Groups Finger Billions of Dollars Siphoned Annually from Nigeria for Poverty, Unemployment, Violence

…Argue Corruption Undermines Country’s Human, Material Potential …Task CSOs, Media, Others On Climate Change Peril, Illicit Cash Flow …Want Halt to Illicit Flow in Oil & Gas Sector …Write President Buhari on Fraud Syndicate at Justice Ministry With the glaring threat posed by climate change to the world, groups from anti-corruption agencies, the media, civil

…Argue Corruption Undermines Country’s Human, Material Potential

…Task CSOs, Media, Others On Climate Change Peril, Illicit Cash Flow

…Want Halt to Illicit Flow in Oil & Gas Sector

…Write President Buhari on Fraud Syndicate at Justice Ministry

With the glaring threat posed by climate change to the world, groups from anti-corruption agencies, the media, civil society organisations (local and International), community based groups and labour and the academia have called on the media, labour, community based groups and others to strengthen alliance and network to decisively wage vigorous campaign against climate change peril.

The groups also charged them to rise against illicit financial flow from Africa Including Nigeria, saying that illicit financial flows from Africa is partly responsible for poverty, misery, unemployment and the surging wave of violence and desperation of many African countries. This is coming on the heels of a letter jointly written by three groups calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to check a fraud syndicate at the Federal Ministry of Justice.

In a communiqué issued at the end of the One-Day Workshop on Illicit Financial Flow, Gas Flaring and COP 26 organised by Human and Environmental Development Agenda, (HEDA Resource Centre), Re-Common and Cornerhouse in collaboration with Fossil Fuel Non- Proliferation Treaty Initiative and supported by MacArthur Foundation held in Lagos, they maintained that corruption remains a growing threat to global security and prosperity, saying corruption has continued to undermine human and material potentials of Nigeria, fuel poverty, hunger, starvation and, economic and political instabilities.

According to them, one of the major contributory factors to corruption is illicit Financial Flows, and every year, billions of dollars are siphoned from Nigeria by public and private officials stunting the country’s growth and economic wellbeing.

“Oil and Gas is the mainstay of Nigerian political-economy, while the sector remains one of the dark spots of sleaze. Since 1956 when oil was first discovered in Nigeria, billions of dollars have been sourced by the Nigerian authorities but have neither translated to prosperity nor improve the lives of millions of Nigerians who remain poor and vulnerable.

“An outstanding means of corruption and Illicit Financial Flow in the oil sector is through Gas Flaring whereas, the impact of climate change on livelihood in Nigeria is real,”

Wth the theme, “Illicit Financial Flow and Gas Flaring as Albatross to Nigeria’s Climate Change Response: Building Momentum Towards COP 26,” they examined illicit financial flow and gas flaring as a major threat to livelihood and climate change, the responses and resolved that Africa including Nigeria needs to renew efforts to halt Illicit Financial Flow in the oil and gas sector, perpetrated by local and international actors.

They also averred that Climate Change remains a phenomenon challenge. Africa, including Nigeria should therefore rise up to the perilous challenge and such efforts must include all stakeholders but not limited to the civil society, democratic institutions, religious bodies and indigenous communities.

“Nigerian Government should employ modern technology in the detection of the quantity and quality of oil and gas exported from the country which should lead to freezing and demobilization of assets such as shares and real property apart from the repatriation of all stolen funds which should be incorporated into projects that impact on the essential needs of Nigerians.

“Retrieving illicit funds requires the employment of legal and diplomatic mechanisms within the framework of best global practices. This means that Africa including Nigeria should work towards stopping corruption at home to prevent illicit financial flow from the continent,”

They posited also that Africa needs a transparent and accountable system of government that will enhance a people-driven mechanism to enhance openness and inclusiveness, hence there should be paradigm shift from reliance on foreign aids to self-reliance which involves judicious use of local human and material assets with development built around institutions rather than individuals.

“Government should focus on private-sector growth rather than private interest growth, and the efforts of the campaigns to ‘save Africa’ and ‘make poverty history’ would be meaningless in the face of the consistent damage done to the continent through corruption by government officials and operators of the private sector, thus people must conscientiously hold the government accountable through constructive democratic engagements.

“The perpetration of graft is sustained by the fraternity between states that encourages a symbiotic relationship between a looting ruling elite class and rogue multinationals, including local and international actors in the banking and financial institutions of foreign receiving nations. Any attempt to deal with corruption needs to take the current situation into cognisance.

