Vice President Yemi Osinbajo yesterday identified two major obstacles to efforts to Repatriate Looted Funds kept in offshore accounts.
Osinbajo noted foreign countries warehousing stolen funds deliberately create rigorous obstacles and set humiliating conditions in cases where such monies are to be released.
He also said the willingness of developed countries to allow companies and organisations with anonymous owners function was hampering the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing.
The Vice President expressed concerns over the devastating effects of official corruption on West African countries.
He called for concerted efforts of all member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to curb the vice, which he said poses a grave threat to their continued survival.
Osinbajo spoke in Abuja yesterday at the opening session of the 18th Ministerial Committee meeting of the Inter-Governmental Action Against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA).
GIABA is an ECOWAS’ agency responsible for facilitating the adoption and implementation of Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Counter-Financing of Terrorism (CFT) in West Africa.
It is also a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-Styled Regional Body (FSRB) working with its member states to ensure compliance with international AML/CFT standards.
Osinbajo said: “Despite numerous mutual legal assistance treaties and conventions, it is obvious that we are not making the sort of progress we expect to see.
“It is unconscionable to have stolen funds in a bank within the jurisdiction of an FATF (Financial Action Task Force) country and to have to go through a rigorous obstacle course to retrieve the funds and even when such funds are to be returned after several years, humiliating conditions are attached.
“It is the view of Nigeria that FATF countries must ensure the smooth repatriation of proceeds of corruption to the economies from where they were stolen.”
He added: “The other issue is the risk of the dangers posed by anonymous corporate ownership.
“If nothing else, the Panama Papers and now the Paradise papers clearly illustrate the global scale and spread of this problem.
“So this is a global challenge and nothing less than a truly global approach will be needed to tackle it.
“We cannot have anonymous ownership of companies, trusts and other arrangements designed to cover ownership of assets and at the same time expect optimal results from anti-money laundering measures.”
Osinbajo noted that the threat to the continued existence of most West African states by official corruption is evident in the rundown schools and hospitals, potholed roads, under-equipped armies, subverted financial systems and fragile democracies.
The Vice President stressed the needs for West African countries to redouble their efforts in the wars against financial crimes and terrorist financing.