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Illicit Funds Aggravate Insecurity, Underdevelopment in Africa – Buhari

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President Muhammadu Buhari
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By Mathew Dadiya, Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari has called on security agencies in Africa, especially the intelligence community, to tighten the loop against illicit financial flows, attributing rising security challenges and thwarted growth in the continent to sponsorship by those who profit from illegal financial activities.

The President said this on Thursday in a keynote address at the opening session of the 16th Conference of the Committee of Intelligence and Security Services of Africa (CISSA), in Abuja.

 

Buhari said that development and stability on the African continent had been undermined by illicit outflows estimated to be about 60 billion US dollars annually.

He said: “Frankly, we may never know the true extent of the damage. Estimates, however, suggest that African countries lose over 60 billion US dollars annually due to illicit financial outflows, a staggering amount for a continent in dire need of development finance.

“Corroborating this figure, a United Nations Report on ‘Illicit Financial Flows and the Problem of Net Resource Transfers from Africa: 1980-2009,’ observed that during the period 1980 to 2009 between $1.2 trillion and $1.4 trillion was taken out of Africa. This figure is half of the current Gross Domestic Products of all the countries of Africa.”

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President Buhari noted that the theme for the conference, “Illicit Financial Outflows from Africa and its impact on National Security and Development,’’ was most timely, urging stakeholders from the intelligence community of the 52 African countries to create a template of risk factors and actionable strategies and give priority to examining the links between crime and instability on our continent.

The President also challenged the conference to put measures in place that will ensure terrorists and criminals were denied access to financial systems.

“Criminals and their collaborators cheat the system through various practices, including trade mis-pricing, trade mis-invoicing, tax abuse and evasion, as well as money laundering. Several unfair commercial agreements and illegal resource extraction by multinational companies, in cahoots with their local collaborators, also create routes for illicit financial outflows.

“As partners in the fight against crime and insecurity, you know that terrorist networks, organized criminal syndicates of drugs, arms and human traffickers and sundry hostile non-state actors are actively undermining the security and stability of our countries,’’ he added.

Buhari said that firm and unwavering action will be required to bring threats under control, noting that “any evasion of rules and regulations in ways that aid corruption in its various manifestations, including illicit financial outflows, must be vigorously fought and defeated.’’

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He said, “My role as African Union’s Anti-Corruption Champion brought me closer to appreciating more the devastating impact of corruption and illicit financial outflows on our continent.

“I am, therefore, pleased that this conference will boost the sense of urgency that we collectively have about this devastation and raise our response capacity at operational levels. In Nigeria, we have risen to the challenge. The fight against corruption remains at the core of our efforts to accelerate national development. We have recorded successes even though the perpetrators are not giving up and are trying to fight back.’’

President Buhari commended CISSA, which was established in Nigeria in 2004, for its consistency in networking for 15 years, admonishing that the future goals of curbing illicit flows will not be easy, and would require robust efforts and resolute commitment by individual services in order to lay the solid base for the collaborative efforts to address the daunting challenges.

In his remark, Chairman of African Union Commission, Musa Faki Mahamat, said terrorism, radicalisation, sponsored by illicit flows, continuously affect growth on the continent, while ethnicity and religious diversities had been exploited for political gains.

The Chairman, represented by the African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security, Amb. Smail Chergui, said that the internet had been used as valid platform for recruitment of people into criminal activities, noting that terrorists also use sophisticated technology like drones.

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Commending President Buhari’s integrity and dedication to fighting corruption, the African Union Chairman said that some political transitions on the continent, with 14 elections holding next year, pose a challenge to development.

The Director General of the National Intelligence Agency, Amb. Ahmed Rufai Abubakar, said that conservative estimates suggest that, cumulatively, Africa lost well over one trillion US dollars in over five decades, adding that Africa loses more through illicit financial outflows than it gets in aid and Foreign Direct Investment.

Quoting World Bank reports, Amb. Abubakar noted that poverty in sub-Saharan Africa had been on the rise.

He further noted that illicit financial flows weaken the capacity of African states to meet governance expectations, stifle economic growth and infrastructural development and limit investment in education, health care and agriculture.

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Good Tax Revenues ‘ll Enhance  Compliance – FIRS

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By Tony Obiechina, Abuja 

When governments deploy tax revenues for the common good of the citizens, there is a concomitant increase in tax compliance by citizens who see the direct benefit of the taxes they pay.

This was the position held by the Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Muhammad Nami during his opening remarks at the launch of the Public Finance Database by the Nigeria Governors’ Forum at the Wells Carlton Hotel, in Abuja, on Tuesday, last week.

Mr.

Nami argued that the low compliance tax rate in most developing countries was as a result of the failure of the social contract between the taxpayers and the government, noting that those in political leadership in the country had a duty to promote a tax-paying culture by relating projects and infrastructural developments executed by them to taxes paid by taxpayers.

“Taxpayers need to see what has been done with their money to be encouraged to continue to pay their obligations under the Social Contract they have with the government.

“I am delighted that one of the sessions focuses on the tax-for-service programmes as they impact tax revenues. This issue is dear to us as tax administrators as there is a nexus between the effective utilization of tax revenue and tax compliance,” he stated.

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“The low level of tax compliance in developing countries can be attributed to the failure of the social contract between the taxpayers and the government. It is expected that if the citizens are committed to paying taxes, the government should be committed to using the taxes for the common good of all citizens.”

The FIRS boss further argued that projects funded by taxpayers’ moneys should be reported as such and not personalized so that citizens would begin to relate these projects as the proceeds of their taxes.

