The Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Ibrahim Lamorde, on Tuesday in Abuja, called for urgent action by countries in the African continent to come up and confront the menace of illegal cash movement across their various borders.
Addressing a workshop on Anti-money Laundering and Combating Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) in
West and North Africa, Lamorde revealed that Nigeria alone has lost N20.6 trillion through illicit outflows in the last 10 years.
The EFCC boss cited a report by the Washington-based Global Financial Integrity (GFI) which ranked Nigeria seventh in the world in the transfer of illicit funds with a loss of 129 billion dollars or N20.6 trillion.
Lamorde also said that the illicit outflows were attributed mainly to corruption, tax avoidance, tax evasion and further identified other sources to include illegal mining activities, drug and human trafficking.
He said that several traders crossing borders within Africa did not see movement of cash above the stipulated limit as a criminal offence.
He said that estimates from the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit, showed that between 2009 and 2013 about N25.4 billion was moved out of the country through cross border cash movements and financial instruments.
``While these figures may not necessarily be indicative of the proceeds of crime, it does however show the AML/CFT vulnerabilities associated with cash movements,’’ he said.
Lamorde also described the task of properly regulating and supervising the Designated Non-Financial Businesses and Professions (DNFBPs) as herculean.
He said that dealers in precious stone, real estate agents, faith-based groups, accountants and lawyers were all involved.
He said that DNFBPs constituted the weakest link in the anti-money laundering and combating financing of terrorism architecture of most developing countries.
He suggested that to reduce such outflows, cash movement across Nigerian borders above a desired threshold should be criminalised ``irrespective of the source of the funds’’.
He said that this would completely take away the element of arbitrariness or discretion on the part of law enforcement.
``It might also be helpful to understand the cultural basis and why there is so much distrust for the banking sector in the movement of funds to other jurisdiction,’’ he said.
According to him, in 2012 the EFCC recovered 13 million dollars of funds suspected to be the proceeds of criminal activities through a partnership with the Nigeria Customs Services.
In his own remarks, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dr Martin Uhomoibhi said that the problem of porous borders had continued to pose a threat to countries in the region.
He stressed the need for West and North African countries to increase their cooperation to counter financing of terrorism and money laundering.
He said that the inability of countries to address the issue of weak reporting institutions and unwillingness of national authorities to share information had resulted in the infiltration of terrorists in the region.
The Director-General of Inter-Governmental Action Against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA),
Dr Abdullahi Shehu, said the three-day workshop was a forum for stakeholders to consider options for effective monitoring and management of cash movements in the region.
He said that the workshop would discuss among other things, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) standards and best practices for currency declaration and disclosure systems.
The workshop was organised by the Swiss Embassy in Nigeria in collaboration with GIABA.