Strengthen governance system to stop illicit financing, CSOs urge FG

#TrackNigeria: Some Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and Development Partners on Monday said there was need for the Federal Government to strengthen its governance system to stop illicit financing and save revenue for the economy.

The CSO partners said this in Lagos at a one-day policy dialogue on illicit financial flows in the private sector in Nigeria.

Mr Chinedu Bassey, a representative from the Civil Societies Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), said that though Nigeria had varying data on the amount lost to illicit financial flows, there was the need to curb them.

He cited consensus statistics of reports that showed Nigeria’s contribution to about 35 per cent of the total illicit financial flows from the whole of Africa.

“The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) says that Nigeria lost 217.7 billion dollars in 38 years as tax revenue leakage.

“The NCC and CBN have alleged that MTN, in several Court cases, is owing the Federal Government taxes amounting to about 15 billion in 10 years.

“A report supported by Trust Africa showed that oil bunkering accounted for about 35 per cent, while tax evasion, money laundering, and transfer pricing by multinationals account for more than 60 per cent of Nigeria’s tax leakages,’’ he said.

The CISLAC representative further said that the Global Financial Integrity Report, among others, also said that Nigeria lost about 8.3 billion dollars in the last 10 years.

He, however, said that there were tax incentives such as tax holidays, foreign tax credit, interest incentives, export incentives, tourism incentives and others, which were not harmful.

Bassey said that if tax incentives were properly designed and well- managed with transparency, they could enhance economic growth.

He called for the establishment of good data analysis and a re-orientation that would enable the government to block leakages in illicit financial flows.

Mr Henry Ushie, a representative of OXFAM International, who analysed wages, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSO) and Taxes, said that Nigeria’s tax Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was among the lowest in the world.

He said that tax incentives were special exclusions, exemptions or deductions that provided special credits, preferential tax rates or deferral of tax liabilities.

Ushie, therefore, urged the government to provide a conducive business environment as catalyst for encouraging businesses to self-report their incomes and pay taxes.

“There is the need for state governments to establish a taxpayer register and enumeration, as well as demand for tax clearance from businesses and individuals.’’

He also called for the registration of skilled workers and artisans under associations connected to relevant tax authorities. (NAN)

National Assembly urged to probe soldiers’ theft of huge cash

#TrackNigeria — The National Assembly has been asked to probe the recent theft of cash running into hundreds of millions by some soldiers detailed to escort a large amount of cash said to belong to a top government official.
Reports earlier in the week said the soldiers were detailed on July 11 to escort millions of Naira in a bullion van backed with a convoy of Toyota Hilux and a Buffalo gun truck from Sokoto to Jaji. The soldiers, after they escorted the cash to Jaji airstrip were said to have refused to load the money into a waiting Jet.

In a joint statement on Friday, Human and Environmental Development Agenda, (HEDA) and Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre/Transparency International,  Nigeria (CISLAC) said Nigerians need full disclosure on the scandal saying it was a national embarrassment. The group said it was unfortunate that the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Yusuf Buratai has refused to speak on the embarrassing development.

The two organisations said the stealing of the money by soldiers who should represent a qualitative moral fabric of the country has raised serious questions about Nigeria’s commitment to the fight against corruption.

“We call on the National Assembly to probe this incidence. The House Committee on Defense needs to provide the necessary clue. There is no doubt that the action of these soldiers will have serious impact on the campaign against terrorism. The Senate should get to the root of this matter before it is too late. If nothing is done, other soldiers on the frontline may be encouraged to embark of stealing of national assets.” Olanrewaju Suraju and Auwal  Rafsanjani stated.

The groups said the Senate should unravel the owner of the money to either confirm or deny speculations that the funds belonged to Major General Hakeem Otiki, the General Officer Commanding, 8th Division of the Nigerian Army in Sokoto.

HEDA and CISLAC said that security operatives should be the best examples in any country’s campaign against corruption.  It said that the theft indicated that the soldiers have no iota of discipline adding that they have no respect for the President of the country.

