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Corruption: US Secretary of State John Kerry Praises Buhari

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John Kerry

John Kerry, the USA Secretary of State has praised the efforts of Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari in fighting corruption and terrorism in Nigeria.

In his Remarks at the World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland Mr kerry was quoted as saying:

“When Nigeria’s President Buhari took office last spring, he inherited a military that was under-paid, underfed, and unable to protect the Nigerian people from Boko Haram. And one reason is that much of the military budget was finding its way into the pockets of the generals. And just this week, we saw reports that more than 50 people in Nigeria, including former government officials, stole $9 billion from the treasury.

“Still in the United States, my friends, we continue to prosecute corruption and we live with a pay-to-play campaign finance system that should not be wished on any other country in the world. I used to be a prosecutor and I know how hard it is to hold people in positions of public responsibility accountable. But I also know how important it is.

“The fact is there is nothing – absolutely nothing more demoralizing, more destructive, more disempowering to any citizen than the belief that the system is rigged against them and that people in positions of power are – to use a diplomatic term of art– crooks who are stealing the future of their own people; and by the way, depositing their ill-gotten gains in ostensibly legitimate financial institutions around the world.

“Corruption is a social danger because it feeds organized crime, it destroys nation-states, it imperils opportunities particularly for women and girls, it facilitates environmental degradation, contributes to human trafficking, and undermines whole communities. It destroys the future.

“Corruption is a radicalizer because it destroys faith in legitimate authority. It opens up a vacuum which allows the predators to move in. And no one knows that better than the violent extremist groups, who regularly use corruption as a recruitment tool.

“Corruption is an opportunity destroyer because it discourages honest and accountable investment; it makes businesses more expensive to operate; it drives up the cost of public services for local taxpayers; and it turns a nation’s entire budget into a feeding trough for the privileged few.

“And that is why it is imperative that the business community of the world starts to demand a different standard of behavior, that we deepen the fight against corruption, making it a first-order, national security priority. It’s why we are now providing technical assistance to more than 25 countries to build online business registration sites, which helps to reduce red tape and opportunities for graft – for the bribery necessary to get the permit, to get the local zoning, to get the land, to get the go-ahead. It’s why we’re expanding our law enforcement programs that send judges overseas to share best practices. And it’s why the U.S. Department of Justice has successfully returned $143 million since 2004 and is litigating now more than a billion dollars’ worth of stolen assets. It’s why we are working with businesses to spur reform and civil society groups whose investigative work on the ground is vital to strong law enforcement and justice. And it’s why we are developing stronger intelligence on kleptocrats and their networks on those who were using targeted economic sanctions and visa restrictions to deny bad actors the profits from graft.

“All told, corruption costs the global economy – global GDP – more than a trillion dollars a year and costs the global economy on an international basis about $2.6 trillion. Imagine the difference that would make to all those kids under the age of 30 – 60 percent in some countries – yearning for jobs and opportunity, for electricity, for education. This corruption complicates, I assure you, every single security, diplomatic, and social priority of the Government of the United States and other governments who are trying to help countries in the world. And this in and of itself creates tension, instability, and a perfect playing field for predators. It is simply stunning to me – I head up the interagency task force of the all-government effort of the United States to deal with human trafficking – it is simply stunning that in the year 2016, more than 20 million, some estimate 27 million people, are the victims of modern-day slavery in what has become a $150 billion illicit human trafficking industry. New York Times recently had a compelling story on its front page of a young Cambodian boy seduced into leaving his country, going to Thailand, believing he’d be part of a construction company, and he wound up at sea for two years with a shackle around his neck as a slave for illegal fishing. Those numbers should shock the conscience of every person around into action, because although money is legitimately and always will be used for many things, it shouldn’t be hard for us to agree that in the 21st century, we should never, ever, ever allow a price tag to be attached to the freedom of another human being.

“The bottom line is that it is everybody’s responsibility to condemn and expose corruption, to hold perpetrators accountable, and to replace a culture of corruption that has changed the way in which people accept the standards that the world long ago adopted, whether in Basel banking standards or in the universal standards of behavior or human rights, and it replaces malfeasance with a standard that expects honesty as a regular way of doing business. Never forget: The impact of corruption touches everyone – businesses, the private sector, every citizen. We all pay for it. So we have to wage this fight collectively – not reluctantly, but wholeheartedly by embracing standards that make corruption the exception and not the norm.

“Now, obviously, corruption’s not a new problem. Every nation has faced it at one time or another in its development. America’s own Founding Fathers knew the threat of corruption all too well, warning of the dangers that it posed to democratic governance. But today, corruption has grown at an alarming pace and threatens global growth, global stability, and indeed the global future.

“And when Prime Minister Abadi, who I met with yesterday – and we talked about the reform effort in Iraq – when he took office in Iraq over a year ago, he found the government payroll weighted down with 50,000 soldiers who didn’t even exist. That meant $380 million of dishonest public officials that got that money instead of it going to build the kind of inclusive and capable security forces that Iraq desperately needed.”

See the rest of Remarks of John Kerry, Secretary of State, at the World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland here

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