President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday in Paris, France, called for stringent actions against perpetrators of illicit financial flows.
He warned that continuous impunity will encourage more pilfering of countries’ resources to the detriment of poor and vulnerable populace.
Speaking at the first edition of the Paris Peace Forum, held on the sidelines of the Centenary of Armistice Day, President Buhari said Nigeria had strengthened its laws and institutions to fight corruption, fast-track recovery of stolen assets and punish offenders, urging more commitment from governments and international institutions.
The President delivered his statement on “Illicit Financial Flows (Iffs) and Corruption: The Challenge of Global Governance’’ during the event, attended by about 70 world leaders and governments.
“We must crack down on safe havens for corrupt assets. I also advocate sanctions by professional bodies against transactional middlemen (lawyers, bankers, brokers, public officials, etc.) who facilitate Illicit Financial Flows.
“I would like to reiterate that the Government of Nigeria remains open and is ever willing to continue to identify and share experiences and strategies to give life to the ideas that will lead to winning the fight against corruption,’’ the President said.
He noted that illicit financial flows pose a risk to the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as many countries grapple with the challenge of gathering resources to improve their Human Development Index, while a few privileged individuals continue to explore the weaknesses in financial systems.
“Our experience in Nigeria is that financial crimes, such as corruption and fraudulent activities, generate enormous unlawful profits which often prove so lucrative that the threat of a jail term is not sufficient to deter perpetrators.
“A more powerful deterrent is to ensure that profits and assets generated from illicit financial flows and corruption are recovered and returned to countries of origin.
“This is not to under-estimate the value of strong institutions. It only indicates that asset recovery represents significant deterrence compared to the traditional focus on obtaining conviction by the law enforcement agencies of the countries of origin,’’ Buhari said.
The president explained that tremendous progress had been achieved through the enactment of global instruments, noting that some fundamental technical issues remain unresolved.
“These revolve around the formulation of policy and regulatory frameworks that cut across different jurisdictions. We must not lose sight of the role played by secret companies, banks and law firms, all too often based in developed economies and their related offshore centres.
“Recent studies reveal that flaws in the global financial system enable corrupt individuals to hide details of their financial dealings under the noses of governments and law enforcement agencies. This underscores the need to urgently address the issue of Mutual Legal Assistance, as well as continental legal frameworks, in the context of safe havens for illicit transfers,’’ he said.
He disclosed that the Whistle-Blowing policy had facilitated recovery of billions of naira from corrupt persons, which had been redirected to the development of critical infrastructure and programmes that will benefit all Nigerians and realisation of the SDGs.