By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, attributed the rising security challenges in Africa to those who profit from illegal financial activities.
Consequently, the president charged the intelligence community and security agencies to tighten the noose against illicit flows,
In a keynote address at the opening session of the 16th Conference of the Committee of Intelligence and Security Services of Africa, CISSA, in Abuja, Buhari said development and stability on the African continent had been undermined by illicit outflows estimated at about $60 billion annually.
He said: “Frankly, we may never know the true extent of the damage. Estimates, however, suggest that African countries lose over $60 billion annually due to illicit financial outflows, a staggering amount for a continent in dire need of development finance.
“Corroborating this figure, a United Nations report on ‘Illicit Financial Flows and the Problem of Net Resource Transfers from Africa: 1980-2009,’ observed that during the period 1980 to 2009, between $1.2 trillion and $1.4 trillion was taken out of Africa. This figure is half of the current Gross Domestic Products of all the countries of Africa.”
He said the theme of the conference, “Illicit Financial Outflows from Africa and its impact on National Security and Development,” was timely, urging stakeholders from the 52-member intelligence community to create a template of risk factors and actionable strategies and give priority to examining the links between crime and instability on the continent.
President Buhari also challenged the conference to put measures in place to ensure terrorists and criminals were denied access to financial systems.
“Criminals and their collaborators cheat the system through various practices, including trade mispricing, trade mis-invoicing, tax abuse and evasion, as well as money laundering.
‘’Several unfair commercial agreements and illegal resource extraction by multinational companies, in cahoots with their local collaborators, also create routes for illicit financial outflows.
“As partners in the fight against crime and insecurity, you know that terrorist networks, organized criminal syndicates of drugs, arms and human traffickers and sundry hostile non-state actors are actively undermining the security and stability of our countries,’’ he said.
Buhari said a firm and unwavering action would be required to bring threats under control, noting that “any evasion of rules and regulations in ways that aid corruption in its various manifestations, including illicit financial outflows, must be vigorously fought and defeated.”
He said: “My role as African Union’s Anti-Corruption Champion brought me closer to appreciating more the devastating impact of corruption and illicit financial outflows on our continent.
“I am, therefore, pleased that this conference will boost the sense of urgency that we collectively have about this devastation and raise our response capacity at operational levels. In Nigeria, we have risen to the challenge.
‘’The fight against corruption remains at the core of our efforts to accelerate national development. We have recorded successes, even though the perpetrators are not giving up and are trying to fight back.”
In his remark, Chairman of African Union Commission, Musa Faki Mahamat, said terrorism, radicalisation, sponsored by illicit flows, continuously affect growth on the continent, while ethnicity and religious diversities had been exploited for political gains.
Mahamat, who was represented by the African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security, Amb. Smail Chergui, said the internet had been used as a valid platform for recruitment of people into criminal activities, noting that terrorists also use sophisticated technology like drones.
In his welcome address, Director-General of Nigerian Intelligence Agency, NIA, Ambassador Ahmed Rufai Abubakar, said putting an end to the menace of illicit financial outflows and other security challenges was the focus of the session.