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Disturbed by the frustrations and long delays in tracking illicit financial transactions, occasioned by “secrecy jurisdiction” and “offshore financial centres,” President Muhammadu Buhari Tuesday said his administration would push for the abolition of banks’ secrecy jurisdiction amongst others, as the war against corruption enters the “Next Level.”
The practice enables banks to shield people suspected of financial crimes to either undermine laws, or escape rules and regulations of other countries, while relying on “banks’ secrecy.”
Buhari, while noting that the anti-corruption fight was not an end in itself but an instrument not only to fight poverty but a means to restore the right order of things, urged African countries to collaborate more on tackling the menace.
President Buhari speaking at the “National Democracy Day Anti-Corruption Summit,” with the theme, “Curbing Electoral Spending: A Panacea to Public Corruption,” at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja, said his administration would “Press for a crackdown on safe havens for corrupt assets, abolishing of bank secrecy jurisdictions and tax havens on the continent and beyond.”
The President said his administration would use outcome of the interaction as the basis for a more concerted effort to strengthen the capacity of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other anti-corruption agencies by providing additional material, organisational and logistical support.
Buhari, who assured that he would close existing legislative loopholes, facilitate collaboration with the judiciary, and strengthen the criminal justice system, also promised to enforce asset declaration by public office holders and ensure sanctions by professional bodies against lawyers, bankers, brokers, public officials, and other individuals facilitating corrupt practices.
Other actions to be taken by the government include comprehensive support and protection to whistle-blowers, witnesses and victims of corruption, adoption and formulation of the policy of ‘naming and shaming’ all those who engage in corrupt practices while encouraging and honouring those who do not.
Others include to “educate, mobilise and encourage Nigerians at the grassroots level to take ownership of the fight against corruption, as well as insist on the unconditional return of looted assets kept abroad and further strengthening of international cooperation through information and mutual legal assistance.”
Rwandan President, Paul Kagame in his keynote address, called for transparency, public accountability in public policy formulation and execution, even as he noted that refusal to fight corruption is even more dangerous than confronting the menace.
Kagame, who stated that “this is the fight that can be won”, said “where ever corruption has become a way of life, it is because their leaders have made it that way as the rich and powerful are the major beneficiaries of corruption.”
He also urged African leaders to create an economic balance between the haves and the have nots, noting that “in that way, corruption can be reduced.”
He listed four factors in corruption: “Culture, responsibilities, accountability and effectiveness”
Kagame who noted that corruption did not need centuries to eradicate, said the purpose of transparency was not to impress others, but to make our societies better.
“Without transparency it is not possible to earn the trust if others. “Trust is declining in Africa, leaving a cynical citizenry who are easily bought over by opposition,” he said.
Kagame said that fighting poverty “is too small for Africa, we want to create values, not just fight corruption or poverty.”
The Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, in his welcome address, disclosed that through diligent and consistent efforts, the commission had secured 1,207 convictions in four years and five months from 2015, stressing that the momentum against corruption must be strengthened to rid the nation of the menace.
The summit, themed: “Curbing Electoral Spending: A panacea to Public Corruption”, according to Magu, was organised by the Commission to proffer strategic solutions to the scourge of corruption, especially in relation to electoral malpractice characterised by vote buying and voter inducement in Africa.
Magu said that since the inception of the Buhari administration, the EFCC had been very tremendous as it had recorded multiple convictions and recovered property running into billions of naira.
He gave a breakdown of convictions as follows, 2015: 103 convictions; 2016: 195 convictions; 2017: 189 convictions; 2018: 312 convictions, and 406 convictions from January to May, 2019.
Tony Ailemen & Innocent Odoh, Abuja