The chairperson of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC), Bolaji Owasanoye, has attributed the incessant violent crimes in Zamfara State to illegal mining of gold in the state.
Zamfara State is a hotbed of banditry and kidnapping-for-ransom ravaging the North-west and North-central regions of the country.
Speaking at the fourth annual public awareness lecture series on Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) held at Nile University, Abuja, on Tuesday, Mr Owasanoye spoke of the impact of illicit proceeds of corruption and economic crimes on the political stability and security of a nation.
“It is difficult to divorce the raging violent crimes in Zamfara State of Nigeria from the illegal gold mining by Nigerians and collaborators from the West Africa region and beyond, which had gone on for years unabated,” Mr Owasanoye said at the event organised by the Inter-Governmental Action Group on Money Laundering in Africa (GIABA).
He added that oil bunkering and crude oil theft “in Nigeria’s Niger Delta, has (have) been associated with different froms of violence in the region”.
Mr Owasanoye, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and professor of law, also blamed unchecked corruption, economic crimes, money laundering and other related crimes for the West-African under-development.
He noted that the “UNODC has established that West Africa is conduit for the drug trade between South America and Europe”.
“In Nigeria, corruption and its subsets, especially economic and financial crimes, are widespread in proportions relative to the size of the economy and the population and visible as large scale official corruption in terms of impact on governance,” he added.
According to him, “corruption creates a Catch-22 situation that makes it difficult for credible leadership to emerge to fight corruption, and renders such leadership impotent even when it emerges”.
He said “corruption had persisted in the country despite promises since the plotters of the first coup in Nigeria, and successive administrations to rid the country of the menace.”
He said while some administrations had simply allowed it to fester, “some had only made feeble attempts to tackle it”.
“This experience underscores the link between leadership, political will and success against corruption by any government,” Mr Owasanoye said.
On what needs to be done, Mr Owasanoye said: “West Africa needs to pursue a multi-track strategy to surmount the daunting challenges posed by economic and financial crimes.
“The fortune of generations yet unborn relies on the actions that we take today.”
He also called for the strengthening of democratic institutions to birth credible and legitimate people-focused governments across the region.
“Promote complementary selfless visionary leadership focused on the future of Africa, not as rhetoric, but with action; shun nepotism and enthrone meritocracy,” he said.
Urging Africans and their leaders to take drastic action to stop corruption and economic crimes, he said, “The time to act is now, not later. We cannot wait till 2063 for the Africa we want.”
The chairperson of the director of NFIU, Modibbo Tukur, said money laundering was among the greatest challenges of the West African subregion.
This, he added, results in lack of investor confidence, which according to him, inhibits foreign investment.
The director-general of GIABA, Justice Kimelabalou Aba, also described the menace of money laundering and terrorism financing as major obstacles to human development and hampered equal economic and social opportunities, especially for honest and hard-working people.
The chairperson of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdurasheed Bawa, called for the stepping up of the fight against corruption and money laundering.
Represented by the Commandant of EFCC Academy, Ayo Olowonihi, Mr Bawa said additional efforts should be made to ensure transparency in public expenditure, by improving accountability of public servants and elected public officers, among others.
He also called for the improvement of public finance management systems and procurement practices. He also advocated strengthening enforcement of beneficial ownership declarations.
He advocated improving inter-agency collaboration and coordination, continuous public engagements and sensitisation
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