Patricia Scotland, the secretary-general of the Commonwealth, was in Nigeria two weeks ago lavishing praise on Nigeria’s alleged anti-corruption efforts. It appears that the claims she made have shaky foundations.
The current edition of Private Eye, a British publication specialising in investigative journalism, sheds more light on the issue.
Another triumph for the Commonwealth, which secretary-general Baroness Scotland says has helped recover $3bn of stolen funds for member state Nigeria in just a year.
Speaking to journalists after meeting Nigerian foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama, the baroness said it was “a matter of great pride to us in the Commonwealth that we have been able to assist Nigeria in getting its money back”. The haul was “more money than it has got back in the past ten years”. At around twice the country’s entire education budget, the $3bn would indeed be something to trumpet.
Alas, Baroness Scotland did not have time to explain how the Commonwealth had achieved this remarkable feat, nor where the figure came from. It was certainly news to Nigeria’s finance minister and president, who believe the country has been able to recover barely a tenth of this amount from reluctant overseas partners since President Muhammadu Buhari came to power in 2015. And it has done so with no help at all from the Commonwealth secretariat.
Baroness Scotland’s officials were quick to attribute the figure to Ibrahim Magu, the accident-prone chairman of Nigeria’s ailing Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. Magu is much beloved by foreign NGOs but does get himself into a muddle over numbers. One audit found several apparently lucrative assets he had seized could no longer be independently valued because they had been lost at sea.
By claiming over-inflated financial benefits on the say-so of a suspect agency in a notoriously corrupt member state, the secretary-general at least gave her hosts a flavour of what a post-Brexit Commonwealth might offer.