22 September 2017

Nigeria: A Long Walk Against Corruption

Chief Compliance Officers in Nigeria are taking a firm stance to sensitise Nigerian against the ills of financial corruption.

On a wet Saturday morning this September, members of the Association of Chief Compliance Officers of Banks in Nigeria (ACCOBIN) took to the streets of Lagos to campaign against financial corruption, money laundering and terrorism financing.

"Corruption is a persistent cancerous phenomenon which bedevils Nigeria, "a Professor of International Relations, Emmanuel Obuah, writes in a paper published in 2014. "Misappropriation, bribery, embezzlement, nepotism, and money laundering by public officials have permeated the fabric of the (Nigerian) society."

It is estimated that corruption accounts for 20 per cent of Nigeria's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). For several years, Nigeria has been at the bottom division of Transparency International's (TI) Corrupt Perception Index (CPI) ranking. In 2016, the country ranked 136 out of 176 countries with a score of 28 (over 100), its highest score in five years. In 2002, the Nigerian Government had created the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate and prosecute cases of corruption and financial crimes, but the agency has had little success in combating the cankerworm, losing several cases in the law court. This, of course, has had an impact on the country's economy. "Corruption deters investment because it is a dis-incentive to potential investors, as it distorts public expenditure, increases the overheads for running businesses, and diverts resources from poor to rich countries," Obuah notes.

One major characteristic of corruption, especially those that involve the transfer of huge sums of money, is that it is largely impossible without the complicity of financial institutions and those who use them.

"This is part of the reason why we are having this walk," ACCOBIN's Chairman, Mr. Opeyemi Adojutelegan, said, "to create awareness about the work that compliance officers do and, essentially, sensitise Nigerians on the evils of financial corruption."

Compliance officers are those whose responsibilities include ensuring that an institution complies with its outside regulatory requirements and internal policies. In the banking world, they ensure that a bank is playing according to the rules and help to minimise destructive behaviour.

ACCOBIN, which was formerly known as the Committee of Chief Compliance Officers of Banks in Nigeria (CCOBIN) was formed in 2007 by all the Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) in Nigeria to deepen the collaborative, cooperative and coordinating efforts among its members and all the other stakeholders in the fight against money laundering, terrorist financing, fraud and all other criminal activities in the financial services industry and the country at large.

"We have contributed to the promotion of Nigeria's image as a compliant country among AAML/CFT stakeholders globally," Chief Compliance office, United Bank for Africa, Bennie Franklyn, had said, at a press conference held in Lagos recently. "We have achieved a non-competitive spirit among our members on issues of fighting crime, thereby influencing the success rate of Law Enforcement Agencies at fighting financial crime in Nigeria."

The walk, which was part of activities marking ACCOBIN's first decade of existence, started from Prince Alaba Abiodun Oniru Road in Victoria Island and terminated at the Ikoyi end of the Lekki-Ikoyi Bridge, a 5km route that cut through the Lekki Toll Gate and Admiralty Road in Lekki; flyers were shared and the loud music that accompanied the group drew the attention of early morning risers and motorists in the rather sleepy metropolis.

"Financial corruption is a collective failure of our system," the Chief Compliance Officer at Diamond Bank, Mr. Femi Jaiyeola, said at the end of the walk. "This is why we need strong compliance systems and build up our value systems. To reduce these kinds of corruption in our society, we will have to take collective responsibility. I think we are on the right path already, but it is our job to sustain it."

Consultant to the Association, Abimbola Adeseyoju also said, "The unique essence behind the walk, was to enlighten Nigerians on the need to support the Association and other anti-graft agencies' efforts and ensure success. Part of our duties is advocacy and enlightenment. We want to bring to the consciousness of Nigerians the fact that corruption does not pay and to make everybody part of this campaign. The very essence is to bring the campaign to the doorsteps of everybody across the country, because this is a fight we have to do collectively. it is our hope that the sensitisation walk will serve as another platform to drive home federal government's message that corruption is evil and must be terminated in Nigeria. It is a fight by all. We shall continue the fight, we will not be tired. We commend the media for joining in the fight."

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