Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, New York
President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday night in New York said Nigeria lost an estimated US$157.5 billion to illicit financial flows for eight years, between 2003 and 2012.
According to him, illicit financial flows deplete Africa’s internally generated revenues, foreign exchange earnings, reduce tax revenues, drain natural resources, facilitate corruption and stunt private sector development.
He warned that his administration will ensure purveyors of corruption who he described as enemies of the people, have no place hide.
Buhari spoke at the High-Level National Side-Event “Promotion of International Cooperation to combat illicit financial flows and strengthen good practices on asset recovery and return to foster sustainable development” organised by the African Union Development Agency and New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AUDA-NEPAD) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on the margins of the 74th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
Quoting from the 2014 Global Financial Integrity Report, at the event which was attended by President of Ethiopia, Sahlework Zewede and President of Zambia, Edgar Lungu, governors, ministers and members of international community, Buhari noted that such massive loss of assets resulted in dearth of resources to fund public services or to alleviate poverty.
“That is why our government has made it a war we intend to win. We will give all it takes to ensure there is no hiding place for purveyors of corrupt practices who are truly enemies of the people. This is why, as Africans, we have no choice but to break the back of corruption.”
Acknowledging lack of sufficient capital and corruption as impediments to socio-economic development of the continent, the President emphatically restated his administration’s anti-corruption campaign.
President Buhari harped on the need to strengthen good practices on asset recovery and return.
“In the last five years, our government has made significant progress to curb corruption. We have recovered millions of dollars stolen from our country.”
He noted, however, that there were still lot of other funds stuck in foreign bank accounts due to international laws, different jurisdictions and justice systems that make it difficult for repatriation. Citing tax avoidance as another form of illicit financial flow, he quoted the Tax Justice Network and the International Monetary Fund to have estimated over US$200 billion per year as being lost by developing countries when multinational enterprises do not pay taxes in the countries where they made the profit.
“This amount is significantly higher than the annual development aid received by these countries which are estimated to be about US$143 billion,” he said.
He commended organisers of the meeting for their shared commitment to root out corruption from our continent.
“I am motivated by the belief that if we join hands, we can bequeath to our children an Africa that is not defined by corruption.”
Earlier in her welcome address,
National Coordinator/Chief Executive Officer at New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Nigeria, Princess Gloria Akobundu, affirmed that Africa resources were being siphoned illegally.
She said going by the 2017 report, the continent has lost about $86 billion to illicit financial flows which is about 6.1 percent of its gross domestic product.
“Illegal exploitation of Africa’s natural resources leads to deprivation and impoverish local communities.