VICE President Yemi Osinbajo yesterday said that the socioeconomic development target of Africans countries would continue to be a mirage unless the countries collaborate in the fight against corruption and illicit financial flows (IFF).
Professor Osinbajo, stated this at the 20th anniversary of the African Regional Webinar of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), with the theme, Combating Corruption and Illicit Financial Flows: New Measures and Strategies.
He said corruption had presented itself as the basic obstacle to the development aspirations and plans of African and other developing economies, adding that international conspiracy of the big economies with those stealing resources of developing economies.
According to him, “The theme of this webinar: ‘Combating Corruption and Illicit Financial Flows: New Measures and Strategies’, I think, again just reminds us that corruption remains a scourge to our development aspirations and has become for us in the developing world, an existential issue.
“Over the years, massive public resources and assets have been directly stolen, diverted, deliberately misapplied to gratify corrupt tendencies, stashed in foreign jurisdictions or mired in and susceptible to pilferage by the inequitable and unjust international economic system that continues to undermine the social and economic development aspirations of poor countries especially from Africa.
“Without effectively combating corruption and IFFs and promoting international cooperation for asset recovery and asset return, Africa cannot achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Goal 16 of the SDGs is devoted to corruption. Specifically, Target 16.4 commits that: ‘By 2030, significantly reduce illicit financial flows and arms flows, strengthen the recovery and return of stolen assets and combat all forms of organized crime.”
He emphasized the need to break the wall of secret corporate ownership, which he noted had been linked to underdevelopment in the developing world, especially in Africa, noting further the need for Africa and international community to join forces to break the walls of secret corporate ownership in corruption fight.
Osinbajo said though anonymous companies were not always illegal, secrecy, however, provided a convenient cover for criminality and corruption as some countries still resist stemming the tide of illicit financial flows (IFFs).
He said, “For us in the developing world and especially in Africa, breaking the wall of secret corporate ownership is crucial because secrecy around corporate ownership is implicated in our underdevelopment.
“Our experience in Nigeria as in other developing countries is that anonymous corporate ownership covers a multitude of sins including conflict of interests, corruption, tax evasion, money laundering, and even terrorism financing.”
The vice president, however, said that Nigeria had demonstrated leadership in the advocacy for collective efforts to stem IFFs from Africa and had also been at the forefront of advocacy for stemming IFF and promoting international cooperation for asset recovery and asset return at the UN General Assembly.
He said: “As the AU Champion on Anti-Corruption, President (Muhammadu) Buhari in his report to the Assembly of the Union, Thirty-Second Ordinary Session and at the 71st Session of the UN General Assembly, affirmed Nigeria’s commitment to continue to ‘advocate for the facilitation of recovery of illicit financial assets.’
“Towards this end, Nigeria proposed the Draft Common African Position on Asset Return (CAPAR) at the 36th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council of the AU in February 2020 at which the CAPAR was adopted. I am aware that Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, Chairman ICPC was a member of the Working Group that produced the CAPAR.”