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AGF Malami’s Speech At 35th Cambridge Int’l Seminar On Economic Crime



The Chairman of the Symposium, Mr Saul M. Froomkin, QC

Distinguished Participants, 

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

1.  I am delighted to be part of this very important Symposium. I thank Professor Barry Rider and his team for the privilege to deliver a ‘Keynote Address’ at this distinguished gathering. It is inspiring to note that we have all come from our various countries due to the common desire to articulate and design strategies to protect our individual economies as well as the global economy from the negative impact of economic crimes. 

2.  It is long recognized in development circles, that economic crimes and corruption deprive many countries of the resources to develop its infrastructure and services, thus leaving the people poorer. 

3. from the perspective of responsibility, I make bold to state that the responsibility is not only mutually exclusive to state entities as victims of crime and recipients of illicit cash inflow, but collectively inclusive from the perspective of co-operation and collaboration with international community as key players in enforcement and sanctions. There has to be collective approach aimed at prohibiting illicit cash inflow and making life difficult for corrupt elements through prohibition of investment in illicit cash and denial of political asylum for treasury looters. 

4. Given the above realities, the current Nigerian government, led by President Muhammadu Buhari came into office on May 29, 2015 with a determination to be more decisive in tackling issues of crime and corruption in the public and private sectors of the economy. Two years down the line, we have learnt some useful lessons that I believe are useful, not only to us in Nigeria, but also to other jurisdictions facing similar challenges.

5. The first lesson on the part of state entities as victims of crimes and recipient of illicit wealth is that political will is key to a sustained and viable campaign for introducing transparent and accountable systems and standards. It is remarkable, for instance, that the relative success in the Nigeria’s anti-corruption efforts since 2015 were achieved using legislation that had always been in place, but which were rarely applied due to the absence of political will. We have also discovered that we can work with citizens and the parliament through an inclusive process to tackle economic crimes. 

6. These efforts include the strengthening of critical pillars of governance as listed below: 

(a) The Presidential Commitment to fight corruption at the London Summit in May 2016, was a major factor that led to Nigeria signing the International Open Government Partnership (OGP) to enable the deepening of reforms across government, civil society and private sector institutions. The OGP National Action Plan cuts across four thematic areas namely Fiscal Transparency, Access to Information, Anti-Corruption and Citizen Engagement.

(b) The development of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy for collaboration by all the relevant agencies.

(c) The effective implementation of preventive anti-corruption policies such as the Treasury Single Account (TSA), the Bank Verification Number (BVN), the Code of Conduct for Public Officers and the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS). Whilst the former government introduced some of these policies, the current government, has nevertheless given life to them through the ‘Political Will’ to follow-through.

7.  The government has consistently maintained that it must work with the international community to achieve global objectives. In this regard, the international conventions on anti-corruption have been translated into national legislation and they include:

(a) The Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill recently passed by the National Assembly. The President has also signed Mutual Legal Agreements with several countries with a view to providing international cooperation in the investigation of trans-border crimes and in the recovery of stolen assets.

(b) The Money Laundering Prevention and Prohibition (Repeal) Bill; (c) the Proceeds of Crimes Bill; (d) the Company and Allied Matters (Repeal) Bill;  (e) The Nigerian Financial Intelligence Agency Bill; and (f) the Whistle-Blowers Protection Bill preceded by a credible Whistle-Blowing programme.

8.  In terms of institutional measures, the following have been achieved: 

(a) The President inaugurated the National Prosecution Coordination Committee to enhance coordination of the prosecution of high-profile cases.

(b) The development of regulations on the central management of recovered assets so that the transparent management of these assets recovered within the country those recovered from outside Nigeria can be used to improve the livelihood of an average Nigerian.

(c) The ongoing efforts towards the development of Public Register of Beneficial Owners by the Corporate Affairs Commission. This initiative is expected to reduce fraud committed by corporate entities in all the sectors across the country.

(d) The work of the Nigeria Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI) will ensure that the government’s oil company, the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and others working in the extractive sector are actively implementing the Presidential commitments on transparency.

(f) The work of the Presidential Council on Ease of doing business and the recent executive orders are addressing corruption related to bureaucratic obstacles.

(g) The effective application of technology and forensic analysis by anti-corruption and law enforcement agencies has made it easier to track stolen funds and will serve as deterrence to those perpetrating economic crimes both nationally and across borders. 

9. Of fundamental importance has however been the realization that despite the best domestic efforts, success can sometimes be elusive if international collaboration and cooperation are absent, delayed or withheld. 

10.  Nigeria, like several developing countries, has suffered from unwillingness of foreign jurisdictions to collaborate in the investigation, prosecution and the return of stolen assets. We shall continue to advocate that countries that maintain the financial capitals of the world should do more to assist developing countries retrieve such assets without further legal obstacles. 

11.  At national level, we have embarked on an increased level of collaboration and cooperation with the authorities of other jurisdictions such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates in order to ensure that through the creation of an elaborate network of international partnerships, there will, truly, be no hiding place for economic criminals anywhere in the globe. 

12. This year’s Symposium seeks to answer the question as to who has the responsibility to prevent and control economic crime in the modern world. At the risk of pre-empting the outcome of our discussions, I have no doubt, given my experience, that the different segments of the society all have a role to play and that the key words are ‘collaboration’ and ‘cooperation’; in the spirit of transparency, accountability, enforcements and sanctions through aggressive deployment of preventive measures by the state entities and elimination of bureaucratic bottle necks in the repatriation of illicit wealth and making life difficult  for treasury looters both in investing the ill gotten wealth and according them political asylum and visas  to escape justice and enjoy the wealth.

It has to be two way traffic; Collaboration and cooperation on one hand and enforcement and sanction on the other.

We are still battling to recover Abacha Loot 20 years thereafter. The criminal proceeds are remitted offshore by the click of button in minutes. It takes ages to have them repatriated. 

13. I thank you for your attention and look forward to a most engaging and productive Symposium. 

Abubakar Malami, SAN

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