The Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, and an anti-corruption Chief, Mr Akere Muna, on Monday said banks and other financial institutions warehousing illicit funds should be made to face the consequences of the criminal conduct.
Both said this in separate addresses at the “Conference on Promoting International Co-operation in Combating Illicit Financial Flows and Enhancing Asset Recovery to Foster Sustainable Development’’ in Abuja.
According to Osinbajo, the transfer of illicit funds cannot happen without a “handshake’’ between the countries where the funds are transferred from and financial institutions and countries to which the assets are transferred.
“There is no way it will happen without some form of connivance between international banking institutions and those who transfer these funds.
“So we must work at somehow de-legitimising those kinds of transactions and criminalising them, just as Mr Akere Muna said.
“So that banks and financial institutions that are engaged in this are actually called out and are made to face the consequences of engaging in criminal conduct.
“If that isn’t done, we are not likely to get very far.’’
Osinbajo stated that there must be ways of finding how to tackle the collaboration and connivance between those involved in illicit funds transfer.
He urged the international community to be involved in a lot of bi-lateral agreements and conventions that would ensure that financial institutions were not given a free run.
“Financial institutions are key to all of this and whatever we do we must hold financial institutions accountable,’’ he said.
The acting president advised Africa and developing countries to realise that it was their responsibility to ensure that they not only traced the illicit funds but also made sure that they were returned.
He said it was easy to talk about how difficult it was to get the money back but noted that the reluctance of the countries involved in acting was not encouraging.
Osinbajo said that countries should ensure that everyone was as outraged about corruption and illicit funds as was done with drugs money and terror financing.
“If we don’t ensure that people are as outraged as we are, we are not going to get very far no matter what we say.
“Every country will protect its financial institutions as best as it can as long as it is not necessarily suffering any major damage; they probably will not cooperate,’’ he added
Osinbajo said Africa must insist and emphasise the point in every forum to call out un-co-operative institutions to recognise that the problem was a major issue that must be resolved.
He observed that “when corruption secures safe heaven it fights back’’, adding that corrupt people had engaged media trials to de-legitimise the anti-corruption battle.
The Chair of Anti-Corruption Conference Council, Muna, said that transparency was key in tracking illicit funds.
The former Vice Chair of Transparency International said it was morally wrong for banks and financial institutions to keep stolen and frozen funds.
Muna called for the creation of escrow account to warehouse stolen funds for easy access to the owner-countries.
“We need to have a system where the money moves from the handler to a third party; this makes recovery easier,’’ he said.
Muna also criticised the way people saw corruption in Africa as a way of life, adding that it would not help in the anti-corruption drive.
The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami, said Nigeria had signed accords to enable investigation, tracking and return of stolen assets and needed global support in those directions.
Malami noted that the commitment to curb corruption was rooted in all programmes of the Muhammadu Buhari administration.
According to him, the return of the country’s stolen assets will help the nation to get out of recession fast.