“Africa member states should strengthen anti-corruption institutions to be able to legally deal with corrupt persons and bring them to book through a speedy and less complex trial, and wake up to the challenges posed by Climate Change, Gas flaring and illicit financial flow, the continent being the most vulnerable, yet the least prepared for climate change yet the most affected by its negative consequences like draught, deforestation and pollution, given its economic and resilience situations including lack of access, opportunity, infrastructure etc.

“Climate change as a major challenge also comes with associated opportunities to explore new technology, new knowledge yet Africa is yet to key into this window. The continent should focus also on researches and initiatives to indigenous solutions to compliment global efforts to resolving the challenge posed by Climate Change,” they added.

Meanwhile, three civil society organizations – Human & Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), Corner House and RE:COMMON, have jointly written to President Muhammadu Buhari, seeking for an independent body to investigate the alleged fraud syndicate within the Federal Ministry of Justice.

They also condemn the role of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami in the Paris Club contract scam against States and Local Governments.

In a statement signed by the Chairman of HEDA, Olanrewaju Suraju, co-founder of Corner House, Nick Hildyard, and Programme Director of RE: COMMON, Antonio Tricarico, the groups said in order to guarantee confidence in the outcome of the inquiry, a thoroughgoing, independent investigation into the alleged fraud should be set up, since it’s unwise for one to investigate oneself.

“The internal Ministry of Justice investigation being announced is wholly inadequate and will do nothing to assuage the concerns of the national and international anti-corruption community. Regardless of the qualifications and history of the five-member review panel, few can have confidence in a process that effectively allows the Ministry of Justice “to mark its own homework”.

They reminded the President of their earlier letter on same matter saying that all the allegations of mismanagement, corruption and fraud that hang over the Federal Ministry of Justice and its Minister, must not be handled with kid gloves.

“We have previously written to express our concerns about alleged corruption within the Ministry of Justice and its mismanagement by the Attorney General, Mr. Abubakar Malami SAN. We are therefore unsurprised, though nonetheless shocked, to read press reports that aides to the Attorney General, including his deputy director, have allegedly been selling off forfeited and recovered assets belonging to the Federal Republic of Nigeria and pocketing the proceeds. The reports also alleged the involvement of former members of the now defunct Ad Hoc Committee on the Sale of Non-essential FG Residential Houses in Abuja,”

“The Attorney General is said to have been unaware of the alleged criminality. If so, this brings his management of the Ministry further into question. It is mindboggling that hundreds of properties could have been sold without him knowing that the proceeds had gone missing,”

The CSOs maintained that with the forgoing, “One was left with any of three possible conclusions thus: It’s either the AGF has turned a Nelsonian blind eye to the black hole that would have been apparent in the accounts; or he was incompetent; or he was complicit.”

They affirmed that the above concerns were reinforced by AGF’s failure to act when the scandal first emerged, noting that it was over two months since elements of the alleged scam were exposed by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission, (ICPC) yet it was only then that the press reported the full extent of the alleged wrongdoing before Mr. Malami responded.

“As the saying goes, “ “Justice must not only be done, but be seen to be done” ” and in this instance, both justice and good governance demands that an independent committee be set up under the aegis of an officer of the Federal Republic who is senior to the AGF.

“We note that when Ibrahim Magu, the former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was investigated, he was suspended from his post pending the outcome of an investigation conducted by an independent panel set up under your auspices.

“We see no reason why the same model should not be adopted to investigate the Ministry of Justice allegations, with the panel reporting either to you or HE the Vice President. We are aware of further allegations that have recently emerged relating to planned payments of $418 million to consultants that would be deducted from funds owning to state governments as a result of refunds from the Paris Club.

“We would therefore urge that the investigation’s terms of reference encompass these allegations. We are aware that a number of allegations of corruption have been made against Mr Malami in a Petition, which is attached, addressed to your office dated 20 July, 2020,”

They added that the Ministry of Justice had regrettably earned itself a reputation internationally for malpractice and even worse, saying, “It is festering sore on the administration, delaying collaboration with prosecutorial authorities abroad and giving wholly contradictory signals on the OPL 245 case that seriously jeopardise the court cases that the Federal Republic of Nigeria is taking in London and Milan (where the lamentable acquittal of Shell and Eni is being appealed). These latest allegations are just the tip of an iceberg of concerns,” they asserted.

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