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Nigeria lost $157.5bn to illicit financial flows – Buhari


President Muhammadu Buhari has said that $157.5bn was stolen from the country between 2003 and 2012.

He blamed the illicit financial flows on corruption.

Buhari spoke in New York at the high-level national side-event organised by the African Union Development Agency, New Partnership for Africa’s Development and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on the margins of the 74th United Nations General Assembly.

The theme of the event was “Promotion of International Cooperation to Combat Illicit Financial Flows and Strengthen Good Practices on Assets Recovery and Return to Foster Sustainable Development.”

It was an occasion where several African leaders called for the repatriation of stolen funds from the continent to be used to build infrastructure and the economy.

Buhari’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, said in a statement on Thursday that the President quoted from the 2014 Global Financial Integrity Report to back his presentation.

“This is why, as Africans, we have no choice but to break the back of corruption”, Buhari told the session.

He said this was the reason why his administration opted to fight corruption since assuming office in 2015, adding, “We will give all it takes to ensure there is no hiding place for purveyors of corrupt practices who are truly enemies of the people.”

He disclosed that while the administration made some recoveries, more funds were “stuck in foreign bank accounts due to international laws, different jurisdictions and justice systems that make it difficult for repatriation.”

Explaining the impact of illicit financial flows, Buhari told the session that “these flows deplete Africa’s internally generated revenues, foreign exchange earnings, reduce tax revenues, drain natural resources, facilitate corruption and stunt private sector development.”

The Nigerian President cited tax evasion as an example of such illegal flows, saying that over US$200bn was lost yearly by developing countries “when multinational enterprises do not pay taxes in the countries where they made the profit.”

Buhari, who quoted tax figures provided by the Tax Justice Network and the International Monetary Fund, said further, “This amount is significantly higher than the annual development aid received by these countries which are estimated to be about $143bn.”

Buhari also spoke on what he expected the meeting to achieve, saying, “I have high expectations for this meeting.  At the end of the deliberations, I expect other African leaders to see the pragmatic ideas on how to strengthen our anti-corruption institutions to reduce or effectively eliminate illicit financial flows.

“We need ideas on how to return the stolen assets to their countries of origin.  We also need strategies on how to plug the loopholes that enable companies to avoid paying commensurate taxes in their countries of operations.  You should deliberate on practical ideas to enhance global acceptable assets tracing and freezing, and boost the recovery governance framework.”

Meanwhile, Buhari has expressed his appreciation to the Bill/Melinda Gates Foundation and Dangote Foundation over their support for humanitarian services in Nigeria.

The President met with Gates and Dangote in New York on the sidelines of UNGA.

The President said, “Thanks for deriving pleasure in helping people. Congratulations to you for returning part of your wealth to the people in diverse ways.

“Whatever we save in areas in which you have intervened, we can deploy to other areas like building of infrastructure.”

Gates, on his part, described Buhari’s new cabinet as exciting, adding that the Foundation was impressed by Buhari’s emphasis on human capital development.

Assuring the President of more commitment, he stated, “Every local government area has better health/education situation today than in year 2000. We are delighted about that. Nigeria is our biggest commitment in Africa. It’s only in India we do more in the world.”

He expressed the hope that having attained the polio virus-free milestone in August, Nigeria would eventually be declared polio-free in another six months.

Dangote, in his own remarks, praised the Nigerian military for assisting with vaccination in the North-East where Boko Haram operated.

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