By Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA) has challenged citizens of the sub-region to henceforth ensure that only people of integrity have access to public resources in their respective countries.
Director General of GIABA, Mr Edwin Harris gave the charge against the conclusion that corruption is the major impediment in West Africa.
Harris spoke yesterday in Abuja, at the opening of a weekly long stakeholders’ workshop on the Outcome of GIABA’s Typologies Study on Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing risks linked to Corruption in West Africa.
A military junta had last month sacked the President of the Republic of Niger, over alleged corruption practices and treason.
Niger is the latest country to come under military rule following similar coup d’etat in Mali, Burkina Faso, who have declared support for the junta in the event of any military incursion by ECOWAS Military Forces.
Represented by the Director of Policy & Research, GIABA, Muazu Umaru, the DG disclosed that findings from studies revealed that corruption thrives on three key elements – people, power and resources that can be exploited or the gain to be made.
To tackle the hydra-headed monster, he challenged ECOWAS to come up with innovative approaches and interventions that will target each of these key elements in a very comprehensive and collaborative manner.
“We need to ensure that only people of integrity have access to public resources;
“We need to ensure that powers of individuals and offices are checked without constraining their ability to exercise it in a fair and just manner; and
“We need to ring-face public resources to ensure that only people with good reasons have access to them, with full regard to due process”, he proffered.
Besides, he charged ECOWAS members to put in place an independent accountability mechanism for law enforcement to ensure that the law enforcement agencies do what is right and can be seen to be doing what is right.
He added that such a mechanism should have powers to conduct periodic inspections, receive and review periodic reports and complaints from citizens.
“Such a body and its membership should have a parliamentary guarantee to insulate it from political or any type of interference.
“The new approaches must also be anchored on transparency, public accountability and effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions against anyone and everyone that is found to be corrupt. We must deliberately seek to identify, assess and understand the corruption opportunities that exist in all public institutions and design tailor-made prevention and control measures.
“We need to recognise that some corruption opportunities are errors in system design while some are created by circumstance. Corruption opportunities are dynamic and grows from opportunism to greed, as such, we must continuously monitor and re-evaluate them in order to block them. Rethinking the public service with corruption opportunities in mind can lead to positive reforms that will enhance the integrity of the system.
“We need to take full advantage of technology and reduce human interfaces in service delivery and revenue mobilisation and collection. Citizens should be fully mobilised against corruption at all levels. Let us aim at treating the disease instead of the symptoms. We can do it if we commit to it”, he said.
Earlier, the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr AbdulKarim Chukkol lamented that despite efforts by the federal government, Nigeria unfortunately remains in the Financial Action Task Force’s grey-list.
Chukkol, who was represented by the commission’s Head of Operations, Mr Ibrahim Idris lamented, “the fact that Nigeria’s presence on the grey-list represents a huge setback in our Nation’s efforts at tackling issues bordering on money laundering and the fight against corruption”.
He, however, sees the group’s resolve to consider the greylist as a challenge for greater commitment to reform the Nation’s Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Financing of Terrorism framework with a view to not only exiting the Financial Action Task Force’s grey-list within the shortest time possible, but ensuring sustainable anti-money laundering activities in Nigeria.
“I believe the outcome of the GIABA study report on money laundering and the financing of terrorism in our sub-region will offer new insight on the vulnerabilities of the region’s Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Financing of Terrorism framework, as well as highlight measures that will be needed to address such weaknesses in the immediate and long term.
“The challenge in my view is to explore opportunities to galvanize further action in addressing some of the deficiencies of the existing Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Financing of Terrorism Framework”, he added.