According to a statement on Thursday by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, the President made the call on Wednesday in New York while addressing participants at the High Level Media Launch on “Illicit Financial Flows and the Fight against Corruption: Curbing the Existence of Safe Havens – the Role of Africans in the Fight against Corruption.”
The event was organised by the NEPAD/APRM Nigeria on the margins of the ongoing 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly.
The President was also said to have enjoined the Africans in Diaspora to support measures against “Safe Havens” for illicit financial outflows from the continent.
Buhari described corruption as a “cancer” which he said required global efforts to contain.
He recalled that the negative impact of corruption on the continent informed the “resolve of African Heads of State and Government to remain committed to the fight against corruption,” and the declaration of 2018, as the African year of combating corruption with the overriding theme: Winning the Fight Against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation.
He expressed his appreciation to his fellow African leaders for the honour bestowed on him as the African Union Anti – Corruption Champion to lead the continental War Against Corruption in 2018 and beyond.
The President noted that the change agenda of his administration “has overhauled, revitalised as well as institutionalised the machinery for an out and out fight against corruption and its agents, with a particular focus on illicit financial flows.”
Buhari, while acknowledging that the social and economic costs of corruption and illicit financial flows are massive, and have continued to stunt the development of Africa, cited a 2015 study by an African Union Panel led by Thabo Mbeki which estimated $50bn illicit financial flows out of the continent every year.
“According to the report, about $2.5bn of the $50bn of Illicit Financial Flows was in respect of commercial activities.
“It is obvious that the continent still battles with grand corruption at the highest level, with Safe Havens, opaque systems in many recipient countries and the outright willingness of some advanced countries to harbour stolen funds from Africa,” he said.
The President listed some of the negative impacts of illicit financial flows out of the continent to include draining of foreign exchange reserves, reduction of tax/revenue collection, poor investment inflows and escalation of poverty.
He noted that these “nefarious practices are being perpetrated by some of the 60 international tax havens and secret jurisdictions with thousands of disguised corporations, shell companies, anonymous trust accounts, fake charitable foundations, money laundering and transfer pricing mechanisms.”
Observing that efforts were now being made by African leaders to checkmate these ills and ensure greater transparency and accountability in government business, the Nigerian President said, “One of the measures necessary, if we are to make any headway is to bring in laws, regulations and policies that encourage transparent financial transactions, as well as implementing measures that would mitigate the incentives that facilitate illegal outflows from the continent.”
He recalled that during the January 2018 AU Summit, he pledged to “organise African Youth Congresses against Corruption, in order to sensitise and engage our youth in the fight against corruption; mobilise African Union member states to implement African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption; and advocate for the strengthening of the criminal justice system across Africa through exchange of information and sharing best practices in the enforcement of anti-corruption laws.”
On the measures taken at the domestic level to curb corruption in Nigeria, Buhari said, a mechanism had been put in place “for budget implementation and monitoring as well as assessing the impact on the lives of the citizens.”
“The Federal Government had successfully commenced implementation of a whistle blowing programme and so far tens of millions of Dollars have been recovered; as part of the global initiative, Nigeria has joined the Open Government Partnership having been committed in 14 areas which are categorized into four thematic areas as follows; Promoting fiscal transparency; Access to information under FOI Acts; Anti-Corruption and Asset disclosure and Citizens’ Engagement and Empowerment.
“The above measures have not only assisted in alleviating fears of foreign investors but have also attracted billions of Dollars in Portfolio investments since April, 2017,” Buhari added.
The President also noted that the “enforcement of the Bank Verification Number (BVN) has helped in no small measure to identify and curb the deep-rooted corrupt practices by looters of government revenue with multiple accounts.”