Nigeria’s Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi opined that economic crime can better be tackled if countries partner each other and share strategic information to stop the network of those who commit such crimes.
Amaechi made the statement Monday while delivering a keynote speech at the opening of the 34th Cambridge University prestigious International Symposium on Economic Crime, at Jesus College, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom. The Rt. Hon. Jeremy Wright, the Attorney-General of England and Wales and Advocate General of Northern Ireland also spoke on the first day of the week-long symposium.
In his address titled: “Beyond Blame Game: The Imperative of Tackling Economic Crime Together” Amaechi said economic crime is often committed in an organised manner involving several people, sometimes across countries through multiple jurisdictions. Although such crimes may originate from one country, it often involves the participation of clandestine, criminal networks operating in different countries, playing one role or the other and benefiting from such illicit proceeds.
“At the 7th African Union and Economic Commission for Africa conference that held in Abuja back in 2014, the former President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki stated that Africa loses between $50 billion to $60 billion annually as a result of Illicit Financial Flows (IFF). These are said to occur through forms of tax avoidance including transfer pricing or mispricing- depending on which side you are- through which multinationals minimize their tax obligations by shifting their profits from high tax to low tax jurisdiction thereby short-changing some of their host countries especially in the developing world and draining them of legitimate revenue, impeding their projects and denying their population access to basic services,” Amaechi noted.
He further explained that because economic crimes are committed through networks, sometimes spread over countries, It is therefore a global problem that can only be effectively tackled through global collaboration and partnership.
“For this to happen, the public and private sectors especially the banks, must come into collaboration beyond high sounding rhetoric and public relations. Institutions from both developed and developing countries must learn to share information and act swiftly to erode the efficacy of these networks to successfully use any jurisdiction either as transit routes or safe havens for proceeds of economic crime. Strong, effective, regulatory and enforcement capabilities must be encouraged both domestically and internationally through technical cooperation. Partnerships must be encouraged to provide platforms to share best practices and intelligence and strengthen legislations between jurisdictions.
He also noted that leaders across countries and institutions must take responsibility when economic crime or corruption happens. “That is what it means to be held accountable. In doing so, leadership is expected to do three simple things; perhaps four. They are – upholding the primacy of leadership and political will, insisting on the force of example, enforcing the urgency of incentives and the necessity of sanctions and finally by leveraging on the power of partnership.
“As someone who has been in active politics for more than thirty years, I have learnt that many well intended reforms are possible only if the leader can offer the requisite leadership and muster the right political will. In my country, since our President, Muhammadu Buhari was elected, he did not leave anyone in doubt that the fight against corruption will not only be taken seriously but will form a cardinal plank of his policy direction. So far, he has made several pronouncements that set the tone of his commitment to strengthening anti-corruption agencies to go after anyone who has questions to answer. The President’s resolve was enough to signal all of us, members of his cabinet and the citizenry, that an end has come for the old ways of doing things. Currently, many people who have been indicted in one form of corrupt practice or another are being prosecuted in our courts. That, I believe is the way to show leadership and take responsibility.
“Another important factor is what I refer to as the force of example. There is very little any leader can achieve if he talks the right political talk without offering personal examples. In these days of internet and social media revolution, citizens often spend time to scrutinize the reputation and activities of any leader to find out if they are consistent with what he or she stands for in the media. Essentially leaders must practice what they preach if they expect to be taken seriously both by those within their organisations, state or country or outside,” he stated.
Amaechi again gave the example of President Mohammadu Buhari and his commitment to lead the fight against corrupt practices through personal example.
“Through the implementation of calculated policies to block conduits of waste, the cost of running the central government in Nigeria has been reduced by more than twenty-five percent in the last eighteen months. In the last one year about a cumulative amount of 3.4 trillion naira have been recovered in cash and assets while about 115-billion-naira worth of cash and assets have been located in the United States, United Arab Emirates and even here in the United Kingdom. Our President has stopped at nothing to demonstrate that whosoever is caught in corruption related crimes will not be spared. In his days as military President, and through other positions he has held in public life, he has upheld a life of integrity. He is a typical example of how a leader can inspire committed followership through the force of example.”
Amaechi concluded that economic crime has become a strong force that can only be successfully confronted if all hands are on deck.
“As an interconnected and rapidly globalising world, it’s vital we work together, in partnership, to collectively fight economic crime. This is a common enemy and a very smart one for that matter. It seeks to beat every barrier that we mount against it. It is my humble submission that we must hold hands together as never before to confront the spread of economic crimes squarely and successfully.”