A human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, has urged Western governments to impose visa ban on Nigerian public officials involved in money laundering and other corrupt acts.
Speaking while delivering a paper titled ‘Human Rights Issues Surrounding The Non-Return of Assets to Countries of Origin’ at the 8th Annual Conference of Anti-corruption Agencies in Commonwealth Africa last Friday in Abuja, Mr Falana said reports of investigation of the allegations of such practices should be made available to the embassies.
“For the credibility of the request, the reports should include the names of serving public officers who have been indicted. Western countries should deny visas to any public officer travelling for medical treatment abroad,” said Mr Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
“African countries should lead a campaign for the classification of grand corruption as a crime against humanity which should be tried by the International Criminal Court.
“Loopholes in the financial system should be blocked to prevent capital flight and money laundering. Banks and other financial institutions aiding money laundering should be sanctioned and made to pay aggravated and exemplary reparation. They may also be sued in the countries where the offences may have been committed.”
Mr Falana, however, noted that there is more corruption in the developed countries than in Africa as looted wealth from developing nations continually find their way to the west.
“African governments and anti-corruption bodies should stop labelling Africa as a continent of corrupt people,” he said.
“London is the centre of global corruption. The banks of western countries receive and keep stolen wealth from Africa and other developing countries.”
According to Mr Falana, “Western governments conveniently hid behind the free movement of capital ideology to fold their arms and turn the other way for many years after the end of the Cold War.
“This laissez-faire attitude on the part Western leaders encouraged corrupt leaders from Africa to use stolen wealth from their various countries to establish individual presence in their economies; buying shares in major corporations, mansions and other landed properties, yachts, planes, you name it.”
The human rights lawyer criticised the former British prime minister, David Cameron, for calling Nigeria “a fantastically corrupt” nation when his family name was listed in the Panama papers.
“The Abacha loot of about $5 billion has been traced to banks in Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States and other western countries. Apart from Switzerland which has reluctantly returned part of the loot no other recipient country has recovered and repatriated a dime to Nigeria,” he said.
“Throughout the 1970s and much of the 1980s, money leaving Africa into Europe and other parts of the world took an upward trajectory, leaving essential services to rot and decay.
“What then followed was a serious economic crisis across Africa, which witnessed the International Monetary Fund (IMF) setting up offices inside the various ministries of finance in state after state on the continent, as it tried to help implement a harsh austerity programme to “re-adjust” the various economies.
“Nigeria has lost billions to illicit financial outflow resulting from corruption and embezzlement of funds by public officials. Nigeria’s history as a “fantastically corrupt” country is apparent upon an appraisal of the activities of its past leaders and public officials especially as it relates to conversion of government fund.”
According to Mr Falana, the nexus between stolen wealth and human rights is the intersection between poverty and international (human rights) principles.
“Stolen wealth is not an abstract idea dangling in the air; it fosters poverty, diseases and illiteracy, ill-health and general social deprivations,” he said.
“It also subverts good governance and the rule of law of the country from which the wealth has been stolen. Every single one of the index of underdevelopment mentioned above is interwoven with the holding of stolen wealth and it is inimical to basic human rights and decency.”