Stakeholders berate CBN over $17 billion illicit financial flows

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Over one million illegal operators still active, says ABCON

Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) out of Nigeria may not subside unless the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), takes a bold step in designing preventive measures and enforcing regulations that would curb commercial banks and individuals arbitrariness engaged in the crime.

The stakeholders, who gathered in Abuja, yesterday, to explore new frontiers in Nigeria’s anti money-laundering regime through effective use of data, alleged that the apex bank has not done enough in combating money laundering.

The Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, Auwal Musa, insisted that money laundering and illicit financial outflows from Nigeria, which now hovers around $17 billion requires urgent action from CBN.

“Given its role as the regulator, it has the responsibility to regulate all the banks and monitor them, as well as ensuring that there is compliance. We have not seen much of that happening, because if it is happening, we will not see huge sums of money leaving the country. Someone is not doing what should be done.

“There is a need for CBN to tightening up. There is a need for CBN to bring in policies and legal framework that will deter looters from siphoning government’s money,” he said. Musa said growth in volume of financial transactions across borders, greater integration of world economies, frequently expanding or changing rules to manage new realities have greatly increased the spate and sophistication of money laundering worldwide and also in Nigeria.He pointed out that the number of prosecutions for financial crimes hit an all-time high in Nigeria in 2019.

According to him, though the Financial Intelligence Unit, having been made autonomous, has been positioned to deliver on its mandate and convictions arising from suspicious transactions reports, their record in this area is still abysmally low.

Acting President, Association of Bureaux De Change Operators of Nigeria (ABCON), Aminu Gwadabe, said over one million operators of Bureaux De Change in the country are not registered, and as such, short-change government in terms of taxes and illicit operations.

“There are over million unlicensed operators in the country. This excludes online operators that don’t even have location. Every licensed Bureaux de Change has an office, registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission, renders returns to CBN, and prepares audited account, pay taxes and others.

“This is what makes us different. We are under an umbrella body that protects our investment, empower compliance and enhance capacity,” he said.Gwadabe said the Association has recorded a sustained exchange rate devoid of volatility, speculation and fraud, adding that the group is seeking partnership that would address some of its inadequacies.

“In terms of office operations, we have automated our processes and can file returns online and in real time. As at last week, 2,288 licensed operators were able to file their returns live to the CBN portal.

“This is a big improvement. We have about 2,000 Bureaux de Change on the NFIU reporting portal, which is good in terms of compliance. That is also a big achievement. We are working on establishing an institute to address the issue of capacity gap.”Since our transactions are cash-based, we have a lot of vulnerability, but there is one thing the stakeholders always don’t look at and that is the knowledge that we are distinct from the unlicensed operators. This is a financial market that is bedevilled by a lot of people that are out to break the rules,” he added.

Noting that terrorism financing is eminent across some African countries, ECOWAS Information Officer, Timothy Malaye, said the regional body is working to address the menace.He also noted that addressing the issues of illicit financial flows remained a critical step to crippling terrorism, as the move would cut insurgents from funding sources.
Melaye said there was a need to prevent money laundering and take away the proceeds of such crimes from the perpetrators.