Alex Enumah in Abuja

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has called on world leaders to treat Illicit Financial Flows (IFF) the same way they treat drug trafficking, human trafficking and terrorism in order to tackle the problem that has been impeding development in Nigeria and Africa.

Osinbajo, in addition, urged that proper sanctions be meted out to countries that have not been cooperating in the fight against IFF.

He pointed out that the huge amount of money stolen annually from Africa could have prevented poverty, provide necessary infrastructure for development, quality education for the citizenry, amongst other social benefits.

He made the call Tuesday in Abuja while declaring open a two-day International Conference on Combating Illicit Financial Flows and Enhancing Asset Recovery for Sustainable Development.

The conference which is the second to be organised by the Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption (PACAC) in conjunction with the African Union, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Justice and the Federal Inland Revenue Service, among others, is aimed at finding ways of improving sanctions and enforcement mechanism for perpetrators of illicit financial flows and other acts of corruption.

The Vice President noted that a lot of resources that would have driven development in the country were stashed abroad. He therefore called on world leaders to ensure the immediate repatriation of these stolen funds as a way of redressing the situation.

“African countries need to find resources to establish relevant architecture for tackling illicit financial flows.

“We must also note that even though the role of prevention cannot be overstated in the fight against corruption generally, it is important that those who engage in acts of corruption and illicit financial flows are adequately sanctioned.

“In my speech at last year’s conference, I stated that we must make it a national and international call and a call for other developed and developing countries to have the same outrage for drugs, terrorist financing for illicit financial flows. We must emphasise at every point and call out financial institutions that are not cooperating. They must be sanctioned”, he said.

While recalling the international collaboration that saw the repatriation of Nigeria’s $321m from Switzerland, Osinbajo, however remarked that Africa’s efforts at stemming IFF depends largely on their capacity to prevent and repatriate illicit financial flows.

He said Nigeria remains committed in her pursuit of funds illegally taken away from the country as well as ensuring that recovered funds are channeled into developmental projects.

“This administration has prioritised asset recovery and the government has been able to recover some stolen assets from within Nigeria and outside Nigeria, with the priority to invest the resources on policies that will ensure sustainable development”, he said.

On his part, Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, stressed the need to promote physical transparency in the conduct of government business, adding that the whistleblower policy introduced by the present government has enhanced the fight against corruption in the country.

He urged Africa to do everything possible to curtail illicit financial flows, noting that it is very cumbersome to recover those funds once they have been taken away to those ‘safe havens’.

Onyeama disclosed that even after Switzerland agreed to return $321 Abacha loot, Nigeria paid so much in terms of legal fees and others before the money was returned.