ICPC Lobbies ECOWAS to Combat Crimes in West Africa


Adedapo Adesanya, Business Post

Date Published

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The Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) has called on the leaders of the Economic Community of Western African States (ECOWAS) to fashion and pursue a robust Anti-Money Laundering (AML)/Combating Financing of Terrorism policy in the fight against corruption and other violent crimes pervading the region.

The Chairman of the commission, Mr Bolaji Owasanoye, made the call while lamenting that illicit financial flow, as well as illegal trade in pangolins, elephant tusks and other wildlife, is estimated to have cost the region billions of dollars.

The ICPC boss, while delivering his keynote address at the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA) annual public lecture series held at the Nile University, Abuja, stated that, “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 African region and beyond which had gone on for years unabated.

“In 2016, the IMF estimated the annual global cost of bribery alone at $2 trillion, which is roughly 2 per cent of global GDP.”

Mr Owasanoye added that the above figure does not include the cost of other forms of corruption and illegal trade in pangolins, elephant tusks and other wildlife.

While stating that money laundering provides the means to make illicit money seem licit, he said only a robust AML/CTF can help fight corruption, terrorism/terrorist financing, arms trafficking and cross-border trafficking of hard currency to influence elections etc.

“West Africa needs to pursue a multi-track strategy to surmount the daunting challenges posed by economic and financial crimes. The fortune of generations unborn relies on the actions that we take today,” he said.

Some of the actions, according to him, include strengthening democratic institutions for the emergence of credible, legitimate people-focused governments across the region; promoting complementary selfless visionary leadership focused on the future of Africa not as rhetoric but with action, and strengthening regional cooperation, amongst others.

On his part, the Director-General of GIABA, Mr Kimelabalou Aba, said that money laundering and terrorist financing constitute major obstacles to human development and present significant obstacles to equal economic and social opportunities, especially for honest and hard-working people.

“In many other countries, these crimes have adversely impacted national security and development in Nigeria, including the erosion of hard-earned reputation for individuals, corporate organisations and even countries.

“While investors take calculated risks, they try to avoid investing in countries classified as high risks for money laundering and terrorist financing,” Mr Aba said.

He stated that the event provided another golden opportunity for GIABA to strengthen collaboration with the academia in their commonly shared responsibility of tackling the twin problems of money laundering and terrorist financing (ML/TF) in Nigeria and the West Africa region.

He said: “It is imperative for GIABA and all stakeholders, including academia, to deepen our collaboration to effectively counter these criminals – we need a network of good people to counter the network of evil people. Criminals may be smart, but they often end up outsmarting themselves.”

“In GIABA, we consider the school system as a critical stakeholder in this endeavour. Educational institutions such as yours are the orchards that nurture the future human fruits of a nation – many good and bad people in society today pass through the school system, and the system would have influenced both.

“As the foremost socializing institution in the society after the family, the school system should do more to deliver future good leaders for the society – leaders that can be trusted to deliver development and good governance for their people and not under development and misery,” he noted.