Those who have stolen public funds are spearheading a “media war” against the anti-corruption efforts of the Muhammadu Buhari administration, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has said.
The Acting President spoke in Abuja at the Conference on Promoting International Cooperation in Combating Illicit Financial Flows and Enhancing Asset Recovery to Foster Sustainable Development.
“In Nigeria for instance where corruption fights back so eloquently that government itself if not careful can be overwhelmed.
“If you look at the anticorruption fight in Nigeria there is a major fight back in the media. There is a media war, between people fighting corruption and those behind the stolen funds,” he said.
The Acting President’s speech reads: “This is my first time of attending a conference that talks about recovering assets and the issue of what to do with the stolen assets. Even though we have been able to convince ourselves that the proceeds from drug trafficking were dirty money but proceeds of corruption are not dirty money. Many countries have signed treaties that proceeds from drugs, illegal traffic in persons proceeds of money.
“Somehow proceeds from political corruption has not attracted the same outrage that proceeds from narcotics and trafficking in persons have attracted.
It took years for some people to agree that when somebody loot money where people make decent living that is more criminal than crime against humanity, more dangerous than trafficking in drugs. It is a good thing that we are here with our partners who agree that not only are these stolen assets criminalized but that they are returned to their appropriate owners.
“There is no way this the transfer of this assets can happen without a handshake between the countries that they are transferred and the international banking institutions in the countries in which they are transferred, there is no way it will happen without some form of connivance.
“We have to look at somehow delegitimizing those kinds of financial institutions and criminalizing them, so that banks and financial institutions that actually engage in this are be called out and made to face the consequences of engaging in criminal practices. If that isn’t done we are not likely to go very far. For there to be collaboration there must first be connivance, in the agreement and conventions we will be signing we must find away and ensure that financial institutions are not given a free run and hold them accountable.
“Another point is that African countries and developing countries must realize that is our responsibility to ensure not only find get these monies and make sure that there are return. It is not enough to talk about it. Some countries are somehow reluctant about it, many have civil processes that makes it difficult, they say our courts are handling this matter and there is very little we can do about.
“We must make it a national call, a call for other developing countries to have the same outrage for drugs, terrorist financing for illicit financial flows. We must emphasis at every point and call out institutions that are not cooperating and ensuring that they recognize that this for us a serious issue. Like President Buhari has said repeatedly that if we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill it. When corrupt monies find safe havens, it will begin to fight back and if government is not careful it can fight back.
“In Nigeria for instance where corruption fights back so eloquently that government itself if not careful can be overwhelmed. If you look at the anticorruption fight in Nigeria there is a major fight back in the media. There is a media war between people fighting corruption and those behind the stolen funds. It is called media trial; I don’t know what that means. If you discover for instance large sums of money in an air conditioned room there is no where it will not make news anywhere in the world. So, this whole idea of trying to legitimize corruption is definitely being fuelled and sponsored by those who have these resources, who have stolen funds. Unless we see it as a problem that can bring down our system then we will never be able to fight. I hope we will be able to advance this with other African countries.
“The Mbeki report shows that most of the illicit funds flow that comes out of Africa are from Nigeria and that shows us very clearly especially the security agencies that we simply have to do more. It is evident that so much money is leaving our shores. I was arguing with somebody about the fact that they were stopping certain funding, and he kept telling me Nigeria is no longer a poor country but now a mid-income earning country so they shouldn’t be giving us those kinds of aids. It was barely a week after that a large sum of money was found at the Kaduna airport and it was roughly about half of the money we were looking for. So, he sent me a text telling me that the money has been discovered at Kaduna. Of course, I didn’t reply him but when he persisted, I called him and asked if this was his own form of a joke. But clearly, it is sometimes absurd that when we are asking for aid, so much money is being stolen. So, we ourselves must take responsibility and ensure we keep talking about this.”