From Benjamin Babine
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, has urged the United States, Switzerland and other destinations of illicit financial flows (IFFs) to take stern and urgent steps towards halting the vice and repatriating such funds.
The minister, who made the appeal on Tuesday in a speech at a conference on recovery of IFFs, organised by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), stated that IFFs have the capacity to destroy the efforts of government in building the economy.
‘IFFs unless checked, will continue to significantly erode domestic revenues, enable corruption, threaten economic stability and sustainable development, divert money from public priorities and hamper Government’s efforts to mobilize domestic resources and recover better,’ Mrs Ahmed said.
‘In Nigeria and across the African continent, we continue to suffer various forms of IFFs, including tax evasion and other harmful tax practices, the illegal export of foreign exchange, abusive transfer pricing, trade mispricing, misinvoicing of services, illegal exploitation and underinvoicing of natural resources, organised crimes, and corruption.’
Appealing to countries like the United States, Switzerland, etc, who are the main destination for IFFs, the minister stressed that they must take urgent steps to assist in combating the scourge. She said they must prevent the inflow of illicit funds, freeze or seize assets already in the country, and ensure that illicit funds are repatriated.
‘Here in Nigeria, we have taken proactive steps towards the recovery of stolen assets, in part through engagement with multilateral stakeholders; bilateral agreements on the return of stolen assets with several critical destination countries including the United States of America (USA) and Switzerland; and the establishment of an independent Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) within the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
‘Moving forward, it is important to deepen efforts and enhance cooperation within government, and with the domestic private sector, civil society, professional organisations, and trade unions. Furthermore, we must work within our countries and across the region as whole to build institutional capacity on international taxation issues.’
Also speaking at the conference, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, disclosed that government will be considering different ways quickly recover stolen funds including applying non-conviction based procedures in asset recovery.
‘We using different mechanisms, including voluntary asset declaration process approved by President Buhari in Executive Order 008. In this way, we believe that if Nigerians or Nigerian entities come forward to declare their assets wherever located, the government will apply a levy against those assets and also bring the assets within the tax regime,’ Malami said.
‘We are also considering different ways to apply non-conviction based procedures in asset recovery to make it less cumbersome and to reduce the time spent in court. The focus of law enforcement should be to move towards contemporary developments in international law – one of which is to move against assets that are illicit with or without a criminal conviction, especially where there is a voluntary declaration, a plea bargain or where the person in question has absconded.’