By Ikechukwu Nnochiri – Abuja
Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, ICPC, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, SAN, on Tuesday, maintained that illegal gold mining was responsible for the ranging violent crimes in Zamfara State.
The ICPC boss, who spoke at the 4th Annual public awareness lecture series on Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) regimes in West Africa, said there are established linkages between economic crimes and crisis in the region.
He said the illegal mining of gold in Zamfara state by “Nigerians and collaborators from the West African region and beyond”, “had gone on for years unabated”.
“Existing literature has established linkages between illegal natural resources exploitation and financing of arms conflict and promotion of organised crime, promotion of the drug trade and state capture, expansion of corruption and state capture, banditry/terrorism and kidnap for ransom, poverty, instability and lack of social safety net and modern slavery.
“West Africa needs to pursue a multi-track strategy to surmount the daunting challenges posed by economic and financial crimes. The fortune of generations yet unborn relies on the actions that we take today”, the ICPC Chairman added.
Meanwhile, earlier in his opening remarks at the event, the Director General of Inter-Governmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa, GIABA, Justice Kimelabalou Aba, said there was need for Nigeria to engage forensic examiners and auditors to help it to trace and recover proceeds of crime.
Justice Aba stressed that the primary mandate of GIABA was to, as an institution of ECOWAS, support its member states effectively to protect their economies from being misused and abused to launder the proceeds of crimes or finance terrorism in any form.
He said the aim of the lecture series which was held at Nile University in Abuja, was to incorporate students that were drawn from various tertiary institutions in Nigeria, into the war against money laundering and terrorism financing.
“Today’s event is yet another golden opportunity for us in GIABA to strengthen our collaboration with the academia in our commonly shared responsibility of tackling the twin problems of money laundering and terrorist financing (ML/TF) in Nigeria and West Africa region.
“Money laundering and terrorist financing constitute major obstacles to human development and present significant obstacles to equal economic and social opportunities, especially for honest and hard-working people.
“In many other countries, these crimes have adversely impacted national security and development in Nigeria, including the erosion of hard-earned reputation for individuals, corporate organizations, and even countries.
“While investors take calculated risks, they try to avoid investing in countries classified as high risks for money laundering and terrorist financing.
“The predicate crimes’ cumulative effects that lead to money laundering are the pauperisation of the poor and the enrichment of the crooks, systemic corruption, erosion of the rule of law and the integrity of the financial system, and the political silencing of those who demand what is right in society.
“In GIABA, we consider the school system as a critical stakeholder in this endeavour.
“Educational institutions such as yours are the orchards that nurture the future human fruits of a nation – many good and bad people in society today pass through the school system, and the system would have influenced both.
“As the foremost socializing institution in the society after the family, the school system should do more to deliver future good leaders for the society – leaders than can be trusted to deliver development and good governance for their people and not under development and misery.
“I also wish to call on you to consider introducing and promoting courses on anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism in order to build future anti-money laundering and anti-corruption professionals in the country.
“The country needs forensic examiners and auditors that can help trace and recover proceeds of crime wherever they may be located in the world”, he added.