Country Head of the Inter-Governmental Action Group Against Money Laundering West Africa (GIABA), Timothy Melaye, has expressed the desire of the group to support the federal government in fighting money laundering and terrorist financing in the country.
Melaye, who disclosed this recently at a one-day on Policy Dialogue on Illicit Financial Flow in the Private Sector in Nigeria in Lagos, organised by Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) in partnership with Oxfam, said the need to fight terrorist financing money laundering have become imperative because the crimes are not just domestically organised, but trans-nationally syndicated.
He also noted that there’s need for the establishment of concrete laws that would not only prosecute the predate offence committed by criminals, but proceed on asset recovery and forfeiture.
He added that because these crimes are trans-nationally organised, it’s not a fight that each country can fight individually, noting that there must be collaboration, cooperation and coordination amongst countries to tackle these crimes.
Melaye explained that the federal government on its part has put in place the legal instruments especially with the anti-money laundering act 2011, adding that all other necessary laws have been so far passed, “sometimes they are so delayed or sometimes they take long, but eventually, we are passing those laws.”
Earlier in his remarks, CISCLAC Chief Executive Officer, Executive Director, Auwal Musa, said available data suggested that a sizeable amount of Nigerian assets is illicitly stashed in foreign jurisdictions.
He said, according to the World Bank/ UNODC Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (STaR) database, 33 grand corruption cases originate from or concern Nigeria. “If all financial volumes of these cases are put together, Nigeria and Nigerian victims of corruption would receive almost $5 billion.”
Musa added stated that around $1 trillion has illicitly left developing countries through companies with hidden ownership, according to the Financial Transparency Coalition. “Out of it, an estimated $15.7 billion passed through the Nigerian financial system every year.”
He added that due to the size of the economy, integration with the global economy and huge amounts of ‘dirty’ assets, Nigeria has been constantly ranked amongst the 10 largest countries for illicit financial flows.
According to him, “Recently, strategies such as strengthening regulatory and law enforcement institutions are the foremost objective to strengthen the anti-money laundering regime. Important steps are taken to reinforce mutual legal assistance, asset recovery and recovered assets’ management.
“Professionals such as lawyers, bankers, accountants, estate brokers otherwise known as gatekeepers have often allowed culprits slip from the watchful eyes of the law through their services. These and other facilitators of money laundering are being addressed by the policies/regulations enacted by the FATF such as Know Your Customer principle, customer due diligence and other technical measures such as the United Nations Coalition against Corruption (UNCAC) which has been ratified by Nigeria and serves as yard stick for development, reviews and refinement of policies and strategies.
“Other measures being implemented include legislation through the National Assembly; policy decisions, like enactment of anti-corruption laws; use of technology in computation and payment of salaries; monitored banking transactions, through the bank verification number (BVN) by banks, and the promotion of transparency and accountability mainly championed through the civil society.”
Musa added: “The Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) Bill, which upholds the autonomy of the agency, was signed into law and the Egmont group of financial intelligence units has lifted its suspension of the NFIU, during its 25th plenary in Sydney, Australia.
“The civil society organisations (CSOs) and the media are deeply involved in monitoring, reporting and interacting with relevant actors to create awareness and induce reforms, which have a potential to prevent and prosecute money laundering.
“However, the law enforcers have not been able to tackle the prosecution of money laundering. As witnessed on the Suspicious Transaction Records (STRs) which flags possible money laundering through the banking system, out of around 3500 STRs, there has been only one investigation in 2017 and no prosecution unfolded.”