By Adedayo Akinwale
The Human Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) has said that following an intensive global research it conducted in collaboration with its international partners, spanning several months, it has been revealed that Nigeria lost at least $600 billion dollars to corrupt officials since 1960.
The Chairman of HEDA, Mr. Olanrewaju Suraju, disclosed this weekend in Abuja during an anti-corruption training programme titled, “Experts’ Training and Advocacy on Tracing and Recovery of illicit Funds and Assets.”
He said that the stolen funds were either kept abroad or invested in illicit assets, adding that the stolen funds are largely responsible for Nigeria’s poverty and underdevelopment.
Suraju stated: “The funds stolen are about $600 billion dollars. That is our finding. This amount is enough to build a new country from the scratch and turn around the social, industrial and economic infrastructure to meet global standards.”
“We have seen some highly-placed Nigerians who acquired assets that are not beneficial to the country. For us, it is important that we don’t limit the tracing and recovering of these assets alone to Nigeria but also internationally.
“It is already established that Nigeria is one of the countries with the highest number of citizens with assets in Dubai. If you go to the United Kingdom properties, there is rarely any governor from Nigeria that doesn’t have an asset in London and Dubai.
“It is high time we started the process of identifying some of these assets. In the UK, there is the Unexplained Wealth Order that can be used to identify and recover these assets. In Dubai, Nigeria has already signed Mutual Legal Assistance on Stolen Assets that deals with corruption and some of these things.”
Against this background, Suraju noted that it became imperative to empower the anti-corruption agents by providing them the tools and access to information that they could dig to find the beneficial owners of companies registered in any part of the world and assets domiciled in any part of the world.
He stressed the organisation’s readiness to engage the Code of Conduct Bureau (CBB) the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the national crime agencies in the UK to commence the process of the recovery of these assets.
Also, an expert and an official of the UK based Finance Uncovered,
Christian Erikson, said billions of pounds were laundered through the United Kingdom each year by international crime cartels.
He also revealed that 87,000 suspicious properties were currently owned by anonymous people in the UK.
On his part, Country Director, MacArthur Foundation, Dr. Kole Shettima, said poor Nigerians are the primary victims of corruption.
“The poor victims of corruption are the ones that lose their limps, their lives and their livelihood. It is time for us to rise and stop corruption to save Nigeria.”