With over $18 billion yearly losses to Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) in Nigeria, stakeholders in the oil and gas, and financial services sectors, have tasked the Federal Government to introduce measures that will urgently address the development; otherwise funding infrastructural and economic development may remain a challenge.
A report by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), had decried the situation, noting that Nigeria’s oil and gas sector contributes 92.9 per cent of the total illicit flows through companies and persons operating therein.
Illicit financial flows are a form of illegal capital flight that occurs when money is illegally earned, transferred, or spent, especially as the monies disappear from any record in the country of origin, and earnings on the stock of illicit financial flows outside a country and do not return to the country of origin.
Protem President, Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Auditors of Nigeria (CIFIAN), Dr. Victoria Enape, said the prevailing situation is responsible for the current economic state in the country, as well as failing infrastructure development across major sectors of the nation’s economy.
Although addressing illicit flows were key agenda of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, Enape insisted that unless a new approach, which would prioritise forensic investigation is developed the menace would sustain.
Enape said the phenomenon is already going out of hand, and therefore demanded an advanced approach, as perpetrators develop new techniques to avoid being tracked.
“We cannot continue to use the same approach and expect different result. People cannot be prosecuted without evidence. The evidence has to be substantial. For people to be charge to court, we need admissible evidence in the court of competent jurisdiction. People, who are involved in this act easily destroy evidence because that is the key thing. This is the more reason why forensic and investigation experts are needed,” Enape said.
Former President/Chairman of Council, Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN), who is also the Dean, College of Postgraduate Studies, Caleb University, Prof. Segun Ajibola, noted that money launderers, cyber criminals, internet fraudsters were becoming very more daring and sophisticated, as the poor state of the economy is encouraging such crimes.
Against this backdrop, Ajibola said money meant for developing the local economy are flown to better developed climes, leaving masses to growing rate of poverty, amid poor infrastructural development, as government is unable to provide the basic necessities of life.
He noted that powerful individuals and corporate bodies, porous environment, high level of sophistication, the strife in the Niger Delta, and the activities of rent seekers have been aiding illicit financial flows.
Ajibola said: “The way forward is to continue the national fight against corruption, implement the provisions of the anti-money laundering laws, the treaties and conventions Nigeria had signed with other countries, and apply maximum sanctions against those found guilty of the offence.”
Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, blamed illicit flows on the Federal Government, stating that administrators and industry players operate in an opaque, non-transparent, and discretionary pattern in most cases.
He insisted that unless urgent measures are taking, Nigeria will continue to borrow to finance its budget, while oil producing communities will not stop hostilities against oil facilities since the nation’s resources are ending up in the pockets of few individuals.
“Let the government be sincere, sign the laws, put necessary facilities in place to curb the lapses and loopholes that fuel illicit financial flows in the country. Put pressure on NNPC to be productive or face the music. You can’t have a venture that keeps being at a loss in perpetuity, and still run flamboyant welfare packages for itself rather than contributing to the economy,” Rafsanjani said.