“They dared the consequences of crime probably because they knew it was a trend in the armed forces. There is a major problem if security operatives have no respect for the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed forces”. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) few days ago handed over to Voice of Nigeria a monumental edifice forfeited to the government by a former military chief.

The groups stated further “We call on the National Assembly to treat this issue as a top priority. Who are these soldiers? How much was the money involved? Who owns the money? Is the money owned by an individual or by the country? Is the money the proceeds of crime? There are many questions waiting to be answered.”

CISLAC, SOTU charge anti-graft agencies to be proactive

By Chimezie Godfrey

#TrackNigeria: The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and State of The Union (SOTU) have called on all anti-graft agencies to be proactive by following up on the suspicious transactions reports, which banks and financial providers flag as potential money laundering cases.

They also urged all African countries to adopt clear procurement governance frameworks that inculcate prudence and enhanced operational efficiency through accountability and transparency, in the use and application of their financial resources to drive the transformation process.

The group made this call Thursday in Abuja during the occasion, which marks the 3rd African Anti-Corruption Day with the theme “Towards a Common African Position on Asset Recovery.”

According to the Executive Director CISLAC, Auwal Ibrahim Rafsanjani, ”The African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption was adopted in Maputo, Mozambique on 11 July 2003 and came into force in 2006.

“Till date, the Convention has been ratified by 40 member states of the African Union. Since adoption of the Convention, African states have made significant efforts in the fight against corruption including the establishment of national laws and the creation of anti-corruption agencies.

“Despite these efforts, corruption has remained pervasive in almost the whole of African countries.”

He said that the negative effect of corruption on the continent is clear for all to see and impacts negatively on the socio-economic capital of Africa.

Rafsanjani disclosed that public procurement is one area most vulnerable to corruption in most African countries.

He said that in addition to the volume of transactions and the financial interests at stake, corruption risks are exacerbated by the complexity of the process, the close interaction between public officials and businesses, and the multitude of stakeholders.

He also reiterated the need for asset declaration for elected officials, senior public servants and judges which should be in the public domain and open to the scrutiny of citizens.

“With the growing interest of Beneficial ownership disclosure across the Continent, CISLAC prevails upon the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) standards to demand an expansion of the frontiers of our collective struggle for transparency and accountability and the promotion of policies and standards that insulate our financial systems from acts of money laundering.

“Money-laundering crimes and tax evasion need to be stringently investigated and prosecuted by competent agencies and in line with FATF Standards.

“Frivolous and fraudulent tax wavers to multi-national and African companies, especially in high net revenue sectors such as oil and gas, communication and construction, needs to be stopped.

“CISLAC and SOTU calls on all national anti-graft agencies to be proactive by following up on the Suspicious Transactions Reports which banks and financial providers flag as potential money laundering cases,” Rafsanjani said.

They also urged all anti-corruption stakeholders in the fight against corruption in Africa to reflect on the challenges faced with asset recovery and chart an effective way forward.

The group further reiterated their commitment to monitoring the various AU treaties that African governments have signed onto to ensure effective implementation for the benefit of Nigerians and implored all national stakeholders to do same respectively.  

CISLAC raises alarm over risk of mutilated children in Ogoniland

By Chimezie Godfrey

#TrackNigeria- The Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy (CISLAC), Auwal Ibrahim Rafsanjani has said that if the environmental pollution in Ogoni and its environs are not tackled 10 years from now it might result to the birth of mutilated children.

Newsdiaryonline reports that he made this shocking revelation Thursday at Port-Harcourt at the 2019 NAWOJ week celebration with the theme: “Clean The Niger Delta,Save Our Women”

Rafsanjani decried the fact that one single drop of oil is yet to be cleaned since 2016 when the flag-off happened, and 50 years after the first spill occurred in Ogoni.

He said” “It is not a critic of the process, but a serious sphere of concern around how women have lost their lives on a daily basis owing to the additional daily dosage of contaminants consumed in water, air, and the rest. And yet there is no respite in the commencement of the emergency measures.

“Cancer villages are building up in Ogoni and its environs and 10 years from now, we might begin to have mutilated children due to the irresponsibility of those in the Political class.”

He disclosed that an average of 240,000 barrels of crude oil is spilled in the Niger Delta every year until recently.

He added that spills contaminated the surface water, ground, water, ambient air, and crops with hydrocarbons, including known carcinogens like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon and benxo (a) Pyrene, naturally occurring & radioactive materials, and trace metals that were further bio-accumulated in some food crops.

He further said that these spills has led to a 60% reduction in household food security and reduced the ascorbic acid content of vegetables by as much as 36% and the crude protein content of cassava by 40%.

“”These could result in a 24% increase in prevalence of childhood malnutrition.

“Animal studies indicate that contact with Nigerian crude oil could be hemotoxic and hepatotoxic, and could cause infertility and cancer.

“Evidence continues to accumulate suggesting that environmental exposures adversely impact human reproductive function,” he said.

The Human Right Activist said that Occupation Pulmonary diseases such as asbestosis or silicosis can also adversely affect reproduction health.

He expressed disappointment and fear that this is the kind of environment that the women in Delta are exposed to, adding that their offence for this is because of proximity to oil facilities and infrastructure.

Rafsanjani stressed that the way forward in tacking the menace of environmental Pollution in the Niger Delta is through environmental governance.

He said: “It is only through environmental governance laws, policies and procedures that will be implemented to achieve a healthy and sustainable environment in the Niger Delta.

“It is through good environmental governance that we will be able to eliminate conflict and environment entrepreneurs who feed on the crises in the Niger Delta.”

INEC, CISLAC urge political parties, CSOs to propose electoral reforms

#TrackNigeria The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), have urged political parties and civil society organisations to propose electoral reforms for the sustenance of the nation’s democracy.

The INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, represented by Mr Festus Okoye, National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, said this on Thursday in Abuja.

He was speaking at the media inauguration of a research conducted by CISLAC titled: “Involvement of Nigeria security services in the electoral process; guardian or threat to democracy’’.

Yakubu said that while it was the constitutional and statutory responsibility of the INEC to organise, supervise and conduct elections, other agencies, commissions and stakeholders should play important roles.

According to him, the organising, undertaking and supervising elections in Nigeria are a multi-stakeholders venture involving diverse stakeholders in a complex matrix of shared roles, powers and responsibilities.

“Political parties, the executives, the legislature, the judiciary, the media, CSO groups and other organisations as well as the security agencies must play important roles in formulating proposals for the reform of the electoral processes.

“The seamless performance of these components advances the electoral process and grounds democracy within the country,’’ he said.

Yakubu urged political parties and candidates in any election to act with civility and refrain from engaging in acts that can compromise the integrity of the electoral process.

He said that political parties should also refrain from training, arming and drugging young men and women and using them as skull crackers during elections.

He, however, promised that the commission would continue to collaborate and encourage security agencies to operate in electoral process in accordance with their constitutional and statutory role.

“We will set out in concrete terms the mechanisms and mechanics of requesting for the services and involvement of the services in the provision of election security.

“We will propose constitutions and statutory reforms that will strengthen the regime of the electoral process,’’ he said.

He urged stakeholders in the electoral process to imbibe the democratic spirit of shared roles and responsibilities in the delivery of credible elections in Nigeria.

Yakubu said that Nigerians deserved to have good elections and the commission will continue to work to realise the true intendment of the electoral process.

On his part, Mr Auwal Rafsanjani, the Executive Director of CISLAC, cautioned security agencies, political parties, CSOs and electorate against unguarded statements that could result in unwary response or verbal attacks during future elections.

Rafsanjani also cautioned against deployment of the military for oppression and intimidation of voters in elections.

“While these challenges are major contributory factors to insecurity in our elections, we cannot conceal the fact that elections security thrives more in the abusive deployment of security personnel to intimidate perceived oppositions.’’

He called for synergy among security agencies, CSOs and other stakeholders in formulating proposals for the reform of the countries electoral laws.(NAN)