Jail terms are no longer enough to stop illicit financial flow, President Muhammadu Buhari said yesterday.
According to him, stringent actions should be taken against perpetrators of illicit financial flows, including crackdown on safe havens and return of stolen assets to countries of origin.
Buhari was delivering his statement on “Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) and Corruption: The challenge of global governance’’ at the Peace Forum attended by about 70 world leaders in Paris, France.
The Forum was organised by the French Government some of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). It was based on the simple idea that international cooperation is key to tackling global challenges and ensuring durable peace.
Buhari warned that continuous impunity will encourage more pilfering of countries’ resources to the detriment of poor and vulnerable populace.
Nigeria, he said, has strengthened its laws and institutions to fight corruption, fast-track recovery of stolen assets and punish offenders.
He called for more commitment from governments and international organisations.
Buhari said illicit financial flows posed a risk to the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as many countries grapple with the challenge of gathering resources to improve their Human Development Index while a few privileged individuals continue to explore the weaknesses in financial systems.
He said: “Our experience in Nigeria is that financial crimes, such as corruption and fraudulent activities, generate enormous unlawful profits which often prove so lucrative that the threat of a jail term is not sufficient to deter perpetrators.
“A more powerful deterrent is to ensure that profits and assets generated from illicit financial flows and corruption are recovered and returned to countries of origin.
“This is not to under-estimate the value of strong institutions. It only indicates that asset recovery represents significant deterrence compared to the traditional focus on obtaining conviction by the law enforcement agencies of the countries of origin.
“As we take stock of the strengths and weaknesses of domestic, regional and international mechanisms against Illicit Financial Flows, I seize this opportunity to recall the Global Declaration Against Corruption made in London in 2016 and our commitment thereto.
”Among other things, the Declaration encapsulates our collective commitment to the principles of Open Government Partnership, especially the National Action Plans to actualise beneficial ownership transparency, enhance the capacity of Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs), reinforce Independent Reporting Mechanisms and support the activities of the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes. We should remain resolute in our commitment to the aforementioned goals.
“Similarly, we must crack down on safe havens for corrupt assets. I also advocate sanctions by professional bodies against transactional middlemen (lawyers, bankers, brokers, public officials, etc.) who facilitate Illicit Financial Flows.
“I would like to reiterate that the Government of Nigeria remains open and is ever willing to continue to identify and share experiences and strategies to give life to the ideas that will lead to winning the fight against corruption,” he said
Buhari urged the world leaders and global institutions to remain resolute on the Global Declaration Against Corruption made in London in 2016, which encapsulates the collective commitment to the principles of Open Government Partnership, especially the National Action Plans to actualise beneficial ownership transparency and enhance the capacity of Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs).
The President is scheduled to meet Nigerians living in France today.