By Yakubu Dogara
I must first and foremost use this medium to thank GIABA and other competent authorities on Anti-Money Laundering/Counter-Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) in Nigeria for providing me an opportunity to give this keynote address at this momentous occasion of the 28th plenary meeting of the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA) which undoubtedly serves as an umbrella of bringing together the best minds and experts on the subject of anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism.
I have no doubt in mind that Nigeria is happy to host this meeting particularly at this point when the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is wholly focused and effectively poised to deal with the issues of corruption, money laundering, insecurity, and terrorism in the country.
As you all are well aware, terrorism and illicit financial flow have become a major scourge and an issue of global concern. Repeated calls have been made for effective global collaboration to deal with the menace of terrorism, terrorists financing and money laundering. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), United Nations, the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and others have at different times created global frameworks to guide countries who are enjoined to pass relevant laws and take other counter measures to deal with individuals, entities and assets of money launderers and terrorist financers in their jurisdictions.
It’s difficult to imagine an organised terror activity without some form of financing. As a matter of fact terrorism feeds on money more than ideology. It may involve funds raised from legitimate sources, such as profits from legitimate businesses and charitable organizations as well as personal donations. In some cases criminal enterprises provide financing for terrorist activity: criminal sources, such as the drug trade, robbery, kidnapping, smuggling especially of weapons and other goods, extortion, and fraud. Terrorists adopt the techniques usually deployed by money launderers to evade the attention of relevant authorities and to help mask the identity of their sponsors and of the terrorists who may ultimately be the beneficiaries of the funds.
In moving their funds, terrorists may use the formal banking system, informal value-transfer systems or the oldest method of asset-transfer, the physical transportation of cash, gold and other valuables through smuggling routes. All these contribute to the complexity of dealing with the problem. Unfortunately, as complex as the war against these hideous crimes are, our generation cannot afford to loose the war otherwise bedlam will continue to spiral and spread its deathly blanket upon nations of the earth. It will take effective networking and the coming together of nations to be able to deal with this global scourge.
May I unequivocally reassure you that Nigeria is fully committed to complying with the global standards required of her by demonstrating political support to the relevant competent authorities in the country so as to deepen the anti -money laundering and combatting the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) culture in Nigeria.
The National Assembly will, when called upon for any legislative intervention to bring our system in tandem with global realities and requirements, do so with utmost sense of responsibility knowing the central role the subject matter of anti-money laundering and combatting terrorist financing play in the attainment of economic prosperity and global peace.
We must recognize the vital roles the agencies of government that are saddled with the responsibility of preventing and combating money laundering and terrorism play and pay due attention to their needs by making provision for adequate resources including the necessary legal framework to enable them function optimally.
Today, there is no gainsaying the fact that the narratives about the need for concerted effort to fight terrorism changed after the tragic incident of September 11, 2001 in the United States. Terrorist activity continues to be a major challenge for policymakers in both developed and developing countries. The magnitude of wanton destruction and loss of lives which terrorism leaves in its trail in most cases elicits universal reactions, such as revulsion, shock, condemnation, and uncertainty. The frequency of terrorist attacks in Africa has necessitated its recognition as a region warranting special counter-terrorism measures.
In particular, the Boko Haram in Nigeria has been associated with the death of numerous Nigerians and destructions of properties worth billions of Naira. This is in addition to the disturbing trend of illicit financial flows orchestrated by corrupt public officials who at different times abused public trust for personal gains thereby occasioning the worsened economic woes of unemployment, infrastructural decay,
We must realize as stakeholders that the criminals have globalized their activities and are now connecting across the globe seamlessly whilst the enforcers of the laws are hampered in no small measure due to lack of effective international cooperation and collaboration. There must be synergy between the impoverished countries where monies may have been stolen and laundered from and countries where considered as safe havens where these proceeds of crime are kept. As stated earlier, the fibres of international cooperation must be strengthened if we must win the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing.
I must commend the openness and willingness of so many countries across the word that partner with Nigeria to fight corruption and return to Nigeria monies and other assets that have been stolen and stashed away in their jurisdictions. Nigeria is open to forms of cooperation permissible under the law and also in line with prevailing global best practices which could be expressed in unhindered Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) to Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) information exchange, or request for Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) through the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.
Once again, I would like to state that the Nigerian National Assembly has given and will continue to give all the needed legislative support to the on gong fight against graft in Nigeria. We are committed to working with the other arms of government; the Executive and Judiciary to effectively deal with the menace of money laundering and terrorist financing.
I would want to thank the Director of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) and GIABA National Correspondent for effectively and efficiently coordinating the National Risk Assessment exercise out of which I hope a clear strategic road map will be drawn for effective resource utilization in addressing the deficiencies that still exist in our system.
Dogara, Speaker, House of Representatives, gave this address on Thursday at the 28th GIABA Technical Commission/Plenary Meeting which held in Abuja