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President Seeks Abolition Of Bank Secrecy, Tax Havens

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BY EJIKE EJIKE Abuja

To strengthen the federal government’s anti-corruption campaign, President Muhammadu Buhari has called for the abolition of banks’ secrecy regime and tax havens in Nigeria and the entire African continent.

He said that pursuit of the unconditional return of looted assets kept abroad was among strategies being adopted by his administration to tackle corruption in the country.

President Buhari stated this in Abuja yesterday during the Democracy Day Anti-corruption Summit organised by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFC) entitled “Curbing Electoral Spending: A Panacea for Public Corruption.

The president, who stated that the federal government will strengthen international cooperation through information and mutual legal assistance, noted that “we must henceforth see the anti-corruption fight not as an end in itself but as an instrument not only to fight poverty but a means to restore the right order of things.”

According to him, as the administration commences, “we are taking stock of progress made so far in the war against corruption, assessing what needs to be done and devising new strategies to address existing challenges.”

He added that, “I am pleased to inform you that this process has already started with the recent interaction between the Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption and all anti-corruption agencies in Nigeria. The outcome of the interaction, among others, shall serve as the basis for a more concerted effort by this administration to: strengthen the capacity of the EFCC and other anti-corruption agencies by providing additional material, organisational and logistical support;  close existing legislative loopholes, facilitate collaboration with the judiciary, and strengthen the criminal justice system, and enforce effective asset declaration by public office holders and ensure sanctions by professional bodies against lawyers, bankers, brokers, public officials, and other individuals facilitating corrupt practices.

Others, according to him, are ensuring comprehensive support and protection for whistleblowers, witnesses and victims of corruption; adopting and formulating the policy of “naming and shaming” all those who engage in corrupt practices while encouraging and honouring those who do not.

The president added that the government would “educate, mobilise and encourage Nigerians at the grassroots level to take ownership of the fight against corruption; press for a crackdown on safe havens for corrupt assets, abolishing of bank secrecy jurisdictions and tax havens on the continent and beyond; insist on the unconditional return of looted assets kept abroad and further strengthening of international cooperation through information and mutual legal assistance.”

Buhari continued: “We must henceforth see the anti-corruption fight not to end in itself but as an instrument not only to fight poverty but a means to restore the right order of things.

He stated that the government would henceforth ensure effective asset declaration by public office-holders and insist on enforcement of sanctions by professional bodies against lawyers, bankers and brokers indicted for corruption.

The president said that political corruption is merely an extension of larger corruption in the wider society, stressing that if we desire to curtail political corruption in public governance, then, corruption must also be fought in the wider society.

“This underscores the guiding principle and commitment of our administration. This commitment derives, as I once stated, from the fact that: Corruption runs completely counter to our shared values as Africans – the values of justice, the sense of fairness, law and order, equity and equality.  Corruption rewards those who do not play by the rules and also creates a system of patronage where the resources are shared out by a small elite, while the majority are trapped in poverty.

During the recently concluded election campaigns, I stated clearly that the major areas of priority during my second term in office as it was in my first term will be: security, economic improvement and fight against corruption. I remain committed to the fulfilment of these promises,” he said.

In his speech, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda noted that graft only thrived where it was accepted as a way of life, adding that the scourge must be tackled from the top to down.

He stated that many Rwandan officials went on voluntary exile while others pretended to be pro-democratic activists following his administration’s war against graft.

Kagame, who disagreed with the widely held notion that corruption was part of African culture, stressed that a research had shown that the beneficiaries of graft lived outside the continent.

The acting chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, said that the commission secured 103 convictions in 2015; 195 in 2016; 189 in 2017; 314 in 2018 and 406 between January and May 2019.

He lamented that the principles of democracy had been bastardised over the years, stressing that electoral spending by politicians was linked to voter inducement.

Magu said: “As we move to the next level of the war against corruption, the arena will certainly get tougher because we are determined to rid this country of corruption for the benefit of the current and future generations.”

Meanwhile, Kenya’s former anti-corruption boss, Prof. Patrick Lumumba, has said that the United States (US) and Europe have been part of Africa’s problems in tackling corruption as they were always ready to accept the proceeds of corruption from African leaders.

He also noted that corruption undermine the growth of Africa as the continent cannot survive with high level of graft.

He charged Nigerians to fight corruption morally as the EFCC has demonstrated that in the crusade against the vice, there are no sacred cows and the whole of Africa looks up to Nigeria to set the pace.

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