It is no more news that a former Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha was recently arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on alleged misappropriation of government assets. Yet, it whets my interest to know why EFCC has not been proactive on its statutory mandates.
Money laundering and embezzlement by Politically Exposed Persons (PEP) in Nigeria have become unstoppable despite the number of agencies put in place to rigorously implement the prevention and enforcement of the Anti-Money Laundering (AML) regime.
It should be noted that falling under the threshold of the PEP isn’t synonymous with being corrupt however, it puts them at high risk of money laundering because of their substantial authority over state assets, funds and other public expenditure.
Nonetheless, the likes of late Nigerian Head of State, Sani Abacha, former Delta State Governor, James Ibori and now Imo West Senate representative, Mr. Okorocha, have unfortunately made the phrase a euphemism for a person who is fraudulent.
The methods, which PEPs launder money have become no secret to Nigerians in recent times. It is well known that financial institutions are the insidious arrangers.
Undoubtedly, the nation has created significant tactics to curb this menace by establishing varying regulatory mechanisms and institutions that enact certain laws, yet there are issues affecting its efforts.
Some of the challenges affecting the results are conflicting messages from the government; taking advantage of the crime-fighting agencies as tools to exact vengeance; judicial corruption and immunity clause. These elements have made whatever progress made to be insignificant in comparison to the damage it continues to inflict.
Seeing that the EFCC’s reactions to money laundering have become redundant with PEPs being almost untouched, the question still remains as to why it cannot proactively keep an “eagle eye” before these ruses of corruption and political chicanery occur? Why can’t it be prevented?
The EFCC (Establishment) Act Section 6, states that the Commission shall be responsible for the investigation of all financial crimes including advance fee fraud, money laundering, counterfeiting, illegal charge transfers, futures market fraud, fraudulent encashment of negotiable instruments, computer credit card fraud, contract scam, etc.
In addition, section 7(2) of the Act also states that the Commission shall be the coordinating agency for the enforcement of the provision of the Bank and Other Financial Institutions (BOFIA) Act as amended.
The failure of Nigerian banks to abide by the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act that impels financial institutions and designated non-financial institutions to report to the EFCC transactions, lodgments or transfer of funds in excess of N5 million within seven days is already punishable by law.
But how many banks have been sanctioned because of negligence to fulfill the reporting obligation? And even if reported, how many have been investigated up to conclusion based on this report?
It makes one to believe that the AML system is only ‘for show’ and not for use. The disposition of the government and anti-graft agencies, if anything, has only made it convenient for banks to operate with a devil-may-care attitude, having little to no regard for anti-money laundering obligations.
For the anti-corruption agency to think that financial institutions will be of help in the enforcement of the AML when enablers and culprits are stakeholders is a fallacy. It is pertinent for anti-corruption bodies, especially the EFCC and its sister agency Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) to strike the iron while it is hot.
Let them investigate and bring money laundering facilitators to book. They should make scapegoats of the perpetrators to forewarn other syndicates if they must prove that they mean serious business in curbing money laundering.
Zubaida Baba Ibrahim wrote from Wuye District, Abuja