Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has said the present administration has reached out to the United States government to step up its assistance in ensuring that corrupt officials do not have a safe haven in the US for their loot.
According to a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr. Laolu Akande, the Vice-President spoke during a visit of a US Congressional Delegation to the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Monday.
“We have reached out to the US government with respect with helping us with the repatriation of proceeds of crime and proceeds of corruption,” he was quoted as saying.
Osinbajo reportedly told the delegation that the present administration regarded corruption as an existential threat that must be dealt with at its root.
Osinbajo added, “We have worked quite closely with the US government on repatriation of funds, we have seen some results.
“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.’
“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.
“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 make.’’
On the return of the Chibok girls, the Vice-President reportedly said, “it is a issue on the front burner 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 will be released,” noting that “negotiations are continuing and government will keep looking for the opportunity to bring them back.”
The Vice-President thanked the US government for its recent decision to sell Super Tucano aircraft to Nigeria to aid its fight against insurgency in the North-East.
Senator Christopher Coons, who led the delegation, said the visit was to reaffirm the US relationship with Nigeria, noting that the “US has an enduring enthusiasm and partnership with Nigeria.’’
Coons, a Democrat from Delaware, told State House Correspondents after the meeting, that they had “terrific meeting with the Vice-President, members of the cabinet and senior advisers.”
He said the delegation was in Nigeria “both to offer our sustained bipartisan and commitment to the US-Nigerian relationship; to learn more about ongoing challenges in terms of security, and health and development.”
According to him, the delegation visited Nigeria “also to celebrate the opportunities, the entrepreneurship, the energy of many sectors in Nigeria from film-making to job creations to innovation itself.”
He said the delegation comprised senators and members of the House of Representatives and included Republicans and Democrats, representing “entire range of the American people.”
Other members of the Congressional delegation include, Senators Gary Peters, Jeff Merkley, and 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.
Also in attendance were the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffery Onyeama, Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, the National Security Adviser, Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno (retd.), and the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar.