British PM pushes trade in Nigeria, but scandal looms
LAGOS: British Prime Minister David Cameron visited Nigeria on Tuesday, pushing a message of trade and democracy before making an early return home to deal with the spiralling phone hacking crisis.
Cameron has come under increasing pressure over the scandal and media tycoon Rupert Murdoch’s appearance before a British parliamentary committee Tuesday looked set to overshadow his visit to Africa’s largest oil producer.
After talks with President Jacob Zuma in South Africa on Monday, Cameron flew in to Lagos at the head of a business delegation to call on Africans to use trade, aid and political reform to make the most of “Africa’s moment”.
The prime minister has cut short his day-visit to Nigeria to return home and deal with the phone hacking crisis, which has widened since he left London on Sunday afternoon with the resignations of two top policemen.
Murdoch, son James and former top aide Rebekah Brooks on Tuesday faced a dramatic showdown with British lawmakers over the scandal, with the trio to appear before a parliamentary committee.
Despite the turmoil dominating the headlines at home, Cameron continued his schedule as planned Tuesday morning, first by visiting a vaccination clinic.
He was to later give a speech to university students and hold talks with President Goodluck Jonathan.
In his speech, he will defend Britain’s decision to spend 0.7 per cent of gross national income on aid from 2013, and in particular its efforts to help those suffering from the drought in the Horn of Africa.
But he will argue that the fast-growing economy in Africa, coupled with an increasing shift towards democratic governments, presents a huge opportunity for the continent.
“It is now possible to imagine an Africa no longer dependent on aid, and a real source of growth for the whole world,” Cameron and Jonathan said in a joint opinion piece published in Nigeria’s Guardian newspaper.
“And the road to get there lies through freeing up the wealth-creating power of enterprise and trade.”
On a continent where China has made huge strides as a trade partner, Cameron is to say at the Pan African University that British businesses must act to avoid missing “one of the greatest economic opportunities on the planet”.
Cameron highlighted the progress of democracy in Africa, praising Jonathan on his victory in recent elections, viewed as the fairest in nearly two decades in Africa’s most populous nation despite major flaws.
But he said that it was now “time for the whole of Africa to meet the aspirations of people”, and urged Africans to take action to ensure they have a bigger say in how their countries are run.
“These are the demands the people have made in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.
These are the demands that have propelled the Arab Spring,” he will say.
“And these are the demands, which supported by a revolution in trade and enterprise mean Africa can seize its own moment of opportunity.”
Security was especially tight during Cameron’s visit, with Nigeria’s north having seen almost daily bomb attacks and shootings in recent weeks blamed on an Islamist sect.
Lagos, the economic capital of some 15 million people located in Nigeria’s southwest, has not been hit by such attacks.
Cameron will now arrive back in Britain late Tuesday, rather than early on Wednesday as planned, to prepare for a statement to the House of Commons on the phone hacking crisis, and to answer questions about his own role in the affair.
He is under increasing pressure over his decision to hire Andy Coulson, a former editor at the scandal-hit News of the World, which closed last weekend, as his media chief until January.
Coulson was arrested earlier this month over alleged hacking and police corruption, although he denies any wrongdoing.