The acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, has decried pitfalls in fight against corruption in the country, saying advancement of science and technology have contributed in no small measure to the prevalence of corruption and movement of illicit funds across international borders in modern times.
Magu also said despite concerted effort by the Federal Government to retrieve looted funds over the year less than half of such funds have so far been recovered.
The EFCC chairman said this while speaking at a conference on: ‘Jurisdiction of International Criminal Court (ICC) and Cross Border Corruption/Illicit Asset Recovery’, organised by the Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) in Lagos.
Magu who was represented at the event by the Deputy Head of Legal of the commission, Anslem Ozioko, noted that, “Since the establishment of the EFCC, it has been making concerted effort to plug loopholes in financial crimes and champion the legislation of new laws or amendment of existing laws where there are militating lacunas.
“However, corrupt individuals within the society are also not relenting in their effort to develop new ways to stash their illicit funds beyond the reach of the anti-graft agency.
“The federal government of Nigeria since inception of the current democratic dispensation has been making unrelenting effort to trace and recover public funds that were looted under past administrations. It is almost 20 years that this effort started and government is yet to trace and recover half of the public funds looted over the years”, Magu said.
Speaking on the topic: “Situating jurisdiction of ICC over cross border corruption and illicit asset recovery”, rights activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Femi Falana, said no western nation could be relied upon to fight corruption.
He said: “We can’t do more for now, because the countries that are leading the war, the so-called international community, are the beneficiaries of corruption around the world.
“Forget what Transparency International (TI) publishes every year and we celebrate, particularly the media. How come TI only stigmatises the victim countries and not the receivers of stolen money?
“In our elementary Criminal Law, we all know that the receiver of stolen goods is as guilty as the person who stole the goods. So, if money trickling in from Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Venezuela, all over the world is stolen and invested in the United Kingdom – in fact London is now generally regarded as the headquarters of money laundering in the world, but nobody will agree that the British government is corrupt.
It is only Nigeria that Transparency International will stigmatise.
“We have a duty as victims of corruption to say ‘No to categorisation! You must also blame the countries that are receiving stolen money, because if there is no safe haven for this money, the looted wealth, at the very least, the stolen money will be invested here. They won’t take the money away.”
He further advised the Nigerian government and anti-graft campaigners not to expect help in this regard from the international community or governments.
“You are not going to get any collaboration, any cooperation from the government of western countries. The duty of civil society organisations in Africa is to link up with civil society organisations in the West and other parts of the world and see how such collaborations can expose their own governments,” Falana added.
In his welcome address, HEDA’s Chairman, Mr. Olanrewaju Suraj, noted that corruption with the attendant culture of impunity in developing countries threatens the ideals of plural democracy and violates the rights of large population of citizens to economic and social protection in meeting the minimum requirements of Human Development Index (HDI).
“Over the years, corruption cases with cross-border agents or collaborators have manifested in frustration posed by legal and jurisdictional hiccups which make prosecution and recovery of illicit monies and assets acquired through proceeds of corruption difficult and if not practically impossible to achieve”, he said.
Mr. Paul Hoffman, Director, Accountability Now, South Africa, delivered the Keynote address at the event
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