Banks hiding stolen funds should be sanctioned — Osinbajo

Ag. President Yemi Osinbajo

Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, on Monday, June 6 debunked allegations of engaging in media trial often levelled against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and other law enforcement agencies.

Osinbajo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, said the allegations of media trial were being sponsored by treasury looters in their bid to wage a counter-war against the fight against graft in the country.

He also called for the prosecution of international banking institutions found culpable in the transfer of ill-gotten funds from Nigeria to foreign nations.

Osinbajo spoke in Abuja during the opening session of a three-day conference on ‘Promoting International Co-operation in Combating Illicit Financial Flows and Enhancing Asset Recovery to Foster Sustainable Development’.

“If you look at the anti-corruption fight in Nigeria, there is a major fight back in the media.

“There is a media war between people fighting corruption and those behind the stolen funds. It is called media trial. I don’t know what that means.

“If you discover for instance large sums of money in an air-conditioned room, there is no where it will not make news anywhere in the world.

“So, this whole idea of trying to legitimise corruption is definitely being fuelled and sponsored by those who have these resources, who have stolen funds.

“Unless we see it as a problem that can bring down our system, then we will never be able to fight. I hope we will be able to advance this with other African countries.

“In Nigeria for instance, where corruption fights back so eloquently, that government itself, if not careful, can be overwhelmed.”

He also called for the prosecution of international banking institutions which had made the transfer of illicit funds abroad possible.

He said, “There is no way the transfer of these assets can happen without a handshake between the countries that they are transferred and the international banking institutions in the countries in which they are transferred; there is no way it will happen without some form of connivance.

“We have to look at somehow delegitimising those kinds of financial institutions and criminalising them, so that banks and financial institutions that actually engage in this are called out and made to face the consequences of engaging in criminal practices. If that isn’t done, we are not likely to go very far.”

He urged law enforcement agencies to do more to stop such illicit flows.

He described as absurd the fact that more money was being stolen from Nigeria than the amount the country received from foreign nations as grants.

He said, “I was arguing with somebody about the fact that they were stopping certain funding, and he kept telling me Nigeria is no longer a poor country but now a mid-income earning country; so, they shouldn’t be giving us those kinds of aid.

“It was barely a week after that a large sum of money was found at the Kaduna airport and it was roughly about half of the money we were looking for.

“So, he sent me a text, telling me that the money has been discovered at the Kaduna airport. Of course, I didn’t reply him but when he persisted, I called him and asked if this was his own form of a joke.

“But clearly, it’s sometimes absurd that when we are asking for aid and so much money is being stolen; so, we ourselves must take responsibility and ensure we keep talking about this.”

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