Buhari called for more commitment from governments and international organisations, stressing illicit financial flows pose a risk to the realisation of the SDGs
Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday lamented that sanctions in the form of jail terms on perpetrators of illicit financial flow are no longer providing sufficient deterrent in the fight against slush cash dealings.
Buhari, however, advocated that more stringent actions should be taken against perpetrators of illicit financial flows, including crackdown on safe heavens and return of stolen assets to their countries of origin.
The Nigerian President spoke while delivering a speech on “Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) and Corruption: The Challenge of Global Governance” at the Peace Forum attended by about 70 world leaders in Paris, France.
The Forum was organised by the French Government and a number of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), based on the understanding that international cooperation was imperative to tackling global challenges and ensuring durable peace.
Buhari warned that continuous impunity will encourage more pilfering of countries’ resources to the detriment of the poor and vulnerable populace.
He said that it was against this background that Nigeria has strengthened its laws and institutions to fight corruption, fast-track recovery of stolen assets and punish offenders.
Buhari, however, called for more commitment from governments and international organisations across the world, stressing 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 to loot nation’s commonwealth.
He said “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 underestimate 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.
“As we take stock of the strengths and weaknesses of domestic, regional and international mechanisms against Illicit Financial Flows, I seize this opportunity to recall the Global Declaration Against Corruption made in London in 2016 and our commitment thereto.
“Among other things, the Declaration encapsulates our collective commitment to the principles of Open Government Partnership, especially the National Action Plans to actualise beneficial ownership transparency, enhance the capacity of Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs), reinforce Independent Reporting Mechanisms and support the activities of the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes. We should remain resolute in our commitment to the aforementioned goals.
“Similarly, 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,” he said.
He urged the world leaders and global institutions to remain resolute on the Global Declaration Against Corruption made in London in 2016, which encapsulates the collective commitment to the principles of Open Government Partnership, especially the National Action Plans to actualize beneficial ownership transparency and enhance the capacity of Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs).
Buhari also called reinforcement of the Independent Reporting Mechanisms and support for the activities of the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes.
According to him, tremendous progress has been achieved through the enactment of global instruments, adding that some fundamental technical issues have remained unresolved.