Nigeria has been advised to make laws that makes it difficult for public fund to be looted and siphoned abroad.
The call was made by participants at the inaugural Global Forum on Asset Recovery, GFAR, in Washington DC earlier in December. The forum, organised with support from the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR), a joint initiative of the World Bank and UN Office of Drugs and Crime, focused on the recovery of assets stolen from Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Tunisia and Ukraine.
Participants at the forum are of the view that in order to counter illicit financial flow, Nigeria, as well as other African countries faced with looting of public fund by government officials and politicians should create public registers of beneficial ownership of companies to dissuade looters from using anonymous shell companies to transfer and hide illicit wealth.
The countries were advised to, as a matter of urgency, set up public registers of beneficial ownership information so that anonymous shell companies cannot be easily used to transfer and hide illicit wealth.
Similarly, countries such as the United States, United Kingdom and Switzerland, which are some of the preferred location where stolen wealth are hidden, were advised to take steps to enhance the transparency of financial flow and ownership of properties in their jurisdictions.
Several billions of dollars have been stolen from Nigeria by corrupt politicians and other officials since the country’s independence in 1960. Switzerland alone has returned over $723 million to the country in 10 years.
At the end of the forum, the Nigeria government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Switzerland and the World Bank to return an additional $321 million of recovered assets.
Other decisions reached by the forum include the recognition of the multi-stakeholder nature of asset recovery and the promotion dialogue, trust and collaboration between civil society, media, law enforcement and other government bodies.
The focus countries should also commit to strengthening efforts to prevent corruption before it starts. In the regard, countries were advised to implement “codes of conduct, ethics training, whistle-blower protections, and integrity in public institutions, and urge other countries to do so.”
The forum, however, admitted that the absence of data on asset recovery was an impediment to recovering stolen funds. Participating countries were therefore asked to commit to providing public, comprehensive data including the number of cases they have, the number of assets frozen, sanctions taken against financial facilitators, and the length of time taken to respond to requests for assistance.