ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday urged other countries and the United Nations to speed up the process of repatriating stolen money held abroad, which he said was becoming “tedious”.
Since taking office last May, after winning an election largely on his vow to crackdown on corruption, Buhari has sought help from several nations including the United States and Switzerland to recover money he said was stolen by public officials.
Despite the oil wealth of Africa’s top crude exporter, which has the continent’s biggest economy, 70 percent of Nigerians live on $1 a day or less while endemic corruption over decades has enriched a small elite.
“We are looking for more cooperation from the EU, United States, other countries and international institutions to recover the nation’s stolen assets, particularly proceeds from the stolen crude oil,” said Buhari.
“It is taking very long and Nigerians are becoming impatient,” said the president, adding that the process had “become tedious”.
Buhari made the comments to the executive secretary of the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC), who was visiting the president. He also urged UNODC to help speed up the recovery of stolen money.
Nigeria is going through its worst economic crisis in decades and Buhari’s critics have said the focus on corruption has distracted his administration from dealing with the impact of low oil prices which have cut much needed revenues from crude sales.
Last week Buhari urged the World Bank to assist in the repatriation of $320 million stolen by former military leader Sani Abacha, which is being held by authorities in Switzerland.
The 73-year-old former military ruler has said his government will recover “mind-boggling” sums of money stolen from the oil sector and that public coffers were “virtually empty” when he took over from his predecessor Goodluck Jonathan.
The opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which was in power for 16 years prior to Buhari taking office, has accused Buhari of mounting a witch-hunt against its members.
Reporting by Felix Onuah; editing by Ralph Boulton; Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram