COMBATTING CORRUPTION AND MONEY LAUNDERING:BANKOLE’S PANACEA.
BY: Kevin Ogbueri
In our quest for national development, an often identified constraint is that of qualitative leadership to drive a vision of and for greatness. Beyond the leadership lacuna is the problem of corruption that seems to pervade the entire fabric of our national life. From statistics being churned out by anti-corruption agencies like EFCC, ICPC and international agencies, trillions of naira meant for national development has been mismanaged or out rightly stolen by corrupt leaders, officials, other Nigerians and yes foreigners over the years since our independence. Worse still is that some of these funds are borrowed money that have led to what is now a debt peonage we are still trying to extricate ourselves from.
The problem is so pervasive that successive governments, pursuant of the objective of good governance and internationally accepted minimum standards of conduct in the civilized comity of nations, has established various agencies to fight corruption and bring culprits to book. Their successes have been limited owing mostly to approach of the agencies and often limited commitment or outright manipulation or sabotage of those agencies for political reasons.
At present, the major anti-corruption agencies are EFCC, ICPC and to a limited extent, Code of Conduct Bureau. A fall out of corruption in the society is the issue of money laundering which has assumed an international dimension in view of its linkage with terrorist acts and cyber crimes. Money laundering, which simply is the process of concealing and legitimizing illegally acquired funds is a crime akin to that of receiving stolen goods. Without money laundering, those engage in high profile corruption are likely to think twice as questions are bound to be raised about unaccountable overnight riches in any sane society.
It was this realization that led some members of the House of Representatives under the aegis of National Assembly (Anti-Money Laundering Caucus) to organize a two day retreat on ways of strengthening legislations to combat money laundering with the them: ‘ Innovative Strategies to Combat Money Laundering and Cyber Crimes” in Abuja recently.
Various papers were delivered by experts from EFCC, ICPC, the Nigerian Police, and the Nigerian Civil Defence Corps (NCDC) on aspects of the problem including the undue “demon-isation” of Nigeria. Possible remedies and enactments to combat the malaise were suggested. But the Speaker of the House of Representatives Hon. Dimeji Bankole sees the root of the problem of money laundering from the supply side of the equation. In his view if you tackle the problem of corruption, you are likely to dry up the supply of illegitimate money for laundering.
Speaking as the special guest at the forum, Rt. Hon. Bankole noted that recent investigative oversight effort of the House of Representatives in the area of Power, Oil Sector, Revenue Generation Agencies among other were geared towards identifying areas of corruption for effective actions to be taken to tackle them. Indeed, the investigations has revealed that trillions of naira of public funds must have been corruptly frittered away and predictably form part of fund fuelly money laundering over the years.
Similarly, the Speaker disclosed to the forum that their lawmaking actions in relation to the appropriation process of 2008 Budget yielded among other unprecedented discoveries, the return of N450 billion unspent fund from 2007 Budget back into the treasury. It is almost a foregone conclusion that these kinds of fund usually disappear corruptly into private pockets and Rt. Hon. Bankole wondered aloud into whose pocket this kind of unspent fund would have disappeared into. Obviously, most of them would be laundered one way or another.
It is from this tangent of the major sources (supply) of corruption as being in the government particularly the executive agencies that Hon. Bankole called on anti-corruption agencies to intensify efforts at tackling corruption from its bridgehead and not at tributaries. Indeed on a corruption continuum ranging from zero to ten, Hon. Bankole’s argument is for anticorruption agencies to fight the malaise at its epicenter and not its outsketch. His arguments tallies with the adage of a person minding the inconveniences of ants while carrying the burden of the elephant. Or more poignantly, wasting efforts in treating eczema while ignoring a cancerous growth. This is a call for proper focus in the anti-corruption drive on the root causes of corruption and its epicenter. Typically, the executive branch of government is the biggest spender in national life as is typical of any developing economy and Bankole’s opinion on the issues is that any effort not concentrating on this source is misplaced and may not achieve much.
If corruption can be tackled at its roots then, money laundering may be on its way out as another criminal activity with ramification into such dangerous terrain as terrorism. But beyond this, Rt. Hon. Bankole has a word for those that facilitate or aid money laundering. In deed a disproportionate part of money laundered are laundered in foreign nation’s banks. As a way of stemming money laundering, Rt. Hon. Bankole called on foreign nations blaming Nigeria and Nigerians on the issues of being involved in money laundering to compel their banks to return all laundered money in banks and safe deposits to the nations they were looted from. He said this would show their seriousness about tackling the menace of money laundering.
For a holistic and world wide attack on the twin scourge of corruption and money laundering one cannot but agree with the Speaker as it is self serving for foreign nations to call on Nigerians and others to make enactments against money laundering while complicitly facilitating and/or habouring looted and laundered fund from Nigeria. The same agreement goes with tackling money laundering from its supply side as enumerated by Bankole.
Conclusively, national development cannot happen in the mist of corruption that is pervasive in executive agencies of government and the economic distortions associated with money laundering. Anti corruption agencies could do well to take a positive look at the ideas of Bankole.
Kevin Ogbueri (Public Affairs Analyst) was at the retreat.
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