Report: Nigerian elites laundering illicit funds through UK schools

An American foundation, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, has accused Nigerian political elites of using the British educational system as a money-laundering shield in the guise of seeking better schooling opportunities for their wards.

The indictment was contained in a report released in Washington DC on Thursday and written by its non-resident scholar on democracy, conflict, and governance, Mathew Page, titled “West African Elites’ Spending on UK Schools and Universities: A Closer Look.”

According to Page, a famous Nigeria expert, author, and a nonresident fellow with the Centre for Democracy and Development in Abuja, colleges and universities in the United Kingdom are complicit in the process, the UK is still “reluctant to acknowledge outside criticism of the sector’s AML [anti-money laundering] shortcomings or to derive lessons learned from recent anticorruption failures” adding that some have even shown willingness “to matriculate students linked to known—and even convicted—kleptocrats.”

The report also criticised the UK government for its “policies and programmes seeking to boost the country’s international education sector” which it said, “lack a much-needed anti-corruption component.”

It argued the case that the increasing reliance on schools in advance countries of the west for the education of their wards expands the disincentives to strengthen their own home educational institutions.

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“The capital flight and greater foreign exchange and currency pressures associated with paying costly school and university fees have harmed these countries’ future development and prevented them from correcting deeper socioeconomic inequalities that compound underdevelopment and can even spark violent conflict.

“As long as PEPs flock into the education sectors of countries like the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States instead of investing in their own sectors, West African countries will continue to suffer a “brain drain” and financial outflows that harm their economies” the report noted.

The traditional argument by many Nigerian political elites that they accumulated vast wealth before entering politics, does not hold water, according to the report based on data, because “very few would be able to show convincing evidence of how they did so.”

Calling for reforms, the report said a “stronger policy focus on the corruption vulnerabilities of the UK education sector could also support UK international development goals by reducing “educational escapism” by elites who choose to school abroad while neglecting domestic educational institutions.”

Reacting to the report on Friday, which was commissioned by the UK government, British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing said her government was motivated by the desire “to better understand the risk to the UK from illicit finance in West Africa.

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She assured that the British government will consider the reports finding and take a view on what if any further action is required.”

“The UK has a zero-tolerance approach to corruption and remains committed to tackling it wherever it happens, including in the United Kingdom (UK) education system,” she said.

“Tackling illicit corruption in Nigeria is critical to the country’s prosperity and security, and to addressing poverty and inequality,” adding that “the UK is working in partnership with Nigeria to tackle corruption and illicit finance and has excellent relationships with Nigerian agencies and civil society who are fighting corruption.”

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