President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday in New York called on Africans in the Diaspora to come up with suggestions on how to curtail the menace of corruption on the African continent.
He made the call while addressing participants at the High Level Media Launch of “Illicit Financial Flows and the Fight against Corruption: Curbing the Existence of Safe Havens – the Role of Africans in the Fight against Corruption’’.
Mr Femi Adesina, the President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, in a statement in Abuja on Thursday, said that the event was organised by NEPAD/African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) Nigeria on the margins of the 73rd Session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly.
Buhari, who also urged Africans in the Diaspora to support measures taken against the creation of safe havens for illicit financial outflows from Africa, described corruption as a “cancer’’ which required global efforts to contain.
He recalled that the negative impact of corruption on the African continent informed the resolve of African Heads of State and Government to remain committed to the fight against corruption.
He said that it also led to the leaders’ declaration of 2018 as the African Year of Combating Corruption, with “Winning the Fight against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation’’ as its overriding theme.
He expressed appreciation to his fellow African leaders for the honour bestowed on him as the “African Union Anti-Corruption Champion’’ to lead the continental war against corruption in 2018 and beyond.
Buhari noted that the change agenda of his administration “has overhauled, revitalized as well as institutionalized the machinery for an out and out fight against corruption and its agents, with a particular focus on illicit financial flows.”
He stressed that the social and economic costs of corruption and illicit financial flows were massive, adding that the menace had continued to stunt the development of Africa.
He cited a 2015 study by an African Union (AU) Panel led by former South African President Thabo Mbeki, which stated that illicit financial flows totalling about 50 billion dollars came out of the continent every year.
“According to the report, about 2.5 billion U.S. dollars of the 50-billion-dollar Illicit Financial Flows was in respect of commercial activities.
“It is obvious that the continent still battles with grand corruption at the highest level, with safe havens, opaque systems in many recipient countries and the outright willingness of some advanced countries to harbour stolen funds from Africa,” he said.
The president listed some of the negative consequences of illicit financial flows from Africa as draining of foreign exchange reserves, reduction of tax revenue collection, poor investment inflows and escalation of poverty, among others.
“These nefarious practices are being perpetrated by some of the 60 international tax havens and secret jurisdictions, with thousands of disguised corporations, shell companies, anonymous trust accounts, fake charitable foundations, money laundering and transfer pricing mechanisms,’’ he said.
Buhari, however, noted that efforts were now being made by African leaders to check these ills, while ensuring greater transparency and accountability in government business.
“One of the measures that is necessary if we are to make any headway is to bring in laws, regulations and policies that encourage transparent financial transactions, while implementing measures that would mitigate the incentives that facilitate illegal outflows from the continent,’’ he said.
Buhari said that he pledged at the January 2018 AU Summit to organise African Youth Congresses against Corruption so as to sensitise and engage young Africans in the fight against corruption.
He, however, underscored the need for African countries to implement the AU Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption and strengthen criminal justice systems across Africa via exchange of information and sharing best practices in the enforcement of anti-corruption laws.
He said that as part of efforts to curb corruption in Nigeria, a mechanism had been put in place for budget implementation and monitoring as well as assessing its impact on the lives of the citizens.
The president said that the Federal Government had successfully commenced implementation of a whistleblowing programme, which had so far facilitated the recovery of millions of dollars.
Buhari said that as part of the global initiative, Nigeria had joined the open Government Partnership (OGP), having been committed in 14 areas that were categorised into four thematic areas.
“These are promoting Fiscal Transparency; Access to Information under the FOI (Freedom of Information) Act; Anti-Corruption and Asset Disclosure as well as Citizens’ Engagement and Empowerment,” he said.
According him, the measures have not only assisted in alleviating fears of foreign investors, but have also attracted billions of dollars in portfolio investments since April 2017.
Besides, Buhari said that the enforcement of the Bank Verification Number (BVN) had appreciably facilitated efforts to identify and curb the deep-rooted corrupt practices by looters of government revenue with multiple accounts.
He said that he had enlisted the support of multilateral institutions like the World Bank and IMF as well as security agencies and friendly nations to locate, recover and repatriate stolen assets.
“In the first quarter of 2016, I embarked on trips to the Middle East to sensitise their governments to the need to return stolen assets and hand over the looters for trial in Nigeria.
“In January 2017, Nigeria and UAE signed judicial agreements on extradition, transfer of sentenced persons and mutual legal assistance on criminal matters,’’ he said.
“In March 2016, the Federal Government and the Swiss Government signed a letter of intent on the restitution of illegally acquired assets forfeited in Switzerland,’’ Buhari added.
He said that under the agreement, the Swiss Government would repatriate 321 million dollars illicitly acquired. (NAN)