By Michael Eboh
ABUJA— The Federal Government, yesterday, described as immoral and daylight robbery, the actions of some countries who are custodians of stolen funds from Nigeria, stating that most of these countries were putting in place hurdles to frustrate the recovery of the funds.
This was even as the Federal Government also stated that it was following the rule of law in the sanction of MTN over alleged illegal importation of funds from Nigeria.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyema, stated this in Abuja at International Conference on combating illicit financial flows, IFF, and enhancing asset recovery for sustainable development organised by Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, PACAC.
Onyema also lamented the hurdles faced mainly by developing countries in the repatriation of stolen funds from some western countries.
Specifically, he stated that in its attempt to recover stolen funds from Switzerland, the country was confronted with harrowing experiences, which saw some percentages of the looted fund paid to companies and individuals in Switzerland.
He said: “We got some money back from Switzerland, but my God, when you look at the details, I was shocked and extremely angry at the process of recovery. If you should see the percentage of the money that eventually came back to us; that was paid out to all kinds of institutions in Switzerland — to lawyers, to this, to that, percentages of huge sums of money. I said this is daylight robbery that these countries are perpetrating and of course playing on the fact that we are not United States.
“This is something that we would keep harping on and mentioning wherever we have the opportunity that these countries would have to do a lot more, because at the end of the day, if not, they are condoning huge theft and accessories after the fact of crime.
“They say Nigeria is fantastically corrupt, but look at what those other countries are doing in encouraging corruption, keeping those assets for their own benefits.”
FG committed to tackling IFF — Osinbajo
Also speaking, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo stated that illicit financial flows are of concern to Africa because of their negative impact on the development of governance, adding that the processes through which IFFs take place undermine governance because their interest is to skip the obligation of citizenship, abuse public trust and break the law.
According to Osinbajo, resources lost to IFF could otherwise, have been used to drive Africa’s development, noting that lost tax revenues and private investments could have helped prevent austerity, provide jobs and infrastructure and pay for vital social services including education and health.
He said: “Above all, we must remain committed to using the resources acquired from blocking illicit financial flows or data recovered there from, for promoting development and advancing the interest and welfare of our people, including by achieving the SDGs.
“We remain committed in Nigeria to tackling IFFs, such as tax evasion, money laundering and the proceeds of smuggling and corruption. We are fully conscious that this requires transparency, financial probity and the upholding of due process in public procurement amongst others.”
MTN sanction follows rule of law
Speaking in the same vein, a member of the PACAC, Mr. Femi Odekunle, accused some countries, especially developed countries and their institutions of actively facilitating and reaping enormous profits from the depth of massive amount of money taken away illegally from developing countries. He said: “This reflects the issue of MTN, taking billions of dollars away from this country illegally and because of the political will of this administration, the regulatory agencies, like the CBN has started to act.
“Again, we are not doing anything by force, we are going by the rule of law. The company has been fined and at the same time it sort to go to court and challenge the ruling.”