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Foreign Affairs Politics and Policy

What Are the UK’s Interests in Nigeria’s Elections and Looted Funds?

At the inaugural ‘Diplomatic dialogue’ organized by civic accountability organisation BudgIT held over the weekend, British deputy high commissioner to Nigeria, Laure Beaufils, related the commitments and intentions of the British government in Nigeria.

Ms Beaufils was the lone special guest of the dialogue which, according to the organizers, is aimed at engaging organisations, high commissions and civil society organisations involved in improving governance, accountability and democracy in Nigeria.

From her interactions over the past year with Nigerian officials, Ms Beaufils observed that the media in Nigeria could do more in asking difficult questions of policymakers, citing opaqueness in access to information on matters concerning governance in Nigeria.  She also observed that while expectations of ‘big convictions’ in the Buhari administration’s anti-corruption fight are yet to appear, there has been some important steps taken, including the innovation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) leading to about N7 trillion being accounted for with N4 billion saved monthly. The government could do more in communicating the positive proceeds of the anti-corruption campaign so they do not overshadow the negatives.

Ms Beaufils highlighted a fair and democratic 2019 elections, public financial management and fairer political settlements as the pillars of the UK’s interests in Nigeria. The case for fairer political settlements, she said, requires greater effort to include more women in the political space as well as eliminating the barriers that exclude a significant proportion of the population from the capacity to actively participate.

Commenting on money and politics, she noted that breaking the huge requirements that create high barriers to entry in politics for young people would require the building of a support base that could contribute to a campaign. However, more efforts towards transparency for serving public officers holders is the more far-reaching goal to be aspired to, as it is the principal way of ensuring money cannot be hidden away for campaigns.

And on funds originating from the Nigerian public treasury to the UK, the deputy high commissioner stated that the UK government has no interest Nigeria in keeping such but are rather interested in ensuring that returned funds are tracked and can be properly accounted for.

Responding to a question about channels to explore in demanding questions of government, Ms Beaufils observed, rather puzzled, that students unions in Nigeria would be an effective channel for asking questions of political leaders, if they were as active as in other parts of the world.

Ms Beaufils became Britain’s first female deputy high commissioner with her move to the High Commission in Lagos in February 2017. She was the head of the Department for International Development (DfID) in Rwanda from August 2014 where she managed a $100 million portfolio of programmes focusing on economic development, governance and social sectors, according to her profile on the UK’s government’s website. She is responsible for the daily management of British High Commission in Nigeria, representing the UK’s interests in the absence of the Ambassador as Chargé d’Affaires.

(Trivia: The UK’s first black female high commissioner is the Nigerian-born diplomat, NneNne Iwuji-Eme, recently deployed to Botswana.)

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By Alexander O. Onukwue | Follow @inquizimedia.com on Facebook and Twitter

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