The acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, yesterday said Illicit Financial Flows (IFF) from Nigeria to financial secrecy jurisdictions abroad are difficult to recover. Daily Trust reports that illicit cash flows from Nigeria, that ends up in such Safe Havens amounts to about $17 billion yearly, according to the Global Financial Integrity report.
Secrecy jurisdictions are set up with laws that hide the beneficial owners of assets using shell companies, often to hide the proceeds of crimes. It is also said to be used for tax evasion, tax avoidance and transfer pricing by multinational companies and organized criminal syndicates to hide or launder illicit funds, mostly from developing countries.
These financial secrecy jurisdictions are usually in westerns countries with complex banking and financial market systems, which include: the British Virgin Islands, Jersey Island, Switzerland, Panama, Cayman Islands and Luxemburg among others. Magu spoke at a roundtable in Abuja to commemorate the African Union (AU) Second Anti-Corruption Day, themed: Towards a Common African Position on Asset Recovery decried that proceeds of corruption from Africa end up in safe havens across the globe.
He stated that “We often have challenges in recovery of the assets stashed away in some of these countries,” noting that “Africa needs all her assets back!” He said, “Unity among nations in the African continent is critical in demanding the recovery and return of stolen assets,” adding that, “we also, need accountability and transparency in the utilization of returned assets.” Magu stated that Africa has come to the realization that one person, continent, agency or country alone cannot fight corruption and win.
“When government agencies, different bodies, continents and countries partner and synergise on collaborative ventures like this, the benefits are enormous,” Magu said. He said stakeholders must reflect on the challenges of asset recovery in Africa and solicit contributions and support in the development of a Common African Position on Asset Recovery.
Also speaking at a workshop in Abuja on the AU Anti-Corruption Day, the chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), Bolaji Owasanoye said annual illicit financial flows from Africa is now estimated at $90 billion. Owasanoye, who was represented by Barrister Obiora Igwedibia, a member of the ICPC, said these figures, which are still growing, are higher than the N50 billion quoted by the Thambo Mbeki chaired panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa in 2015. He noted that several treaties aimed at combating corruption and ensuring a culture of good governance in Africa have been signed. He said these include AU Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption-AUCPCC (2003), African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (2007) and the African Charter on the Values and Principles of Public Service and Administration (2011). There is also the African Charter on Values and Principles of Decentralization, Local Governance and Local Development (2014). Owasanoye said with these instruments, issues around procurement, open contracting, curbing illicit financial flows and recovery of stolen assets, education, beneficial ownership transparency, are being addressed by many AU countries.
He said, “However, it is still very disheartening that despite these efforts and international commitment, corruption remains a major threat and hindrance to African states, preventing them from establishing truly democratic institutions and attaining sustainable socio-economic development.
Also speaking, the chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Professor Itse Sagay said the critical role of assets recovery in the fight against corruption is underrated by Nigerians. He argued that asset recovery deprives the looter of the fruits of his criminal endeavours with all the attendant risks. He also said the procedure increases the assets available to the state to prosecute its programme of good governance to the people. He said a good example is Nigeria’s Social Investment Programme which is funded 100 per cent through recovered assets.
“The latest example is the funds identified as Abacha loot fund in the Island of New Jersey, which is determined to keep a large proportion of the looted funds before returning the balance to Nigeria,” he stated. He said the management of recovered loots is currently a subject of debate in Nigeria, with mainly Anti-Corruption Agencies wanting to provide for the management of the funds recovered by them. Daily Trust reports that apart from mutual legal agreements and other bilateral agreement signed between Nigeria and foreign states, investigating and tracing proceeds of crimes in other jurisdictions is usually difficult for anti-corruption agencies. The EFCC and ICPC marked the day with activities across the country. They include Rivers State, Kogi State, Gombe State, Sokoto State and Benue State.
Daily Trust reports that the EFCC had last year announced that it was working to get the former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, extradited to face the law in Nigeria, alleging that the United Kingdom government failed to prosecute her despite the evidence against her and the fact that she had been living in the UK since 2015. Magu said the former minister is being accused of misappropriating oil funds amounting to $20bn.