The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, has said that Nigeria has recovered and ensured the return of more than $700 million stolen funds within the last 4 years.
This is as he also pointed out that developing countries in Africa lose over $148 billion to corruption annually partly due to Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs).
This disclosure was made by Malami, in an address at the International Conference on IFFs and Asset Recovery organised by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
The Minister, who was represented at the conference by the Senior Special Adviser to the President on Justice Sector Reforms, Barr. Juliet Ibekaku-Nwagwu, expressed worries that IFFs have become rife, growing at 20.2% annually in Africa because of weak national and regional capacity to stem the tide.
Malami expressed regrets over the illicit movement of huge funds out of Africa which he said has resulted in underdevelopment and insecurity across the continent. He said: “Nigeria, through proactive and collaborative efforts with other countries has recovered and ensured the return of over $700 million from the United States, the United Kingdom, 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.
No doubt, the impact of such criminal flow of funds means lack of health and education services, low levels of growth, high level of poverty and lack of infrastructure in many African countries.”
The ICPC Chairman, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, in his welcome address, noted that the effect of IFFs on developing countries in Africa was huge and emphasized the need to tackle the menace, which falls under the mandate of the Commission.
He said: “Estimates of the quantum of IFFs lost globally varies, but it is generally agreed that a significant proportion of the loss is suffered by developing countries. African countries are particularly affected by loss through IFFs thus depriving the continent of much-needed resources for development.”
Also speaking at the conference, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Ambassador Gabriel Aduda, said the Ministry was working assiduously to ensure the return of stolen funds and assets to Nigeria.
Onyeama said IFFs was responsible for many of the societal ills and underdevelopment the country is grappling with, adding that the Federal Government has put in place measures to block illicit outflows of funds.
He said: “Illicit Financial Flows deny developing countries of vital resources that belong to them; resources that should have been spent on their development priorities. It reduces tax revenues, hinders development endeavours, undermines constituted authorities and threatens the stability and sustainable development of all affected states.
IFFs also provide the financial network that supports terrorist activities, fuels conflict and leads to internal displacement and refugees conditions, divert money from public priorities and hampers government effort to mobilise domestic resources.
The most effective deterrent remains ensuring that proceeds of IFFs are recovered and returned to countries of origin. It is for this reason that the government of Nigeria will continue to call on leaders whose countries are the main destination for IFFs to take concrete steps to prevent and stop the receipt of such funds into their countries, assist in tracing, freezing, seizing and returning illicit assets and its proceeds, already in their countries.”
The Minister reiterated that Nigeria will not succumb to any stringent condition as it fights to ensure the return of funds and assets stolen from the country by corrupt people.
Illicit financial flows hamper economic development in Nigeria and other developing or underdeveloped countries across the globe.