The Nigerian president has said he will not demand an apology from David Cameron over his comments about “fantastically corrupt” countries, instead demanding “the return of assets to Nigeria”.
“What do I need an apology for? I need something tangible,” said Muhammadu Buhari as he gave his keynote speech at the opening of a Commonwealth anti-corruption summit being held in London.
Mr. Cameron has been criticised by officials from Nigeria and Afghanistan after he was caught on camera telling the Queen they were “possibly the two most corrupt countries in the world”.
The Prime Minister was heard saying: “We had a very successful cabinet meeting this morning to talk about our anti-corruption summit, we’ve got the Nigerians… actually, we’ve got the leaders of some fantastically corrupt countries coming to Britain.”
Mr Buhari – whose anti-corruption efforts were recognised in the meeting with the Queen by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby – is understood to have been referencing the issue of Britain being used as a “safe haven” for criminals smuggling assets out of Nigeria.
The president called for the establishment of international infrastructure to fight corruption and repatriate assets that are stolen and moved across borders.
Earlier, Mr Buhari’s spokesman Garba Shehu reacted on social media, using an official account to say Cameron was embarrassing Nigerians despite Buhari’s “good work” on fighting corruption.
“The prime minister must be looking at an old snapshot of Nigeria,” he said. “Things are changing with corruption and everything else.”
Speaking on a visit to Gibraltar, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said Mr Cameron was “merely stating a fact” with his comments.
“These are both countries with serious corruption problems and the leaders of both those countries know they have those problems and are determined to deal with them,” he said.
The secretary general of the Commonwealth, Baroness Scotland, described the furore provoked by Mr Cameron’s off-guard remarks as “unfortunate”.
The former Labour government minister told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme: “I think it was unfortunate that it was purveyed in that way.
“I think the whole point of us having this conference is that president Buhari, and many other leaders … everyone knows that corruption is a global problem, and the fight is on against it.”