By Terhemba Daka
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday called for stringent measures against perpetrators of illicit financial flows, including crackdown on safe havens, warning that the continued impunity encourages more pilfering of resources and impoverishing of citizens.
Speaking at the inaugural Paris Peace Forum in France, the president said Nigeria had strengthened its laws and institutions to fight corruption, fast-track recovery of stolen assets and punish offenders, urging more commitment from governments and foreign institutions.
Buhari spoke on “Illicit Financial Flows and Corruption: The Challenge of Global Governance” at the event, attended by 70 world leaders.His words: “We must crackdown 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 identify and share experiences and strategies to give life to the ideas that will lead to winning the fight against corruption.” He noted that illicit financial flows pose a risk to the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as many countries grapple with the challenge of mobilising resources to improve their human development index while a few privileged individuals continue to explore the weaknesses in financial systems.
Buhari added: “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.”
The president urged world leaders and global institutions to be 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 national action plans, to actualise beneficial ownership and transparency as well as enhance the capacity of financial intelligence units (FIUs).