2023 elections: Stop politicians from using dirty money in politics, CSOs task Buhari

The coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Nigeria has called President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently take steps to investigate every person exposed in the Pandora Papers.

The clarion call was contained in a joint statement on: ‘The urgent need to investigate Pandora Papers revelations,’ issued by Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), National Chapter of Transparency International (TI) in Nigeria and Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ).

With the electioneering period approaching, the Coalition stressed the need for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), and other relevant agencies on the need to ensure that political parties conform to political party financing regulations and prevent the use of dirty money in Nigeria’s politics.

While commending the efforts of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and its network of members globally, the Coalition in a statement signed by CISLAC Executive Director and Head of Transparency International (Nigeria), Amnesty International (Nigeria), Mr Auwal Ibrahim Musa, underscored the urgent need for President Buhari to put necessary punitive measures in place that will serve as a deterrent and strengthen various anti-graft agencies including Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) saddled with the responsibility of ensuring declaration of assets by political and public officers.

“The Pandora Papers is one of the biggest ever corruption leaks led by ICIJ and over 600 Journalists from 117 countries, including Journalists from Nigeria’s Premium Times Center for Investigative Journalists (PTCIJ).

“Following the pattern of two previous leaks (i.e. the Paradise Papers and Panama Papers, which were released in 2017 and 2016, respectively), the Pandora Papers exposes systems and jurisdictions that enable and abet crime, corruption, and wrongdoing by politicians, billionaires, influential individuals, and their enablers globally.

“Since its release on October 3, 2021, Nigerians have read in awe details of financial transactions and practices of politicians and influential individuals that exploit and, in some cases, violates and undermine extant financial guidelines and policies and threaten our corporate existence and collective wellbeing. The Pandora Papers confirm therefore the continuing weaknesses in the Nigerian financial systems and regulatory deficiencies that have been at the root of the annual loss of $18 billion to illicit financial flows out of Nigeria, according to the latest estimate.

“Some of you will recall that the Panama Papers and the Paradise papers led to significant protests across the globe and the fall of governments, dismissal of officials, criminal investigations, and asset confiscations. They also precipitated hundreds of tax probes and criminal investigations, prosecutions, and reforms in the United States, Canada, Europe, and parts of Africa.

“Sadly, both have had minimal impact in Nigeria as the Federal Government led by President Buhari failed on the two occasions to seize the opportunities to take decisive action against corruption and bring all those indicted in the two papers to account.

“Nigerian Government only managed to constitute a Panama Papers committee, which never triggered any action or any impact. It is to be assumed that given a large number of Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) present in Panama and other leaks, committees consisting of PEPs are unlikely to indict their own.

“The Pandora papers release is coming when Nigeria is reeling under the deleterious impact of the COVID-19 and the debt pileup that has continued to stoke serious concerns across political divides and among Nigerians and its development partners. Therefore, it is a meaningful opportunity for the Buhari administration to act decisively against corruption, aggressive tax planning, and other financial practices of politically exposed persons and their advisors and companies that threaten our country’s economic stability and corporate existence.

The CSOs also underscored the need for the Presidency, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation and all anti-corruption agencies to immediately commence actions to investigate all the people and companies indicted in the stories and revelations of dirty financial deals so far published by the Premium Times Center for Investigative Journalism.

“Furthermore, we call on civil society organizations to urgently come together to track and document the reports and commence effort to ensure the exposure does not go the way of the 2017 and 2016 Paradise and Panama Papers. We urge the Federal Government to consider policy reforms and institutional strengthening necessary to curb the abuse of financial systems and ease the prosecution of violators.”

While stressing the need for deliberate action towards prosecuting the allegations, the Coalition urged the present administration to prioritize the need to “strengthen the Code of Conduct Bureau by digitizing the assets declaration processes, documentation and verification, and the prosecution of violators.

“As of now, the asset declaration administration in Nigeria is dysfunctional and a major enabler for corruption. The Federal Government must equally work with the National Assembly to remove all the obstacles to public access to asset declarations of every eligible public officer.

“The Company and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) 2020 provides for the setting up of a Beneficial Ownership (BO) register. We call on the government to fully implement this so that beneficial owners of companies in Nigeria can be identified.

“This will prevent the diversion of public funds through procurement corruption in the first place. The Nigerian government must ‘live the talk’ by ensuring the beneficial ownership data is publicly accessible and must show leadership by acting on them. So far, the lack of action on financial data leaks proves the opposite.

“On its part, the Central Bank needs to ensure that financial institutions fully carry out Know Your Customer (KYC), Customer Due Diligence (CDD) as well as Enhanced Due Diligence (EDD) as required by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Inter-Governmental Action Against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA), and other international financial compliance guidelines.

“Effective compliance with these guidelines and measures will curb the current abuse and indiscretion among politically exposed persons and their collaborators.

“The CBN, Anti-graft agencies, the Ministry of Justice, and the Foreign Affairs work in synergy and engage their international counterparts to ensure that global enablers/middlemen like lawyers, notaries, accountants who help facilitate money laundering and tax evasion are blacklisted, deregistered, or held to account under the several national laws, policies and international frameworks to which Nigeria is a signatory.

“There is enough open data available exposing PEPs, military leaders, senior public servants and others to own lavish properties all around the world. No significant international cooperation with many key jurisdictions takes place at the moment.

“The Federal Government should reopen the Voluntary Asset and Income Disclosure Scheme (VAIDS) and the Voluntary Offshore Assets Regularization Scheme (VOARS) to enable Nigerians with undisclosed (offshore) assets to declare them and pay taxes where they are liable.

“The National Assembly should ensure that it continues to play its constitutionally mandated oversight functions on the relevant government agencies to ensure that they carry out their mandate.

“With the electioneering period approaching, INEC, CBN, the NFIU, and other relevant agencies must ensure that political parties conform to political party financing regulations and prevent the use of “dirty money” in Nigeria’s politics.

“Lastly, we want to congratulate the Premium Times in Nigeria and the ICIJ for this vital work. The report shows the significance of a strong partnership between media and the nonprofit for an accountable and robust democracy.

“The Nigerian government must, therefore, immediately retrace its steps and stop further actions to emasculate free speech and gag the vibrant civil society. And instead begin to encourage and promote regular dialogue with civil society leaders and the media, as partners in progress, to find lasting solutions to the multiple political, socio-economic, environmental, and security challenges confronting the nation,” the statement read.


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2023 elections: Stop politicians from using dirty money in politics, CSOs task Buhari

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