The United Kingdom on Tuesday said 40 jurisdictions including British territories were fully committed to sharing information that would facilitate the return of all the funds stolen from Nigeria and kept in their lands.
A Member of Parliament and Minister of State for Immigration of the United Kingdom, Mr. Robert Goodwill, said this in Abuja during the signing ceremony of the Memorandum of Understanding between the governments of Nigeria and the UK on the modalities for the return of stolen assets.
Goodwill, who led a delegation of the UK government officials to the event which took place at the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, said the government of his country was keen to return all Nigeria’s stolen funds “as soon as the necessary legal processes allow”.
The amount of Nigeria’s stolen fund stashed in the UK was not mentioned and no room was given for questions, but Goodwill said steps were being taken by the UK government to accelerate the procedures for the identification and confiscation of illegally acquired assets.
He said the signing of the MoU was a follow-up to the commitment given by the UK government at the London Anti-Corruption Summit held in London in May this year to working closely with Nigeria and other international partners towards improving the process for the return of looted assets.
Goodwill said, “Let me be clear, my government is fully committed to the return of all funds looted from the Nigerian state and we are keen to do this as soon as the necessary legal processes allow.
“As outlined at the summit, we will be taking steps to accelerate the procedures for identification and confiscation of illegally acquired assets.
“We are committed – as is Nigeria – to ensure that beneficial ownership of assets is made available to relevant authorities so they know who the real owners of assets held in the UK.
“Forty jurisdictions including British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, announced that they will automatically share beneficial ownership information relating to companies, trusts, foundations, she’ll companies and other relevant entities and legal arrangements.”
He said the newly signed MoU “provides the mechanism by which monies can be returned”, adding that it would send signal that the UK was no longer a safe haven for stolen funds.
“Our ability to recover and return stolen assets should send a clear message to all who may seek to habour such assets that there is no safe haven in the UK,” Goodwill said.
The UK minister who congratulated the President Muhammadu Buhari administration “on the efforts that have been made since the May summit” and urged the government to follow up on its commitments including its membership of the Open Government Partnership.
He also said, “It is important that everyone can see how returned assets are used to benefit Nigeria.
“We have therefore agreed in this MoU to be fully transparent about this. We will put a copy of this MoU on our website.”
In his address, shortly before the signing of the MoU and exchanging of documents between the two countries, Malami promised that the assets when returned to Nigeria would not be pilfered but would be judiciously used for the good of the poor people and reform of the judicial sector.