By Ebuka Onyeji
With Africa estimated to be losing over $80 billion annually through illicit financial flows, the Nigerian government has called for international cooperation to combat the trend and strengthen practices on asset return.
The call was made by the Director-General of the Directorate of Technical Aid Corps, Pius Osunyinkami.
He spoke at the Second High-Level United Nations Conference on South-South Cooperation held in Buenos Aires, Argentina between March 20 and 21.
Mr Osunyinkami led the Nigerian delegation to the conference, according to a statement Tuesday by his special assistant, Shehu Mohammed.
The director-general told member countries of the South-South Cooperation to take concrete steps at tackling illicit financial flows as a strategy to tackle poverty and accelerate growth among the developing nations.
The South-South Cooperation consists of developing countries in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean.
“Illicit financial flows distort the growth and development of countries, drain foreign reserves, undermine genuine investment and eliminate resources that would have been used for poverty alleviation”, Mr Osunyinkami said while making a presentation on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari, according to the statement.
The official said ending illicit financial flows is one of the most cost-effective strategies for facilitating the timely implementation of the 2030 Agenda and other development priorities of the affected countries.
“I, therefore, call on all member states and corporate entities participating in this conference to commit to scaling up international cooperation to combat illicit financial flows and strengthen good practices on assets return.”
For over a decade, Nigeria has been receiving in tranches, billions of stolen funds seized from the family of the late former head of state, Sani Abacha, by the Swiss government in a rigorous asset return process.
While drumming support for the South-South and other similar cooperations, Mr Osunyinkami said Nigeria had been providing volunteer assistance to various countries in need of relevant expertise.
He said the gesture has “challenged the view that Africa was only at the receiving end.
“This scheme and other such schemes in Africa, have challenged the commonly held perception that Africa is only a recipient of aid. It is gratifying that Nigeria’s volunteer service has over the years made positive contributions to the socio-economic development of many African, the Caribbean and The Pacific Countries.
“Since the deployment of the first batch of volunteers in 1987, the scheme has sent tens of thousands of volunteers to over 36 countries, to bridge the human resource gap in the areas of education, judicial services, health care delivery, agriculture, engineering and public service.”
The official recommended that all international cooperation should respond to needs and support the development priorities of developing countries and economies in transition.