Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami

…How illicit finance flows out of Nigeria —Finance Minister

By Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief & Ikechukwu Nnochiri

The Federal Government recovered  $700 million looted funds in the last four years, even as it just received the £4.2 million taken from Delta State’s treasury by an ex-governor of the state from the United Kingdom.

The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, who disclosed this during a virtual international conference on Illicit Financial Flows, IFF, yesterday, said:  “Nigeria, through proactive and collaborative efforts with other countries, has recovered and ensured the return of over $700 million from the US, the UK, Bailiwick of Jersey, Switzerland, and Ireland in the past four years.

“We are still working with our international partners and other countries to ensure that all Nigeria’s assets that are identified are recovered.”

The minister said the government was using different mechanisms, including voluntary asset declaration process approved by President Buhari in Executive Order 008.

“In this way, we believe that if Nigerians or Nigerian entities come forward to declare their assets wherever located, the government will apply a levy against those assets and also bring the assets within the tax regime.

“We are also considering different ways to apply non-conviction based procedures in asset recovery to make it less cumbersome and reduce the time spent in court,” he added.

Malami also said the government of the United Kingdom had repatriated to Nigeria, the sum of £4.2million looted by associates and family members of a convicted former governor of Delta State.

He confirmed receipt of the looted fund in a statement signed yesterday by his Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations, Dr. Umar Gwandu.

The AGF said the money was credited into the designated Federal Government’s account, with the naira equivalent value of the amount as of May 10, 2021.

He had earlier signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the repatriation of the loot, on behalf of the Federal Government.

“The development was a demonstration of the recognition of reputation Nigeria earns through records of management of recovered stolen Nigerian assets, in the execution of public oriented projects,” Malami said.

The AGF had on May 3, pledged that his office and other relevant government agencies would keep the general public informed once the loot was received and confirmed.

He revealed that transfer of the fund to Nigeria was temporarily delayed by documentation processes.

“Documentations with the banks in different countries often take longer than anticipated.

“We anticipated two weeks but we are not in control of the banks,” Malami had stated, assuring that the federal government would ensure that the fund was successfully transferred to Nigeria.

At the illicit financial flow conference, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, had in her address, gave an  insight into how illicit finance flowed out of Nigeria and other African nations, saying illegal export of foreign exchange, corruption, abusive transfer pricing, mis-invoicing of services and  under-invoicing of natural resources provided avenues for money to leave the continent illegally.

She said that unless checked, the practice would continue to undermine Africa’s development efforts.

In the message delivered on her behalf by the Permanent Secretary, Shehu Aliyu Shinkafi, the minister said corporate organizations were responsible for about 65 per cent of IFFs in Nigeria through various forms of financial infractions and tax evasion.

She said:   “In Nigeria and across the African continent, we continue to suffer various forms of IFFs, including  tax evasion and other harmful tax practices, the illegal export of foreign exchange, abusive transfer pricing, trade mispricing, mis-invoicing of services,  illegal exploitation and under-invoicing of natural resources, organized crimes, and corruption.

READ ALSO: UK schools receive £30m illicit funds mostly from Nigeria ― Report

”The effects are being especially felt given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant deepening of fiscal constraints and public financing gaps.

“In particular, commercial activities (particularly aggressive tax avoidance and tax evasion, through trade mis-pricing, abusive transfer pricing, profit shifting and tax arbitraging) account for approximately 65% of illicit financial flows across Africa.

“Illicit Financial Flows, IFFs, unless checked, would continue to significantly erode domestic revenues, enable corruption, threaten economic stability and sustainable development, divert money from public priorities and hamper Government’s efforts to mobilize domestic resources and recover better.”

In his remarks, the Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, Prof Bolaji Owawanoye, said illicit financial flows constituted a major threat to the actualization of the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, or Agenda 2030.

According to him, his team at the ICPC would continue to work towards ensuring inter-agency collaboration to check corruption in the country and help recover stolen assets, in the interest of the public.

In his goodwill message, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, charged leaders of IFF destination countries to take every necessary step to stop criminals from finding safe haven in such countries.

The message, which was delivered by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Amb. Gabriel Aduda, also dwelt on the need to ensure the return of IFF assets back to their countries of origin and be utilized for the good of the people.

He said:  “Nigeria is working to strengthen institutions to prevent our resources from flowing out illegally. Nevertheless, by far, the most effective deterrent remains ensuring that the proceeds of illicit financial flows are traced, recovered and returned to countries of origin.

”In other words, ability to retrieve the stolen assets has the ability to deter perpetrators, rebuild the confidence of the citizenry, and compensate for the damage caused by such crimes.

“It is for this reason that the Government of Nigeria will continue to call on leaders whose countries are the major destinations for illicit financial flows to take concrete steps to prevent and stop the receipt of such funds into their countries, and to assist in tracing, freezing, seizing and returning illicit assets and its proceeds, in their countries.

“Let me also add that any imposition of tough conditions for returning proceeds of illicit origin, in the face of the current financial difficulties and the economic hardship and recession occasioned by the rampaging impact of COVID-19 pandemic, would be counter-productive.

”I, therefore, encourage representatives of countries of destination to consider waiving, or reducing to the barest minimum, the processes and costs of such recovery.”

The minister, who described IFF as an international problem that required a global solution, said:  “Let me further emphasize at this point, that illicit financial flow is an international problem that must be addressed globally.”

Vanguard News Nigeria

Subscribe to our youtube channel


Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.