Abuja — President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday said that the rising security challenges in Africa was aggravated by those who profit from illegal financial activities and that on corruption his government has 'recorded successes even though the perpetrators are not giving up and are trying to fight back."
To that effect President Buhari has charged the intelligence community and security agencies to tighten the loop against illicit flows,
In a keynote address at the opening session of the 16th Conference of the Committee of Intelligence and Security Services of Africa (CISSA), the President Buhari said development and stability on the African continent had been undermined by illicit outflows estimated to be about 60 billion US dollars annually.
According to Buhari , "Frankly, we may never know the true extent of the damage. Estimates, however, suggest that African countries lose over 60 billion US dollars annually due to illicit financial outflows, a staggering amount for a continent in dire need of development finance.
"Corroborating this figure, a United Nations Report on 'Illicit Financial Flows and the Problem of Net Resource Transfers from Africa: 1980-2009,' observed that during the period 1980 to 2009 between $1.2 trillion and $1.4trillion was taken out of Africa. This figure is half of the current Gross Domestic Products of all the countries of Africa,."
He said that the theme for the conference, "Illicit Financial Outflows from Africa and its impact on National Security and Development," was timely, urging stakeholders from the 52-member intelligence community to create a template of risk factors and actionable strategies and give priority to examining the links between crime and instability on our continent.
President Buhari also challenged the conference to put measures in place that will ensure terrorists and criminals were denied access to financial systems.
He said, "Criminals and their collaborators cheat the system through various practices, including trade mis-pricing, trade mis-invoicing, tax abuse and evasion, as well as money laundering. Several unfair commercial agreements and illegal resource extraction by multinational companies, in cahoots with their local collaborators, also create routes for illicit financial outflows.
"As partners in the fight against crime and insecurity, you know that terrorist networks, organized criminal syndicates of drugs, arms and human traffickers and sundry hostile non-state actors are actively undermining the security and stability of our countries. "
He said that firm and unwavering action will be required to bring threats under control, noting that "any evasion of rules and regulations in ways that aid corruption in its various manifestations, including illicit financial outflows, must be vigorously fought and defeated."
According to Buhari , "My role as African Union's Anti-Corruption Champion brought me closer to appreciating more the devastating impact of corruption and illicit financial outflows on our continent.
"I am, therefore, pleased that this conference will boost the sense of urgency that we collectively have about this devastation and raise our response capacity at operational levels. In Nigeria, we have risen to the challenge. The fight against corruption remains at the core of our efforts to accelerate national development. We have recorded successes even though the perpetrators are not giving up and are trying to fight back."
President Buhari commended CISSA, which was established in Nigeria in 2004, for its consistency in networking for 15 years, admonishing that the future goals of curbing illicit flows will not be easy, and would require robust efforts and resolute commitment by individual services in order to lay the solid base for the collaborative efforts to address the daunting challenges.
In his remark, Chairman of African Union Commission, Musa Faki Mahamat, said terrorism, radicalisation, sponsored by illicit flows, continuously affect growth on the continent, while ethnicity and religious diversities had been exploited for political gains.
The Chairman, represented by the African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security, Amb. Smail Chergui, said the internet had been used as valid platform for recruitment of people into criminal activities, noting that terrorists also use sophisticated technology like drones.
Commending President Buhari's integrity and dedication to fighting corruption, the African Union Chairman said some political transitions on the continent, with 14 elections holding next year, pose a challenge to development.
In his welcome address, the NIA DG, Ambassador Ahmed Rufai Abubakar said putting an end to the menace of illicit financial outflows and other security challenges was the focus of the session.
Amb. Abubakar who quoted World Bank Report, said poverty in sub-Saharan Africa had been on the rise, noting that illicit financial flows weaken the capacity of African states to meet governance expectations, stifle economic growth and infrastructural development and limit investment in education, health care and agriculture.
"Conservative estinates suggest that, cumulatively, Africa lost well over US$1trillion in over five decades and loses well above US$50 billion annually," and through illicit financial outflows than it gets in aid and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).
Buhari said, "Illicit funds are often acquired through fraudulent invaicing, embezzlement, money laundering, and tax evasion, adding that these practices cut across several sectors and are perpetrated through either the active collaboration or passive complicity of both local and foreign officials, professionals and businesses.
The Nia DG stated that IFOs from Africa were largely to blame for this incongruity, quoting the world bank 2018 report which stated that while the global poverty rate is dedlining, it is on the rise, fast-approaching fifty (50) percent, in sub- Saharan Africa.
"IFOs weaken the capacity of African states to meet governance expectations. They stifle economic growth and infrastructural develogment, worsen poverty, and limit investment in education, agriculture, healthcare and sanitation.
"Other than the direct harm to our economies, IFOs facilitate dandestine financing of terrorist organizations, criminal ventures, and other subversive activities. Foreign Terrorist Fighters (FTFs) migrating into Africa are joining other criminal networks engaged in all kinds of trafficking drugs and arms), kidnapping for ransom and banditry. They continuousily seek out alternative funding for their despicable activities. These ariminals have links with individuals and non-state actors around the world.
"All these activities threaten our fundamental existence and undermine our development efforts
" As a direct threat to internal stability, IFOs allow unscrupulous individuals to amass fortunes, which are then used to undermine the state and its institutions, intimidate citizens, manipulate public opinion, create and sustain a never-ending cycle of violence driven by propaganda, hate speech and other divisive rhetoric.
"Illicit outflows from Africa, therefore, constitute an existential threat to the continent, which no amount of foreign assistance can undo.
" Sadly, Africa's Agenda 2063, including its flagship project of silencing the guns by 2020, would be significantly impaired except leakages throughillict financial outflows are blocked."
About 300 delegates participated in the security meeting which held at the Headquarters of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA).