The Federal Government has on Thursday said, 45 billion illegally looted from the national treasury has been seized
FG further said that a number of individuals and entities who have connections with terrorist activities have been identified and designated, with funds looted by them seized.
This was disclosed by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, in his opening address at the 40th Technical Commission/Plenary Meeting of the Inter-Governmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa, GIABA, held at the State House, Abuja.
GIABA is a specialised institution of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, responsible for facilitating the adoption and implementation of Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Counter Financing of Terrorism (CFT) strategies in West Africa.
The AGF who represented Nigeria in his presentation, said, the President Bola Tinubu-led government was determined to build on successes that were recorded by past administrations in the country, especially in areas of investigation and dealing with corruption cases.
He said: “In 2022, we increased the budgets for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Independent Corrupt Practices Commission and National Drug Law Enforcement Agency by almost 95%.
“We now have over 1,500 officers dedicated to investigating and prosecuting money laundering across these three agencies alone.
“These sustained investment has seen increased numbers of investigations, prosecutions and convictions consistently since 2021 with 5,118 investigations, 1,509 prosecutions and almost 500 convictions secured resulting in over 45 billion naira of illicit proceeds seized.
“We have also made progress in tackling the financing of terrorism and in particular, I am pleased that we have identified and designated a number of individuals and entities linked to terrorist activity and seized funds linked to them.
“The Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), has become a global model and achieved the outcomes envisaged by the passage of its enabling legislation in 2018 which established it as an independent, autonomous unit.
“The Unit has significantly expanded the scope of financial intelligence it has access to and provides to other competent authorities.
“The Unit has also put in place a number of innovative technologies including the Crime Records Information Management System (CRIMS) which has transformed our approach to intelligence sharing.
“The measures I have outlined and our future ambitions are underpinned by a rigorous analysis of the money laundering, terrorist financing and proliferation financing risks we face as a country,” the AGF stated.
He further stressed that, there are multiple challenges facing the West African sub-region, ranging from the threats of illicit financial flow to the existential dangers posed by terrorist groups, the AGF, said there was greater need for enhanced international collaborations.
“As global risks become more complex, and technology more embedded as well as borders increasingly fragile, we must move towards a more tailored approach to responding to this new ML/TF/PF environment.
“I believe that without a truly equitable and effective system for international cooperation, we are fighting the enemy with one hand tied behind our backs.
“I therefore urge GIABA to effectively pursue this mandate on behalf of our member states,” he added.
On his part, Mr. Edwin Harris Jr.,the Director General of GIABA, said the organisation would continue continue to offer technical support to Nigeria.
However, the GIABA boss said there was need for the restrictions physical movement of criminals and terrorist associates within the sub region.
“In this regard, it becomes a more pressing need that the Secretariat works with member States in enhancing effectiveness compliance that will lead to more actions that create deterrence.
“Over the coming years going into the third round, the Secretariat will work with member States on Assets Recovery that includes all phases that is freezing, seizure, confiscation, management, and disposal with the ultimate goal of denying the criminal the use of the proceed of crimes.
“I urge member States to create a mechanism that takes away profits from criminal activities. This mechanism should now form core part of our fight against Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing and other transnational crimes.
“It becomes more imperative that the mandate of GIABA restricted to fighting Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing in keeping the economies of West Africa safe be visited to include other major component in keeping with emerging trends and current day realities.
“I sincerely think that incorporating Asset Recovery as one of the valuable tools of deterrence in our mandate will add value to our work and serve as major deterrence to criminals whose primary aims are to contaminate our financial system for personal gains.
“It is in this direction GIABA will start a critical conversation with member States and stakeholders in creating a regional sanction regime for the community that will seek to denied, block the movement of the proceed of crimes in the community and also restrict the physical movement of criminals and terrorist associates within the region.
“GIABA member States implement other secondary sanctions within our financial system such as the OFAC and the EU, hence, it is now imperative that we have an ECOWAS sanction that helps curtail the movement and assist in recovery of the proceed of crimes.
“GIABA will continue to work with both financial, development and technical partners to support its members,” he added.
Present among dignitaries at the event were the Vice-President of the Financial Action Task Force, FATF, Mr. Jeremy Weil, representative of the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Mr. Mambury Njie, as well as the Director of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, NFIU, Mr. Tukur Modibbo.