A two-day sensitisation seminar designed for journalists from Anglophone Ecowas countries, Thursday began at the Laico Atlantic Hotel in Banjul. The forum is organised by the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA).
It is designed to expose journalists to the knowledge of Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Combating the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) framework as well as assist participants to produce reports and articles/features of quality on AML/CFT issues. It is also meant to improve the network of journalists who will assist GIABA in disseminating information on the AML/CFT systems in West Africa.
GIABA, a specialised institution of Ecowas as well as Financial Action Task Force-Styled Regional Body (FSRB) was established by the Authority of Heads of State and Government in the year 2000 with the mandate to protect economies of member States from the laundering of the proceeds of crimes.
In his welcoming statement, Dr. Buno E Nduka, the director of programmes and projects at GIABA, highlighted the mandate of GIABA for the purpose of carrying along all participants especially those coming into formal contact with them for the first time. He explained that the establishment of GIABA is one of the main responses and contributions of Ecowas towards theglobal fight against transnational criminal activities particularly money laundering and terrorist financing.
He said: "Within years of existence, GIABA has been assisting member states through regional activities technical assistance and organisation of training programmes for different actors and sectors involved in the fight against this scourge. It has also worked efficiently over the past years to help its member states design and implement robust Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Combating the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) regimes including the formulation of National AML/CFT Strategies, establishment of active AML/CFT Committees in member States."
Nduka explained further that in response to the emerging issues, GIABA has developed strategies designed to elevate public awareness on AML/CFT issues in the sub-region, andhas also been in the forefront of efforts to institutionalise international best practices and standards in the region.
He recalled that in 2006, GIABA was recognised as a financial Action Task Force (FATC) Styled Regional Body (FSRB) and in June 2010 it was granted associate membership of the Financial Action Task Force (FATC) the global body responsible for standards setting for the fight against this menace.
Nduka said that GIABA recognises the critical role of the media in collecting and disseminating information about money laundering and terrorism financing stressing that money laundering is a crime of exploitation that depends on the commission of other crimes and actions that offend the law. He stressed the need to build the capacity of media practitioners and to have them as informed allies in the fight against these scourges is critical to the overall success of the implementation of the AML/CFT framework in the region.
Essa AK Drammeh, the director of Financial Supervision, Central Bank of The Gambia, who also doubles as the national correspondent for GIABA in The Gambia, on behalf of the government and people of The Gambia welcomed all the participants of the seminar while at the same time enjoining them to feel at home.
Money laundering, he said, is a complex phenomenon that it can have a severe impact on the development of any country. Recognising the scale of the problem and its impact on the soundness of the financial and economic activities in the world, he stressed that there is need for concerted efforts to combat the menace.
Drammeh continued:"In the Gambia, the Money Laundering Act (MLA) 2003 and the Anti -Terrorism Act 2002 are the main legislative instruments to fight money laundering and terrorism financing. Following the enactment of the law, the Central Bank of the Gambia was required to set up a financial Intelligence Unit to implement the MLA 2003 Act.
FIU was established in 2007 housed in the Financial Supervision Department of the CBG. Since the establishment of the FIU, financial Institutions have reported suspicioustransaction reports which are analysed and intelligent reports sent to the law enforcement agents (police) for further investigation." Drammeh called on the participants to take stock of the deliberation in this seminar and disseminate appropriate and quality information to the general public, considering the fact that most of the population in West Africa cannot read and write.
Delivering the keynote statement, the minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Abdou Kolley stated that the government of the Gambia under the dynamic leadership of His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh, recognises the pivotal role GIABA plays in safeguarding the economics and financial systems of Ecowas member States from the laundering of these proceeds of criminal origin. He described the seminar as very timely, as it has come at a time when the government has stepped up and continues to persistently pursue, its fight against money laundering and related menaces.
Minister Kolley said that it is worth noting that journalist can effectively participate and help fight money laundering through investigate journalism, adding that this would indeed require special skills and competence, which are usually lacking in this part of the world. "Indeed, the dictates of justice establish that every patriotic citizen has his or her fair share in the building of our societies.
To this end, journalists in this country are and will always be encouraged to do their job without bias or ill feeling towards others inline with the objectives of our common good. We therefore, call upon all journalists to endeavour to assist our various governments in exposing corrupt people and systems. Theyare expected to do their job by reporting issues in a professional manner , a role only a highly skilled investigative reporters can carry out effectively," he added.
He expressed government continuous support to ensure that the enabling environment to uphold the rule of law and justice is nurtured along with the support to all stakeholders to carry out their duties in a responsible manner.