By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA â€” Director-General of the Inter-governmental Action Group Against Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing in West Africa (GIABA), Dr Abdullahi Shehu, yesterday in Abuja disclosed that Nigeria came top on the list of countries that has failed to comply with anti-money laundering standards as set out by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Shehu who stated this at the anti-corruption and Financial Crimes Summit that ended in Abuja yesterday, further said among 12 West African countries that were subjected to a mutual evaluation programme by GIABA, Nigeria was found wanting in the area of terrorist financing in Africa.
GIABA is a specialised agency under ECOWAS that monitors cases of money laundering and terrorist financing among member states as well as deals with predicate offences like fraud, corruption, drug trafficking and other economically motivated crimes.
Recommending that the Federal Government evolve strategies towards encouraging alternative means of transaction by public officers in the country, he equally advocated the speedy implementation of non-conviction based asset forfeiture and stolen state asset recovery initiative, which he said would help to combat corruption and financial crimes in Nigeria.
He further bemoaned the fact that public officers in the country prefer to stash their stolen money abroad instead of re-investing it in the country, stressing that though his agency will offer technical assistance to Nigeria, it could not go the extra mile of recovering such stolen assets for it.
According to him, â€œNigeria no doubt is a great nation with great resources, but the truth remains that this country today ranks high among countries with prevalent cases of money laundering in the world, considering the mutual evaluation report recently released by GIABA.
â€œI donâ€™t think that absence of policy framework is the issue, rather the problem I think lies in the absence of strong political will by public officers in this country.
â€œThe EFCC cannot be said to have done enough until it not only prosecute all the political criminals in this country irrespective of their status, but also prove that the money recovered from them was directed towards economic empowerment.
â€œGIABA cannot recover stolen assets for Nigeria, we can only help to prevent the spillage of such asset and we are recommending that more emphasis be placed on commiserate punishment for offenders despite their status in the society.