Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has blamed the rising security challenges in Africa on sponsorship by those who profit from illegal financial activities.
As a way out of the menace, he stressed the need for security agencies in the continent, especially the intelligence community, to tighten the loop against illicit financial flows.
In a keynote address at the opening session of the 16th Conference of the Committee of Intelligence and Security Services of Africa (CISSA), Buhari said development and stability in African had been undermined by illicit outflows estimated to be about $60 billion annually.
“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 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 of all the countries of Africa,’’ he said.
He described as timely the theme for the conference: “Illicit Financial Outflows from Africa and its impact on National Security and Development,” urging stakeholders from the intelligence community of the 52 African countries to create a template of risk factors and actionable strategies and give priority to examining the links between crime and instability on our continent.
He also challenged the conference to put measures in place that will ensure terrorists and criminals were denied access to financial systems.
“Criminals and their collaborators cheat the system through various practices, including trade mis-pricing, trade mis-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, organized criminal syndicates of drugs, arms and human traffickers and sundry hostile non-state actors are actively undermining the security and stability of our countries,’’ he added.
Buhari further stressed that firm and unwavering action will be required to bring 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.’’
President Buhari commended CISSA, which was established in Nigeria in 2004, for its consistency in networking for 15 years, admonishing that the future goals of curbing illicit flows will not be easy, and would require robust efforts and resolute commitment by individual services in order to lay the solid base for the collaborative efforts to address the daunting challenges.
Chairman of African Union Commission, Musa Faki Mahamat, said terrorism, radicalisation, sponsored by illicit flows, continuously affect growth on the continent, while ethnicity and religious diversities had been exploited for political gains.
Represented by the African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security, Amb. Smail Chergui, he said the internet had been used as valid platform for recruitment of people into criminal activities, noting that terrorists also use sophisticated technology like drones.
Director General, National Intelligence Agency, Amb. Ahmed Rufai Abubakar, said conservative estimates suggest that, cumulatively, Africa lost well over $1 trillion in over five decades, adding that Africa loses more through illicit financial outflows than it gets in aid and Foreign Direct Investment.
Quoting World Bank reports, he said poverty in sub-Saharan Africa had been on the rise, noting that illicit financial flows weaken the capacity of African states to meet govezrnance expectations, stifle economic growth and infrastructural development and limit investment in education, health care and agriculture.