President Muhammadu Buhari has lamented that corruption had dwarfed the growth and tainted the African continent.
The President said this in his perspective on the effect of graft on the continent and the way forward at the event co-hosted by African Union Development Agency-New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AUDA-NEPAD) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), in New York on the sideline of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Friday.
Buhari, who spoke in his capacity as the African Union Champion on efforts to eliminate corruption on the continent, urged the leaders to fight tirelessly to get rid of corruption, lamenting that the continent has remained at the far end of global development index because of its menace.
According to a release by his spokesman, Femi Adesina, the Nigerian leader, who said he was honoured to serve as AU Champion on anti-corruption since 2018, added that, “over the years, we came to the painful realisation on how deeply embedded corruption has become in our countries and continent, as well as how corrosive it can be.
”Corruption has dwarfed our growth and tainted our nations and continent. Africa remains at the far end of development index and concerted efforts made in the last few years need to be sustained, deepened by good governance and accountability that are guided by the rule of law.
”I have strong faith that Africa and our national governments can do this with strong resolve and commitment to eliminating Illicit Financial Flows.
”We need strong partnerships from our global partners to ensure that these efforts succeed. A developed and stable Africa will not only be a global partner for peace but for sustainable development and progress.”
The President therefore, challenged his colleagues that for the continent to rise to its full potentials, ”we must work tirelessly to get rid of corruption or by fighting it 24/7.”
”Our national resources must not find safe-havens around the world. This fight is a necessity and not a choice to give our citizens a better life through economic prosperity, social peace and security,” he added.
He urged his colleagues to recall the United Nations General Assembly Special Session Against Corruption political declaration of June 2021 and ensure its effective implementation toward global food security and sustainable infrastructural development in the continent.
He expressed delight that the implementation of various programmes and initiatives of his government have resulted in a significant decline in the country’s large food import bill, from $2.2billion in 2014 to $5.9million at the end of 2018, adding that rice imports alone dropped from $1billion a year to $18.5million dollars.
The President, however, cautioned that the challenge of food security could not be addressed until when corruption, illicit financial flows, serious and organized crimes were not effectively tamed.
On how to recover and return illicit assets to the victims’ countries, Buhari said the menace of over invoicing and transfer pricing in the importation of commodities like rice, wheat and fertilizer must be fixed.
”It is only when these crimes are contained that we can secure the recovery and return of illicitly acquired assets to victim-countries, which will then provide the much-needed resources in the immediate term, to address development requirements,’’ he said.
The Nigerian leader recounted that the administration has demonstrated effective utilization of recovered assets with the notable deployment of funds to three major infrastructure projects across the country namely; the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Abuja-Kano Expressway and the Second Niger Bridge.
Pledging not to relent in curbing illicit financial flow, engender food security and achieve sustainable economic development in the country, Buhari disclosed that measures have been instituted based on policy advisories by EFCC to block revenue leakages arising from crude oil theft, tax evasion, pension fraud, foreign exchange manipulations, travel document racketeering and tax evasion.
Describing a UN report that about how one billion people went hungry in 2021 as a collective shame on the world’s conscience, Buhari said such was exacerbated by increased illicit financial flows expressing concerns that criminals were taking advantage of global food crisis to perpetrate the crime.
In her remarks, the Chief Executive Officer of AUDA-NEPAD Nigeria, Princess Gloria Akobundu, said the event was a continuation of the advocacy on good governance that started in 2017 and was adopted by the Forum in 2018 as an annual event with the objective to promote peer-to-peer learning for best practices and strengthen partnership for good governance.
Nigeria’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, said reports from law enforcement agencies, especially the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) showed that illicit financial flows (IFFS) undermine efforts to development including food security…the United Nations estimates that $1.6trillion was lost each year due to illicit financial flows, which has a negative impact on global growth and development.