President Muhammadu Buhari has called on the intelligence community in Africa to tighten the loop against illicit financial flows, just as he attributed rising security challenges to sponsorship by those who profit from illegal financial activities.
The president gave the task at the opening session of the 16th Conference of the Committee of Intelligence and Security Services of Africa (CISSA) in Abuja on Thursday.
Buhari observed development and stability on the African continent had been undermined by illicit outflows estimated to be about 60 billion dollars annually.
He said: “Frankly, we may never know the true extent of the damage.
“Estimates, however, suggest that African countries lose over 60 billion US dollars 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 dollars and 1.4 trillion dollars was taken out of Africa.
“This figure is half of the current Gross Domestic Products of all the countries of Africa.’’
Buhari noted that the theme for the conference, “Illicit Financial Outflows from Africa and its impact on National Security and Development,’’ was most timely.
He urged 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.
The president also challenged the conference to put measures in place that would 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, organised 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.
He said firm and unwavering action would 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.
“My role as African Union’s Anti-Corruption Champion brought me closer to appreciating more the devastating impact of corruption and illicit financial outflows on our continent.
“I am, therefore, pleased that this conference will boost the sense of urgency that we collectively have about this devastation and raise our response capacity at operational levels.
“In Nigeria, we have risen to the challenge. The fight against corruption remains at the core of our efforts to accelerate national development.
“We have recorded successes even though the perpetrators are not giving up and are trying to fight back.’’
Buhari commended CISSA, which was established in Nigeria in 2004, for its consistency in networking for 15 years.
He admonished 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.
The Chairman of African Union Commission, Mr 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.
The chairman, represented by the African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security, Amb. Smail Chergui, said the internet had been used as valid platform for recruitment of people into criminal activities.
According to him, terrorists also use sophisticated technology like drones.
While commending Buhari’s integrity and dedication to fighting corruption, Mahamat said some political transitions on the continent, with 14 elections holding next year, pose a challenge to development.
The Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, Amb. Ahmed Rufai Abubakar, said conservative estimates had suggested that cumulatively, Africa lost well over one trillion dollars in over five decades.
He added that Africa loses more through illicit financial outflows than it gets in aid and Foreign Direct Investment.
While quoting World Bank reports, Abubakar noted that poverty in sub-Saharan Africa had been on the rise.
According to him, illicit financial flows weaken the capacity of African states to meet governance expectations, stifle economic growth and infrastructural development, and limit investment in education, healthcare and agriculture.