More than $700 million cash stolen from Nigeria was returned to the country in the last four years, Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami said yesterday.
He said the stolen funds were returned by the United States (U.S.), the United Kingdom (UK), Bailiwick of Jersey, Switzerland and Ireland.
The minister also said that developing countries in Africa lose over $148 billion to corruption annually, tracing the loss partially to Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs).
Malami made the disclosures in Abuja at the International Conference on Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) and Asset Recovery organised by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
He was represented by Senior Special Adviser to the President on Justice Sector Reforms, Juliet Ibekaku-Nwagwu.
The minister said: “Nigeria, through proactive and collaborative efforts with other countries has recovered and ensured the return of over $700 million from the United States, the United Kingdom, Bailiwick of Jersey, Switzerland, and Ireland in the past four years.
“We are still working with our international partners and other countries to ensure that all Nigeria’s assets that are identified are recovered.”
He said the government was working to ensure that the recovered assets were for the benefit of all Nigerians through investment in social development programmes and infrastructure.
Malami said he was, however, worried about how IFFs have become rife and growing at 20.2 percent annually in Africa because of weak national and regional capacity to stem the tide.
He said the illicit movement of huge funds out of Africa has resulted in underdevelopment and insecurity across the continent.
He added: “No doubt, the impact of such criminal flow of funds means lack of health and education services, low levels of growth, high level of poverty and lack of infrastructure in many African countries.”
On the need to give a multilateral approach, he said: “There is no doubt that international and regional cooperation is key in achieving this goal as no one country can do it. Therefore, we must all work together.
“This is what the Financial and Accountability, Transparency and Integrity (FACTI) Panel’s report released in February 2021 is telling us.
“How we meet the recommendations of the panel in order to achieve the 2030 Agenda for sustainable Development is a global and regional challenge.”
Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Ambassador Gabriel Aduda, said the ministry was working assiduously to ensure the return of stolen funds and assets to Nigeria.
Onyeama said IFFs were responsible for many of the societal ills and underdevelopment facing the country.
Saying that the Federal Government was not folding its arms, he said: “Illicit Financial Flows deny developing countries of vital resources that belong to them; resources that should have be spent on their development priorities. It reduces tax revenues, hinders development endeavours, undermine constituted authorities and threaten the stability and sustainable development of all affected states.
“IFFs also provide the financial network that supports terrorist activities, fuels conflict and leads to internal displacement and refugees conditions, divert money from public priorities and hampers government effort to mobilise domestic resources.
The ICPC Chairman, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye said the effect of IFFs on developing countries in Africa was huge.
He said the need to tackle the menace, which falls under the mandate of the Commission, has become paramount in order to shore-up the dwindling revenue of the Federal Government.
The ICPC boss said: “Estimates of the quantum of IFFs lost globally vary but it is generally agreed that a significant proportion of the loss is suffered by developing countries.
“African countries are particularly affected by loss through IFFs thus depriving the continent of much needed resources for development.”