“Those in political leadership should promote the tax-paying culture by relating projects and infrastructural developments executed by them to tax.

“The government at all levels are doing a lot with taxpayers’ money but citizens do not easily appreciate these facts because of the way and manner the projects are reported.

“There is the need to de-emphasize and de-personalize projects so that the citizens will begin to relate all the ongoing laudable projects in the states to tax revenue. This singular act to a great extent will increase the tax morale and enhance compliance.”

Mr. Muhammad Nami, an advocate for a harmonized tax system as a cure for tax revenue leakages used the platform to call for the country to make a bold paradigm shift  by harmonizing the country’s tax system to optimize tax revenue collection.

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“Recently, there has been a clamour for a holistic review of our tax system. Its proponents, including myself argue that if Nigeria must achieve its tax revenue potentials as the fulcrum of economic development, a harmonisation of our tax system must be undertaken.

“Tax harmonisation for enhanced revenue generation, which was the theme of the 2nd National Tax Dialogue was carefully chosen to reiterate the need for us as a nation to rethink the current tax system being operated.

“There was a consensus at the dialogue that Nigeria needs a transition to a unified tax administration as practised globally by most of the efficient and effective tax jurisdictions that have achieved optimum tax revenue collection. 

“Certainly, there is no gainsaying that if Nigeria must be less dependent on external borrowing and buffer from the volatility and dwindling oil revenue, there should be a paradigm shift. Beyond politics and sentiment, the country should be willing to make those bold and hard but beneficial tax reforms and there is no better time than now, if we must avert the looming debt crisis. The gains from a harmonised tax system far outweigh the fears expressed in some quarters, if dispassionately analysed.”

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No Plans to Sell Transmission Company of Nigeria – BPE 

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By Tony Obiechina, Abuja 

The Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) has debunked reports that the Federal government has concluded plans to sell Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN).

The Bureau made the reffutal in a statement issued by the Head of Public Communications, Mr Chidi Uzoma Ibeh in Abuja on Sunday. 

The statement reads: The attention of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) has been drawn to a news publication alleging that “the Federal Government is currently gearing up to put the Transmission Company of Nigeria, up for Sale”.

“The BPE wishes to state that the news is completely false in all its ramifications. The allegation is a mere fabrication by mischief makers aimed at creating room for another needless strike by electricity workers.

“The actions of the Federal Government in the power sector are guided by well-articulated policy documents and extant legislations.

“It would be recalled that the Federal Government had in 2001 approved the Nigerian Electric Power Policy (NEPP) document. The NEPP formed the basis for the enactment of the Nigerian Electricity Power Sector Reform Act (EPSRA), 2005.

” It would also be recalled that a RoadMap for the Reform of the power sector was issued in 2010. None of these documents envisaged the privatization of TCN and that was why a Management Contract was put in place to reorganize and optimize the operations of TCN during the 2013 privatization exercise.

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“The Federal Government has not changed its policy nor amended the EPSRA as it relates to TCN.

“The Bureau therefore urges electricity sector workers and indeed the general public to ignore completely this false publication”.

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Top10 Magazine Plans Honours for Benue Business Ambassadors

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A Lagos-based national magazine published by a Benue indigene, The Top10 Magazine is putting arrangement in place to honour leading Benue-born business icons with the theme: “Celebrating Top 10 Benue Business Ambassadors”.

The event, which is slated to hold in Abuja in early December, is packaged as a special excellence award night to celebrate and honour 10 Most Accomplished Benue-born self-made business tycoons who are flying the flag of Benue in the business world.

This is in line with the tradition of the magazine of celebrating 10 leading lights in every chosen endeavour.

According to a release signed by the publisher of the magazine, Tony Iji, “The objective is to showcase the entrepreneurial spirit of Benue people and their contributions to economic development of Nigeria”.

He said that the event is designed as an evening of social interaction to bring together accomplished Benue-born business men and women who have distinguished themselves as pride of the state in the business world, their families, friends, associates and other key stakeholders to socialize, network and interact with each other.

He said that the event is expected to be graced by eminent Benue indigenes, crème de la crème and friends of the state, captains of industry, top executives from both private and the public sectors.

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He said that the emphasis on nominating only self-made business leaders into the top 10 list selected for the recognition as Benue business ambassadors is to differentiate between true entrepreneurs who made their money through dint of hard work through personal rudiments in business and public officers who are opportune to make money by virtue of the offices they held in government.   

He said that a special award edition of the magazine will also be published to chronicle the success story and business accomplishments of the Business Ambassadors being celebrated. The publication which will be published in both hard copy and online versions for wide circulation will be unveiled and distributed at the event ceremony.

The release stated that the major highlight of the evening will be the presentation of Awards of Excellence as worthy Benue Business Ambassadors to the 10 distinguished business personalities being celebrated.

Iji said, “in the last seven years of our existence, we have blazed a trail celebrating excellence and people that represent excellence across different sectors of the society and across different climes. As a Benue indigene, I feel time has come for us to look back home to celebrate the best of our state who have distinguished themselves as proud Benue business ambassador in the business world”.

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He stated that “in the next few weeks, we will unveil the identities of those who have scaled through our selection criteria to make it into the top 10 list of Benue business ambassadors based purely on merit after a rigorous selection process. He said to make the selection objective, the process is open to members of public to send in their nominations of those they deemed qualify to be on the list. He calls on the people of the state to come up with suggestions on credible Benue-born and self-made business icons to enable them to showcase the best of Benue to the world.

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