* Says FG secures over 500 convictions, N45bn forfeitures in 2 yrs
Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), on Thursday, disclosed that the Federal Government will, in the next two weeks, resume the prosecution of some alleged terrorists, including Boko Haram members.
Fagbemi, who made the disclosure at the opening of the 40th Technical Commission and Plenary Meeting of the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA), pointed out that the Federal Government is very much alive to the issue and is finalizing efforts to ensure a smooth and successful trial.
“Efforts are on to resume the trial of those categories of people. And I think, in the next two weeks, it will be a different story. We are conscious of that issue.
“Facilities are being put in place. Apart from the regular physical mode of trial, we are working on ways to ensure that virtual trial can also be conducted,” the minister said.
According to him, the adoption of virtual trial is aimed at preventing delay, adding that the government is not shying away from its responsibility of providing funds for this purpose.
Meanwhile, the AGF harped on the importance of regional and international cooperation in order to effectively combat money laundering, terrorist financing and the financing of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
He said: “Our ability to tackle the most complex criminal activity, money laundering and violent terrorist attacks is predicated on the capabilities of our supervisory, law enforcement and prosecutorial authorities, and the outcomes that we are achieving point to the need for greater investment in human and technical resources and improved training and capacity development.
“In 2022, we increased the budgets for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Independent Corrupt Practices Commission and National Drug Law Enforcement Agency by almost 95%. We now have over 1,500 officers dedicated to investigating and prosecuting money laundering across these three agencies alone.
“These sustained investment has seen increased numbers of investigations, prosecutions and convictions consistently since 2021 with 5,118 investigations, 1,509 prosecutions and almost 500 convictions secured resulting in over N45 billion of illicit proceeds seized.
“We have also made progress in tackling the financing of terrorism and in particular, I am pleased that we have identified and designated a number of individuals and entities linked to terrorist activity and seized funds linked to them.”
Fagbemi observed that the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) has become a global model and has achieved the outcomes envisaged by the passage of its enabling legislation in 2018 which established it as an independent, autonomous unit.
He stated that as GIABA moves towards the conclusion of the second round of mutual evaluations and begins preparations for the third round, members take time to reflect on how they have contributed to strengthening their national AML/CFT/CPF frameworks.
“I believe that the FATF standards are merely the minimum benchmark that we must all aspire to in order to address the serious criminal offences that are prevalent in our countries and across our region. Our legal frameworks, policies and institutional capacities must aspire to put in place the foundations necessary to achieve the vision of the Africa 2063 Agenda, of an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens, representing a dynamic force in the international arena.
“As we survey the results of this round of mutual evaluations, it is indeed clear that more needs to be done across our sub region, to enhance effectiveness based on FATF standards,” he added.
In a goodwill, President of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr Omar Touray, who commended GIABA and its Director General for the agency’s”laudable performances” in the recent exit of GIABA from the FATF Effectiveness Improvement Programme (EIP), said that the “commission will continue to provide the needed support to GIABA to sustain the gains of the EIP and address other outstanding issues in the EIP Action Plan, including the recruitment of the Director of Evaluation and Compliance, as well as adequately prepare for its next round of mutual evaluation”.
He urged the region not to relax as money laundering, terrorism financing and other organized crimes threaten regional peace and sustainable development.
Touray therefore called on member states to continue to take steps to effectively address the strategic deficiencies identified in their AML/CFT systems.
Also speaking, GIABA’s Director General, Edwin Harris, said that the gathering is an attestation that the collective effort in the fight against money laundering, terrorist financing and other forms of transnational crimes urgently requires coordination and cooperation with oneness of purpose in protecting the region’s economies and preventing other adverse activities to national and regional security.
“GIABA as a FATF Styled Regional Body and Specialized ECOWAS Institution is responsible for safeguarding the economies of its member states will continue to work with both its members and partners in delivering on its mandate in a more meaningful way using the collective expertise and shared vision of member states in strengthening their AML/CFT regimes and increasing advocacy to political leaders on the urgency of demonstrating political will that trickle down at operational and policy levels for a more effective and robust fight against transnational crimes.
“Results from accessed countries thus far published from the second-round show progress has been made in terms of technical compliance across member states, however, fundamental major improvements are required in terms of effectiveness.
“In this regard, it becomes a more pressing need that the secretariat works with member states in enhancing effective compliance that will lead to more actions that create deterrence,” he said.