By Christiana Ekpa
The Speaker of the House of Representatives Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila yesterday appealed to the British Government to assist Nigeria in the repatriation of stolen funds stashed in their country by some Nigerians.
He equally called on the British Government to ease the process of acquiring travelling documents to the United Kingdom in order to assist in deepening the relationship between the two countries.
The Speaker made appeal when he received the new British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catrina Liang, and the Deputy High Commissioner, Gill Atkinson in his office on Thursday.
The Speaker who emphasized the importance of the relationship between the two countries said the United Kingdom should assist in the Nigerian government’s anti-corruption drive.
He said: “Our relationships are the ones we enjoy, which is of mutual benefits to both countries, which we hope will continue to be that way.
“Through our bilateral relationships, you’ve contributed in so many ways to our political and economic development: in the areas of anti-corruption, our electoral process, your contributions to our displaced persons and the situation in the North East must also be commended.
“You have used your resources and manpower to assist us greatly. We hope to continue to engage each other meaningfully.
“We also thank you for supporting us and helping us to deepen our democracy over the years, but there’s still a lot to be done between our two countries.
“The issue of repatriation of stolen funds. One of the main thrust of this administration is anti-corruption, and one of the ways you can assist us is to push for the repatriation of the stolen funds.
“I believe there’s so much of that lodged in the United Kingdom, not because the UK is a safe haven, but because there’s been that long standing relationship, and we are just like brothers and sisters: Nigerians are more comfortable; it’s like a second home.
“But please we have to let them know that the second home is not a place to stash away slush or stolen funds,” the Speaker said.
Responding, the British High Commissioner Liang said Nigeria is a very important partner to Britain. She expressed the need to strengthen parliamentary relationships between the two countires and address the issue of anti-corruption and visa issuance.
She said: “We want Nigerians to come and visit, but if the funds were found to have been acquired illegally, then the process kicks in to try and retrieve these funds and the objectives is to return these funds to Nigeria.
“On anti-corruption, the parliament has a huge role to play to tackle corruption and the Petroleum Industry Bill is one of the areas to collaborate on corruption.
“On the visa issue, we have a team working on it, but it is overwhelming at times. I think to some extent, they are trying to find some means to ease up the system for the majority that want to come legally to study and to work. But we have protective order.
“If we are to focus too much on security aspect, it can damage our economic relationships. This is one area well taken, but we will try and progress with in the UK,” she said.