President Muhammadu Buhari has drawn a nexus between the security challenges facing Nigeria and other African countries and laundered funds, especially from the continent and proffered measures to check the ugly development.
He said that billions of dollars laundered out of the continent to the external community were being used to destabilise Nigeria and most African nations caught in the web of the growing insecurity that has taken a serious toll on the development of the region.
To stop the menace, Buhari charged African security agencies, especially the intelligence community, to tighten the noose on illicit financial flows.
The president, who stated this yesterday in Abuja, attributed the rising security challenges to sponsorship by those who profit from illicit financial activities.
In a keynote address he delivered during the opening session of the 16th Conference of the Committee of Intelligence and Security Services of Africa (CISSA), President Buhari lamented that the development and stability of the African continent had been undermined by illicit outflows estimated at about $60 billion annually.
Buhari, in a statement issued by his media aide, Mr. Femi Adesina, said: “Frankly, we may never know the true extent of the damage. Estimates, however, suggest that African countries lose over $60 billion annually due to illicit financial outflows, a staggering amount for a continent in dire need of development finance.
“Corroborating this figure, a United Nations (UN) Report on ‘Illicit Financial Flows and the Problem of Net Resource Transfers from Africa: 1980-2009,’ observed that during the period 1980 to 2009 between $1.2 trillion and $1.4 trillion was taken out of Africa. This figure is half of the current Gross Domestic Products (GDP) of all the countries of Africa,’’ he said.
The president said that the theme of the conference: “Illicit Financial Outflows from Africa and its Impact on National Security and Development’’ was timely and urged the stakeholders from the intelligence community of the 52 African countries to create a template of risk factors and actionable strategies as well as give priority to examining the links between crime and instability on the continent.
Buhari further challenged the conference to put measures in place that will ensure that terrorists and criminals were denied access to financial systems.
According to him, “criminals and their collaborators cheat the system through various practices, including trade mispricing, trade miss-invoicing, tax abuse and evasion, as well as money laundering. Several unfair commercial agreements and illegal resource extraction by multinational companies, in cahoots with their local collaborators, also create routes for illicit financial outflows.
“As partners in the fight against crime and insecurity, you know that terrorist networks, organised criminal syndicates of drugs, arms and human traffickers and sundry hostile non-state actors are actively undermining the security and stability of our countries.’’
Buhari said that firm and unwavering actions would be required to bring the threats under control, noting that “any evasion of rules and regulations in ways that aid corruption in its various manifestations, including illicit financial outflows, must be vigorously fought and defeated.
“My role as African Union (AU’s) Anti-Corruption Champion brought me closer to appreciating more the devastating impact of corruption and illicit financial outflows on our continent.
“I am, therefore, pleased that this conference will boost the sense of urgency that we collectively have about this devastation and raise our response capacity at operational levels. In Nigeria, we have risen to the challenge. The fight against corruption remains at the core of our efforts to accelerate national development. We have recorded successes even though the perpetrators are not giving up and are trying to fight back,’’ he said.
The president commended CISSA, which was established in Nigeria in 2004 for its consistency in security networking for 15 years, stressing that the future goals of curbing illicit flows would not be easy. He, however, proposed robust efforts and resolute commitment by individual services to lay a solid base for the collaborative initiatives to address the daunting challenges.
The chairman of AU Commission, Musa Faki Mahamat, said that terrorism and radicalisation sponsored by illicit flows, continuously affect the continent’s growth, while ethnicity and religious diversities had been exploited for political gains.
Represented by Ambassador Smail Chergui, the AU commissioner for Peace and Security, Mahamat in his remarks, said that the Internet had been used as valid platform for the recruitment of people into criminal activities, noting that terrorists also use sophisticated technology like drones.
Mahamat, who commended President Buhari for his integrity and dedication to fighting corruption, said that some political transitions on the continent, with 14 elections holding next year, pose a major challenge to development.
Africa Lost $1trn To Illicit Financial Flows In 5 Years – NIA DG
The director-general of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ambassador Ahmed Rufai Abubakar, said that conservative estimates suggest that cumulatively, Africa lost over $1trillion in over five decades. He added that Africa loses more through illicit financial outflows than it gets in aid and Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs).
Quoting World Bank reports, Abubakar said that poverty in sub-Saharan Africa had been on the rise, noting that illicit financial flows weaken the capacity of African states to meet governance expectations, stifle economic growth and infrastructural development and limit investment in education, healthcare and agriculture.
We Must Get Nigeria Out Of Insecurity Now – Jonathan
Meanwhile, former President Goodluck Jonathan has asked Nigerian leaders to come together and get rid of the insecurity ravaging the country.
Jonathan stated that insecurity bee persistent in the country and, therefore, charged the leaders come together for a conversation on how to end the killing of defenceless Nigerians.
“We must get the country out of insecurity,” Jonathan said in responses to questions during the public presentation of a book: “Not By Might Not By Power,” selected messages to the world written by the Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh.
The event, which was also used to launch Nicholas Okoh Foundation, was attended by eminent Nigerians including former head of state, Gen. Yakubu Gowon.
Jonathan told journalists that every generation has its challenges, adding that men of power must come together to address the current situation.
He said: “If things are wrong, leaders, including me, we should be talking. And there is so much conversation going on to solve this problem.
“Every generation has its problem. In fact, my generation is almost gone. It’s for your generation and we must all come together to solve the problem. The security challenges have been with us for long, but we know that whatever the challenges are, we must come together and addressed them.
“The political leaders in the country and traditional leaders are talking. And we must get the country out of insecurity,” Jonathan said.
Okoh Warns Against Formation Of Ethic Militias
In his speech, Okoh cautioned against ethnic nationalities forming their militia groups to stop the killings.
“I have no solution because I am an individual. But we try to ask the appropriate authorities to do what they should do, and that is the government.
“I strongly believe that individuals should not take security initiatives. Because if individuals take their security initiatives, by this way, I mean that we organise our own militias, the country will be destroyed and everybody will perish,” Okoh, who will retire as the primate of the Anglican Church next year, said.
He continued: “But the government that has the constitutional responsibility to maintain security should do so and quickly too before it gets out of hand. That is my appeal.”
On why he had been speaking truth to power, Okoh, a retired military officer, who joined the Anglican Church and rose to the highest office, said: “It depends on what you believe to be your ministry. If your ministry represents God, don’t lie. You might be poor; you must summon courage and speak the truth because it is the truth that heals. It is the truth that will define. If the person you are speaking to realises that you are lying or deceiving him, he will not help,” the clergyman said.
Okoh advised young pastors not to be in a hurry, noting that many of them were in a hurry to be noticed.
“If you are with God, hear from God before you speak. Don’t dish out your imagination and said, ‘God has said.’ Make sure you receive a message from God and you are in tune with Him (God),” Okoh said.
The cleric said that his new foundation would help him in ministry even after leaving as primate in the coming year.
“I want to continue with my work as a man of God. The book is about yearly situation and the solutions I provided. At this point, I decided that the two volumes should be published. There are other books unpublished. There is a gap between what we think and what we do. We want our children and those following us to know that we have not arrived yet. We must back it up with moral integrity,” Okoh declared.