By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
An anti-corruption watchdog, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, alleged that $15.7 billion illicitly leaves Nigeria’s financial system annually.
The Executive Director, CISLAC, Auwal Ibrahim Rafsanjani, made the assertion in a report after a two-year project done in partnership with Transparency International, TI, titled ‘Turning Up The Pressure: Tracking Money Laundering through Multi-stakeholder approaches in ECOWAS Countries’, which also is a 2019 policy brief on ‘How Effective is Fighting Dirty Money In Nigeria? Assessing Preventive and Punitive Measures Against Laundering and Illicit Financial Flows: Effective Implementation of Compliance Measures.’
According to Rafsajani around $1 trillion illicitly leave developing countries through companies with hidden ownership according to the Financial Transparency Coalition.
Money laundering is defined as the act of passing the proceeds of crime, otherwise known as dirty money, through a cleansing system and thereafter, reintegrate into the economy as legitimate money.
He said: “Out of it, an estimated $15.7 billion pass through Nigerian financial system every year. Due to the size of the economy, integration with global economy and huge amounts of dirty assets, Nigeria has been constantly ranked amongst the 10 largest countries for illicit financial flows.
“Money laundering is an important strategy to channel corrupt proceeds for private gains but also to political allies to cement political influence.
“Available data suggests that s sizeable amount of Nigerian assets is stashed in foreign jurisdictions. According to the World Bank, UNODC Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (STaR) database, 33 grand corruption cases originate from or concern Nigeria. If all these financial volumes of cases are put together, Nigeria and Nigerian victims of corruption would receive $5 billion.”
“The drivers behind money laundering in Nigeria are multiple. Black market operators constitute a large population in Nigeria businesses such as bureau de change operators and estate developers.
“Weak anti-money laundering mechanisms for activities of financial institutions monitoring are not able or willing to prevent and contain money laundering. Non-compliance with international financial management standards developed by specialized international organizations is witnessed.
“Professionals such as lawyers, bankers, accountants, estate brokers, otherwise known as gatekeepers have often allowed culprits slip from the watchful eyes of the law through their services”, he alleges.
The CISLAC boss acknowledged that, “These and other money laundering facilitators are being addressed by the policies/regulations enacted by the FATF such as Know Your Customer principle, customer due diligence and other technical measures such as the United Nations Coalitions against Corruption, UNCAC, which has been ratified by Nigeria and serves as yard stick for development reviews and refinement of policies and strategies.
“Other measures being implemented include legislation through the National Assembly; policy decisions, like enactment of anti-corruption laws; use of technology I computation and payment of salaries; monitored banking transactions, through the Bank Verification Number, BVN, by banks, and the promotion of transparency and accountability mainly championed through civil society.”
Meanwhile, he suggested that “The strengthening of regulatory and law enforcement institutions are the foremost objective of the anti-money laundering regime. Important steps are taken to reinforce mutual legal assistance, asset recovery and recovered assets’ management.