THIS DAY, MAY 20, 2002.


I am highly delighted to welcome the President of the Swiss Senate, His Excellency, Mr. Anton Cottier to my dear country, Nigeria. To me, this is one of the most exciting moments of my tenure as President of the Senate.

Let me quickly note that my excitement does not derive from the fact that I am playing host to a dignitary. In fact, here in the National Assembly, we have played host to other dignitaries. We have hosted former President of the United States, Bill Clinton. We have hosted British Prime Minister, Mr. Tony Blair.

But our guest today is neither a President nor a Prime Minister. He is indeed the President of the Swiss Senate, my counterpart in Switzerland. This is the source of my excitement and joy – hosting a colleague who bears the same parliamentary burden as myself. Mr. Cottier, you are most welcome.

I do not know if officials of the Swiss Embassy in Nigeria have briefed you about the legendary Nigerian hospitality. But whether they have or not, let me seize this opportunity to urge you to get set for a treat. We love you and we cherish the relationship Nigeria has had with your country over the years.

Your Excellency, may I remind you that your visit bears so much in symbolism as it does in significance. You are coming to Nigeria in the month of May. This is the month that evokes so much emotion and passion among Nigerians. In fact, Wednesday next week, precisely May 29, will mark the third anniversary of this democratically elected government which came into existence after nearly two decades of military rule. My dear friend and colleague, you have come at the right time. Once again, you are welcome.

Again, you have come at a time when Nigeria is striving to strengthen her economy through various multi-sectoral reforms including deregulation and liberalisation of different aspects of the economy. As you undertake a tour of the country, including inspection of some oil installations in the Niger Delta, I urge you to explore avenues through which your country can participate more actively in any of these sectors.

Before May 29, 1999 when this administration was born, the notion in the international community was that Nigeria was unconducive for investment. The reasons cited for such inclement business environment Were insecurity, socio-political instability and corruption.

But I want to assure you that for the past three years, this government has confronted these problems headlong. In the Senate, for instance, we have more than ever given impetus to all government initiatives at ensuring the stability, peace and progress of the country.

Today, there is peace in Nigeria, today there is transparency in our transactions. In the Senate, we attach so much premium to the issue of transparency. This is reflected in our accounts and the manner our bills are passed.

It is on this note that I invite you to intensify the campaign for more Swiss investments in Nigeria.

My dear friend and legislative colleague, I cannot end this address without asking for your cooperation in helping to recover Nigeria’s stolen money, most of which are stashed away in Swiss bank vaults. As you may well have known, the treasury of this country was abused and plundered with abandon by successive past military regimes. Loans and sundry other funds were procured and diverted to private accounts abroad at the expense of our National infrastructural development.

Since inception, this administration has rallied the international community to help in the recovery of these funds but we believe that with more cooperation from the Swiss government, we will achieve even much more.

My dear colleague and friend, this is the burden we have to bear, this is the cross we have to carry. And on this day, I invite you to be part of the universal crusade to recover our stolen wealth.

Specifically, I implore the Swiss senate to initiate a legislative machinery that will facilitate the process of recovery of these funds especially from Swiss banks. I am not unmindful of the banking creed of privacy. But I also believe that with proper and articulate legislation, these banks could be compelled to stick to the rules in accepting funds or in the transfer of such funds.

Investigations have shown that many of these banks did not observe basic banking vigilance before accepting such funds. There is therefore the need to compel them to do so through relevant legislative instrument.

This country will eternally remain grateful to you and the Swiss Senate if in no distant time fruin now, we hear that you lave initiated a regime of measures that would enable us recover our stolen funds. This is our utmost desire. I hope you will oblige us with your support.

Thank you.