The Buhari administration has reached out to the US government to step up its assistance in ensuring that corrupt officials don’t get a safe haven abroad for their loot, according to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN.
The Vice President, who made the call Monday during the visit of a US Congressional Delegation to the Presidential Villa, said both countries were working on a prompt repatriation of the funds.
According to Prof. Osinbajo, “we have reached out to the US government with respect with helping with repatriation of proceeds of crime and proceeds of corruption.’’
Prof. Osinbajo, who was appreciative of the support given by the US so far said the Buhari administration regarded “corruption is an existential threat’’ that must be dealt with at its root.
“We have worked quite closely with the US government on repatriation of funds, we have seen some results’’, adding that the Federal Government is hoping for more improvement in the process.
“We think that this is very important because what tends to happen with corrupt public officials is that if they are able to find a safe haven for the proceeds of their criminality, not only are they encouraged as individuals but there is the general feeling that if I am able to get the proceeds out of the country I might just get away with it,’’ the Vice President said.
According to him, “this is one of the reasons why we have taken several actions to ensure that we are able to deal with it because some of the major dislocations in the economy are on account of the problems that we have seen with corruption.’’
He said the Buhari presidency’s strategy which is one of “the most effective ways of fighting corruption is ensuring that these proceeds are unsafe and for people to know that they would be found out and they would be punished for it and we would seize whatever profit they had gain.’’
On the return of the Chibok girls, the Vice President said, “it is a front burner issue for us all the time, there is no question of not continuing to negotiate and looking for the girls.’’
He expressed gratitude to God for the hope that the girls are still alive and would be released, noting that “negotiations were continuing and government would keep looking for the opportunity to bring them back.’’
The Vice President thanked the US government for its recent decision to sell Super Tucano aircrafts to Nigeria to aid its fight against insurgency in the North-East.
Sen. Christopher Coons who led the delegation said the visit was to reaffirm the relationship between Nigeria and the United States, noting that the US has “an enduring enthusiasm and partnership with Nigeria.’’
Other members of the Congressional delegation include, Sen. Gary Peters, Sen. Jeff Merkley, Sen. Michael Bennet, Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, Rep. Terri Sewell, Rep. Charlie Dent, Rep. Barbara Lee and Rep. Frederica Wilson. They were accompanied by the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington.
At the National Assembly, President of the Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki led a team of of federal lawmakers to meet with the US lawmakers to discuss issues around security, humanitarian crisis in the North East, and ways to build a better working relationship between the Parliaments of both countries.
Briefing journalists later, Saraki said, “Today’s meeting was held to discuss ways to improve the relationship between the U.S. and Nigeria; look at securing greater support in the fight against terrorism and for the humanitarian crisis in different parts of the country…We also discussed improving agriculture in Nigeria and providing jobs for our people.”
Saraki also stated that the American congressional delegation and the National Assembly discussed ways to strengthen the institutional relationships between Nigeria and the US.
“I think the commitment that we have is that they have seen that there is a need to strengthen the institutional relationships between the legislatures of both our countries and that is very key,” Saraki said.
On the issue of the arms purchase from the United States, the Senate President said: “As you are aware, there is a new development that has happened in respect to the procurement of arms by the country. For the first time, the US Government have agreed in principle to sell arms to Nigeria to help in our fight against the insurgency. Of course, we will look into areas of human rights where there has always been a concern.
“We hope that following this visit, the sale of the arms to our armed forces will now become a reality. This will represent a new chapter that we are opening — where the US government will be ready to sell arms to Nigeria and that will help to strengthen the efforts of our armed forces in the fight against terrorism, surveillance and intelligence.
“The commitment that they have made today is that terrorism is an issue that should not be left to Nigeria alone, and if it means that we may need to secure new weapons from other countries, then it is an option that needs to be urgently explored. However, we will also continue to play our own role in the area of human rights,” he said.
Saraki also emphasized that the US delegation expressed optimism about Nigeria’s future. “From all indications, they were very excited about Nigeria and what the future holds for the country. Now, we need to see how we can further strengthen the relations between our two countries,” he said.