TI, ICPC, NFIU Seek End to $17bn Illicit Financial Flows

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• Canvass stiffer regulation of BDCs by CBN • Urge the president to assent to amended CAMA

Gboyega Akinsanmi

Transparency International (TI), Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, among others, have called on the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to work out more stringent measures to end $17 billion illicit financial flows.
The anti-corruption bodies have asked the CBN to regulate the operators of the Bureau de Change (BDCs), noting that they are crucial in reporting formal and informal cash transactions, including diaspora remittances, which account for large financial inflow to Nigeria.

The bodies made the call in a communiqué at the third anti-money laundering conference held in Abuja recently with focus on how to explore new frontiers in Nigeria’s anti-money laundering regime through the effective use of data.

The conference, which was convened by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) in collaboration with TI, was attended by representatives from public sector, corporate bodies and civil society organisations.

Alongside the ICPC, NFIU and CISLAC, the communiqué was signed by the Corporate Affairs Commission, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, Special Control Unit against Money Laundering, Code of Conduct Bureau and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), among others.

In the joint communiqué they issued after the conference, the anti-corruption bodies said with $17 billion, Nigeria annually accounted for about 34 percent of $50 billion illicit financial flows in Africa, a situation that should be ended to attain the sustainable development goals (SDGs).
It added that suspicious financial transactions “are increasingly detected but not adequately investigated. Money launderers and their enablers in and outside Nigeria trade with impunity and without consequences.”

It equally observed that the BDCs “are crucial in reporting formal and informal cash transactions, including diaspora remittances, which account for large financial inflow to Nigeria. The Central Bank of Nigeria and other dedicated institutions are urgently required to regulate the sector.”

The communiqué, therefore, urged the CBN to improve its financial and regulatory oversight in combating money laundering and corruption through banks.
The communiqué urged the National Assembly “to prioritise the passage of all pending bills that will catalyse the anti-money laundering campaign especially the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA). The President should expatiate the enactment of this crucial legislation without delays.

“The National Assembly must assert greater supervision and control over the financial institutions and their oversight institutions including the anti-corruption agencies to investigate and to reduce the volume of illicit financial flows and their damage to the national development,” it added.
Also, the communiqué asked President Muhammadu Buhari to “sign the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) to facilitate establishment of a beneficial ownership register accessible to the public by the Corporate Affairs Commission.”

Despite rapid improvement in reported suspicious transactions, the communiqué lamented that rate of prosecution, conviction and asset confiscations on money laundering charges remained disappointing in Nigeria and in Africa.

The communiqué emphasised the need for all anti-corruption agencies in Nigeria and Africa to transit from manual to digital technology to fight money laundering effectively, noting that digitalisation “makes anti-money laundering implementation more efficient and result oriented.”

Within the period covered by the report, the communiqué said pre-election and election years had the highest number of suspicious transaction reports, saying the nexus between money laundering and political parties’ corruption was undisputable.

It observed that availability of reliable data “is critical for effective anti-money laundering measures. Relevant public and private organisations should measure their business practices against international benchmarks as set by Financial Action Task Force and other global standard setters.
“Declaration of assets owned by senior officials and Politically Exposed Persons as required by the Code of Conduct Act must be enhanced, data made public and suspicious wealth investigated by the law enforcement.

“There should be promotion of transparency and the involvement of civil society groups and citizens’ participation in the utilisation and management of confiscated and seized assets,” the anti-corruption bodies demanded.

The communique explained the CBN should improve its financial and regulatory oversight in combating money laundering and corruption through banks.
It added that the conversion of usable information into credible intelligence “should be improved by the anticorruption agencies. The rate of investigations, convictions and asset confiscation on credible AML evidence must be improved and made public;

“The chain of the Criminal Justice system (detection, investigation, prosecution and conviction) should be improved upon by relevant agencies, especially the EFCC, NFIU, Nigeria Police Force/Interpol and Defence Intelligence.

“Declaration of assets owned by senior officials and Politically Exposed Persons as required by the Code of Conduct Act must be enhanced, data made public and suspicious wealth investigated by the law enforcement.

“There should be promotion of transparency and the involvement of civil society groups and citizens’ participation in the utilization and management of confiscated and seized assets.”