Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, on Monday, said international banking institutions found culpable in the transfer of stolen funds from Nigeria to other countries should be prosecuted.
Osinbajo said this at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa in Abuja during the opening session of a three-day conference organised by Prof. Itse Sagay-led Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Federal Ministry of Justice and the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs.The theme was ‘Promoting International Co-operation in Combating Illicit Financial Flows and Enhancing Asset Recovery to Foster Sustainable Development.”
He said, “There is no way the transfer of these assets can happen without a handshake between the countries that they are transferred and the international banking institutions in the countries in which they are transferred; there is no way it will happen without some form of connivance.
“We have to look at somehow delegitimising those kinds of financial institutions and criminalising them, so that banks and financial institutions that actually engage in this are called out and made to face the consequences of engaging in criminal practices. If that isn’t done, we are not likely to go very far.”
Osinbajo said African countries should evolve ways of making nations that benefit from stolen funds to develop outrage against proceeds of corruption as much as they had against terrorism and drugs money.
He urged Nigerian law enforcement agencies to do more to curb illicit flows because most of the stolen funds leaving Africa were from Nigeria.
He lamented that more money was being stolen from Nigeria than it received from developed nations as grants.
“I was arguing with somebody about the fact that they were stopping certain funding, and he kept telling me Nigeria is no longer a poor country but now a mid-income earning country; so, they shouldn’t be giving us those kinds of aid.
“It was barely a week after that a large sum of money was found at the Kaduna airport and it was roughly about half of the money we were looking for.
“So, he sent me a text, telling me that the money has been discovered at the Kaduna airport. Of course, I didn’t reply him but when he persisted, I called him and asked if this was his own form of a joke.
“But clearly, it’s sometimes absurd that when we are asking for aid and so much money is being stolen; so, we ourselves must take responsibility and ensure we keep talking about this,” Osinbajo said.
He said, “If you look at the anti-corruption fight in Nigeria, there is a major fight back in the media.
“There is a media war between people fighting corruption and those behind the stolen funds. It is called media trial. I don’t know what that means.
“If you discover for instance large sums of money in an air-conditioned room, there is no where it will not make news anywhere in the world.
“So, this whole idea of trying to legitimise corruption is definitely being fuelled and sponsored by those who have these resources, who have stolen funds.
“Unless we see it as a problem that can bring down our system, then we will never be able to fight. I hope we will be able to advance this with other African countries.
“In Nigeria for instance, where corruption fights back so eloquently, that government itself, if not careful, can be overwhelmed.”
Sagay said “Most of the financial assets pillaged from state coffers find their way out of the country as part of the illicit financial flows.
“The immediate impact is that Nigeria is deprived of the capacity to realise the sustainable development goals of the United Nations officially known as ‘Transforming Our World’.
“These goals include no poverty; zero hunger; good health and well-being; quality education; clean water and sanitation; and affordable clean energy.
“None of these goals is affordable in a developing economy whose wealth is haemorrhaging and flowing to already developed societies.
“The concept note of this conference informs us that the annual flow of proceeds of criminal activity is estimated at US$1tn to US$1.6tn and that half of these flows come from developing and transitional countries.
“It is therefore vital that we, as a country and Africa as a continent, improve our capacity in understanding and stemming the illicit financial flows, this haemorrhaging, if we are to have a chance to meet our sustainable development goals or if we are ever to dream of transformation from third world to something better even by 2030.”