ECOWAS restates commitment to fighting money laundering, terrorism financing

The Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA) says it will continue to strengthen regional efforts against money laundering and terrorism financing.

GIABA is an ECOWAS specialised institution responsible for the fight against money laundering and terrorism financing in West Africa.

GIABA’s Director-General, Justice  Kimelabalou Aba, who made the assertion on Tuesday in Lagos, said that the organisation would continue to work with critical stakeholders in the region.

Aba spoke at the opening of a  three-day national training  workshop on: “Prevention of Cross Border Bulk Cash Smuggling”.

He was represented by GIABA’s Financial Sector Officer, Mr Giwa Sechap.

“The devastating effects of money laundering and terrorism financing on regional socio-economic development and security call for greater commitment and collaboration, particularly among border authorities.

“On our part, we commit to continue to engage with all critical stakeholders in the region.

“We will continue to provide the required technical support to ensure effective implementation of the currency and Bearer Negotiable Instrument (BNI) declaration regime in order to strengthen regional efforts against money laundering and terrorism financing,” he said.

Aba said that the workshop was meant to strengthen the capacities of the participants in monitoring cross-border cash movements.

He said that the workshop would improve capacities of relevant authorities to monitor  flow of illicit funds as well as  detect and disrupt terrorists’ funds.

He added that it would strength cooperation and collaboration among authorities in  effective management of cross-border cash and BNI movements.

Mr Tukur Moddibo, Director and Chief  Executive Officer of Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), said that loopholes  in the nation’s enforcement and intelligence systems should be addressed.

Moddibo was represented by Mrs Biola Shotunde, NFIU’s Associate Director of Intelligence and Investigation.

“As the world becomes more connected, with trade, capital and people moving across borders, the importance of putting measures in place to identify, investigate and convict illicit funds and activities have assumed a much greater dimension.

“Crime across the world remains a largely cash-based activity; criminals  will seek all opportunities to move cash, precious metals and high value goods across borders to cloud their illicit proceeds and fund their criminal activities.

”To address these threats, robust intelligence exchange among our agencies is necessary, and this intelligence must flow two ways.

“Customs can benefit from the broad range of intelligence held by FIU and its ability to track financial flows locally and internationally, while FIU can benefit from customs experience and field intelligence,” he said.

Moddibo said that it was important for relevant agencies to be properly trained.

He said that the workshop would provide a high level of awareness, analytical tools and renewed commitment to securing borders.

In his remarks, the the Comptroller-General of Customs, retired Col. Hameed Ali, said that no effort should be spared in curbing cross-border bulk cash smuggling.

Represented by El-tin Edorhe, Deputy Comptroller-General of Customs and Head of Enforcement, Investigation and Inspection, Ali described the workshop as timely

He said that the workshop came at a time when ECOWAS was facing trans-border crimes of kidnapping, banditry, terrorism and others.

“There is no doubt that all these crimes are linked to cross-border smuggling of cash.

“Therefore, every effort aimed at stemming the tide of cross-border bulk cash smuggling should be encouraged,” he said,

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the three-day workshop is being attended by  Nigeria Customs Service, NFIU and GIABA officials. (NAN)