By Emma Njoku
Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi revealed yesterday that the President Muhammad Buhari government has recovered N3.4 trillion in cash and assets while about N115 billion worth of cash and assets have been discovered in the United States, United Arab Emirates and United Kingdom.
They were reportedly bought with looted funds.
The minister also added that government has reduced cost of administration by 25 per cent.
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 yesterday, Amaechi said through measures to block conduits of “waste, the cost of running the central government in Nigeria has been reduced by more than 25 percent in the last 18 months.
“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 Head of State 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 said of Buhari. The minister, who spoke on “Beyond Blame Game: The Imperative of Tackling Economic Crime Together” said economic crime is often committed in an organised manner, involving several people, sometimes, across countries through multiple jurisdictions.
“At the Seventh African Union and Economic Commission for Africa conference that held in Abuja back in 2014, 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 minimise 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.
“As someone who has been in active politics for more than 30 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 signal to 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.
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.”
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.
Last Friday, Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said the N78 billion recovered looted funds were not enough to revive the economy.
The minister, who spoke at the News Agency of Nigeria Forum, said “the N78 billion and $3 million so far recovered were not even sufficient to pay half of the Federal Civil Servants’ salaries in a month.
“What we have recovered and if my record is right, is about N78 billion and $3 million. We’ve blocked other accounts with about $9 billion, but the money is not available to us because we are still in court.
“The government spends N165 billion monthly on Federal Civil Servants. So what we have so far recovered cannot even pay 50 per cent of the salaries in a month. What has been recovered is so little compared to what we need on a continuous basis.”
Mohammed further said every penny recovered would be “judiciously” spent, adding nobody would be able to “re-loot” what has been recovered by the government.
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