Watch David Cameron describe Nigeria and Afghanistan as “fantastically corrupt”

David Cameron and Muhammad Buhari
David Cameron (Photo by Philip Hunton Photography) and Nigerian President Muhammad Buhari.

David Cameron has sparked a political row by describing Nigeria and Afghanistan as “fantastically corrupt” in an unguarded conversation with the Queen which was captured on film, ahead of an anti-corruption summit.

The conversation took place at Buckingham Palace at an event marking the Queen’s 90th birthday, which was attended by political leaders and other public figures.

“We’ve got some leaders of some fantastically corrupt countries coming to Britain… Nigeria and Afghanistan, possibly the two most corrupt countries in the world,” he was overheard saying.

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Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who was elected last year after vowing to fight corruption, said he was “shocked”, while a senior Afghan official said the Prime Minister’s characterisation was “unfair”.

In response, President Buhari has said he will not insist on an apology from David Cameron but will instead demanding “the return of assets to Nigeria”.

Speaking at the the opening of the summit being held in London, he said: “What do I need an apology for? I need something tangible”.

The “assets” are understood to be a reference to the issue of Britain being used as a “safe haven” for criminals smuggling assets out of Nigeria, with the president calling for the establishment of international infrastructure to fight corruption and repatriate assets that are stolen and moved across borders.

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During Prime Minister’s Questions today in the House of Commons, Mr Cameron made light of his latest gaffe by saying he’d better check the microphone was on before answering a question on corruption.

The London anti-corruption summit will begin tomorrow (12 May), and is designed to step up global action to expose, punish and drive out corruption in all walks of life.

“The summit will seek to galvanise a global response to tackle corruption. As well as agreeing a package of actions to tackle corruption across the board, it will deal with issues including corporate secrecy, government transparency, the enforcement of international anti-corruption laws, and the strengthening of international institutions.” – UK Government press release

In the first summit of its kind, world leaders, will join with influential individuals in business and civil society to agree a package of practical steps to:

  • expose corruption so there is nowhere to hide
  • punish the perpetrators and support those affected by corruption
  • drive out the culture of corruption wherever it exists

The summit will be preceded by a conference today (11 May) for leaders in civil society, business and government who are championing the fight against corruption.