes of the world are on what is happening here.”
The Presidency argued that the “Prime Minister must be looking at an old snapshot of Nigeria. Things are changing with corruption and everything else.”
The statement, however, welcomed the remarks by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who said President Buhari was not corrupt.
“Thank you to the Archbishop. We have great admiration for the good relationship between our two countries,” the presidency said.
Mr. Cameron was caught on camera ridiculing Nigeria as a “fantastically corrupt” country yesterday afternoon.
Meanwhile, it also emerged that Commons Speaker, John Bercow, also made a joke about the summit when he quipped: “They are coming at their own expense, one assumes?” After some laughter, Cameron answered: “Yes … because it’s an anti-corruption summit…”
In its reaction, Managing Director of Transparency International, Cobus de Swardt said “corruption also affects the United Kingdom as much as other countries.
We should not forget that, by providing a safe haven for corrupt asssets, the UK and its Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies are a big p[art of the world’s corruption problem. We hope the anti-corruption summit “creates an opportunity for all the countries present to sign up to a new era.”
It was a different scenario in Downing Street.
A Downing Street spokesman said it would not comment on a private conversation, but noted that both Buhari and Ghani “have acknowledged the scale of the corruption challenge they face in their countries.”
She revealed that in a collection of essays to be published at the summit, Ghani writes that Afghanistan is “one of the most corrupt countries on Earth”.
Buhari, for his part, writes that corruption became a “way of life” under “supposedly accountable democratic governments”, the spokeswoman said. She concluded: “Both leaders have been invited to the summit because they are driving the fight against corruption in their countries. The UK stands shoulder to shoulder with them as they do so.”
Asked if Mr Cameron regretted embarrassing the Queen, the spokesman repeated his statement. Asked if the Prime Minister believed it was OK for him to describe the countries as ‘fantastically corrupt’ in light of the two presidents’ comments, the spokesman repeated his statement again.
Asked if the PM knew he was being recorded, the spokesman said: ‘The cameras were very close to him, there are multiple cameras in the room.’
Pressed on whether the intervention was choreographed, he added: “I can’t add to the fact these two presidents have said they have a problem with corruption and they are publishing those thoughts ahead of the summit on Thursday which we are inviting them to.”
The spokesman refused to comment on which other countries had provided essays to the ‘collection’. He also refused to comment on whether Britain had been in touch with either Nigeria or Afghanistan since Mr Cameron’s remarks.