Assets and funds worth more than $400m stolen from Nigeria are kept in the United Arab Emirate, (UAE), the country’s leading anti-corruption group said on Tuesday.
The Human and Environmental Development Agenda, (HEDA Resource Centre) corroborated by foreign anti-corruption experts said during an international conference held in Abuja that more than half of the $400m stolen funds are linked to only thirteen Nigerian top security officials.
‘Of the 800 Nigerian stolen illicit assets lodged in UAE, 13 law enforcement officials own 216 of them while 584 of the remaining assets are owned by Nigerian public officials’ HEDA said. The event held at the Sheraton Hotel in Abuja was on Fixing Financial Flows: A critical Review of UK and UAE policies, laws and Practices in Financial and Non Financial Institutions.
The conference was attended by representatives of MacArthur Foundation, United Nations Office of Drug and Crime, (UNODC) Centre for Democracy and Development, (CDD) members of the diplomatic corps, representatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Offenses Commission, (ICPC), Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, (NFIU) and Code of Conduct Bureau, (CCB), Corporate Affairs Commission, (CAC), the Nigerian Police Force, (NPF), Civil Society organisations and the media. The local and international panelists came from UK, Botswana and Nigeria including Pusetso Moradepi, Kemi Okenyodo and Nick Hildyard. Dr Gbenga Oduntan of Kent University, United Kingdom said public officials are milking Nigerians to their bone marrow adding that illicit financial flow continues to fuel unrest, violence and terrorism in Nigeria. They said most of the stolen funds are linked to commercial activities.
In a communique issued at the end of the summit, participants said the UAE and United Kingdom, (UK) represent some of the hosts of illicit financial flow from Nigeria estimated at some $17billion every year between 2004 and 2013.
The communiqué states that ‘an estimated 17billion dollars is lost every year to financial flows which hurts vulnerable poor, fuels violence and threat to moral authority of the state.’ The participants said ‘fighting the transfer of stolen funds abroad cannot be handled by the government alone, it has to be a joint effort in collaboration with civil society, labour and all people-driven institutions.’
Speaking at the summit, the Deputy Country Director, MacArthur foundations, Mr. Dayo Olaide, said while see-through election remain a momentous step towards transparency and good governance, it is disturbing that public enthusiasm towards election is fading.
‘The number of voters has continued to decline which raises the prospect of Nigerians becoming strangers in their own country and projecting a gradual decline in public trust in the process that produce elected leaders.’
Olaide recalled that the total number of Nigerians that voted in the by election held recently in South Eastern Nigeria is less than 3 percent of the eligible voters who took part in the election while in the last national elections, voting in the gubernatorial race recorded barely 17 percent of registered voters.’
The Executive Secretary, Presidential Advisory Council Against Corruption, (PACAC) Prof Sadiq Raddah said the Nigerian authority is concerned about illicit financial flow adding that PACAC has recently set up a committee part of which responsibility is to help anti-corruption institutions recover stolen assets.
The communiqué signed by HEDA Chairman Olanrewaju Suraju noted that the United Kingdom and UAE are culprits in the illicit financial flow from Nigeria and have been facing attacks for failing to live up to international obligations in curbing illicit financial flow.
‘Politically exposed persons are not just politicians but also their families while enablers of illicit financial flow include dealers in precious minerals, professionals who enhance and sustain illicit financial flows. Nigeria should progressively review her international obligations like the UN Conventions on Corruption which has five focal points which included International cooperation, technical assistance, asset recovery and the Mutual Legal Assistance’ participants said in the communiqué.