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Did David Cameron say UK would ‘cease to exist’ if it were looted like Nigeria?

This article is more than 6 years old

Former British prime minister David Cameron is famed to have given Nigeria the moniker of “fantastically corrupt”.

Cameron was overheard saying this to Queen Elizabeth at the start of an international anti-corruption summit in London in May 2015. (Note: Africa Check pointed out at the time that Nigeria trailed outside the top 30 of Transparency International’s corruption index.)

Another comment about corruption attributed to the former prime minister has resurfaced online. The latest instance was tweeted by Dr Joe Abah, director-general of Nigeria’s Bureau of Public Service Reforms.

"If the amount of money stolen from Nigeria in the last 30 years was stolen from the UK, the UK would cease to exist,” reads the text next to a picture of Cameron.

The text of the tweet itself differs, though. Abah wrote: “If the money stolen from Nigeria over the last 30 years were to be returned by the U.K, the U.K. would cease to exist.”

By 22 August, the tweet had garnered over 500 likes, more than 1,100 retweets and 115 replies.

But when and where did the former British prime minister say something like this?

Popped up in other places   

The first version of this quote Africa Check could find was a comment piece by Nigerian journalist Chido Onumah, published in October 2012 on the Premium Times website.

Here the version read: “David Cameron, British PM, has been quoted as saying, ‘If the amount of money stolen out of Nigeria in the last 30 years was stolen in the UK, the UK would not exist again.’”

Since then, it has popped up on several Facebook pages, websites and other articles at regular intervals.

Africa Check wrote to Onumah, asking where and when Cameron said these words. We also asked Cameron on Twitter whether he said this. (His official website is still under construction.)

Neither men responded. (Note: We will update this report if they do.)

‘No mention in Hansard’

Africa Check then contacted our UK counterparts Full Fact to confirm if there is a public record of this quote.

"We were wondering whether these multiple uncited versions of the meme suggest it's more likely to be made up,” Phoebe Arnold, Full Fact’s head of communications and impact.

“We can't find anything resembling that quote attributed to Cameron on Hansard either." (Note: Hansard is the official report of all parliamentary debates in the UK.)

- David Ajikobi (22/08/2017)


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