A former senior policymaker at the State Department, Defense Department and US Congress, Mr Matthew T. Page, has accused the United Kingdom and United States of lying on their claims of assisting Nigeria to tackle corruption.
Mr Page who is also a non-resident Fellow of the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) spoke yesterday in Abuja at a roundtable themed: “From Maitama to Mayfair: How International Financial and Property Markets Fuel Corruption in Nigeria”,organised by the CDD Nigeria.
He said the UK and US banking, property, and corporate laws currently do not just lack adequate safeguards but are in many ways designed to facilitate such corruption.
“Nigeria’s kleptocrats deftly use both Nigerian banks and the international financial system, especially anonymous shell corporations and offshore tax havens to launder stolen public funds and stash them overseas, often in the form of high-end real estate in London, Dubai, New York and California.
“Furthermore, despite possessing robust discretionary powers, the United States and United Kingdom rarely deny visas to corrupt officials or report cases of suspected corruption or unexplained wealth back to law enforcement agencies back home,” Page said.
He said if Nigerian kleptocrats were unable to visit their properties and spend their ill-gotten gains in luxury boutiques in London, Dubai, and New York among others the incentives for offshoring them would likely diminish.
He said the London property market is highly vulnerable to corrupt wealth flowing into it and that the illicit financial inflows into the market has led to an underuse of housing stock and ‘ghost neighbourhoods’ which are areas with higher levels of property owned by anonymous companies with high levels of abnormally low electricity usage and lower foot traffic that have caused some local businesses to close.
Page cited a former state commissioner who owns a London flat worth over £1m, a former presidential adviser who owns a £1m flat in London in the name of a Nigerian company that has the same name as a UK company owned by his wife, a former service chief who owns two flats worth about £1m each, bought in the name of his Nigerian company, one was bought while he was service chief, another shortly thereafter and a former oil minister linked to a £4m flat and £3m flat as well as a £1million flat, both bought by Seychellesregistered companies, among others.
He therefore urged the federal government to strengthen her working relationship like the MoU signed with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and implement existing anti-corruption laws to the later.
The Director of CDD, Idayat Hassan, said Nigerians are yet to understand the implications of corruption despite its negative impact on the country.
“Corrupt Nigerian officials seem not to have been done with Nigeria as they continue their nefarious activities. It is important for the government and the citizens to check this menace,” she said.