Nigeria on Monday called on the Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA) to develop institutional framework for the enforcement of financial crimes regulations in the sub region.
Lateef Fagbemi, (SAN), the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, made the appeal at the inauguration of the 27th Meeting of the Ministerial Committee of GIABA, in Abuja.
Fagbemi, who is also the Chairman of GIABA Ministerial Committee, said member countries should prioritise their national systems on Anti-Money Laundering and Combating Financing of Terrorism.
According to him, doing so would enable the countries to push their national institutions to perform to the highest of their capabilities and achieve progress in financial crimes control.
Fagbemi said, “Our collective commitment to put in place legislative policy and institutional frameworks is necessary to protect the integrity of our financial systems from threats of money laundering, terrorist and proliferation financing.
“As we come to the close of the second round of mutual evaluations, I believe we need to take some time for introspection and an assessment of where we have fallen short.
“In particular, looking at the effectiveness of our AML/CFT/CPF frameworks, it is clear that across the region there is significant room for improvement.
“As we begin preparations for the next round of mutual evaluations, our goal must be to greatly strengthen results and outcomes being achieved by our regulatory, supervisory, law enforcement and prosecutorial authorities.
“We must ensure we go beyond just focusing on technical compliance, to a results-based approach; this will require more efforts and resources than we have deployed so far.”
The attorney-general said the integral nature of the fight against money laundering, terrorist financing and proliferation financing to the safety and security of our nations cannot be over-overemphasised.
He said the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Standards are not punitive measures, but tools to ensure safety, security and prosperity in countries, regions, continents and the global community.
Also speaking, the Minister of Interior, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, described the meeting as apt, saying it would boost fights against money laundering, financing of terrorism and proliferation financing .
He said that it would enable you to align your thoughts with the position of Nigeria.
“For us, we understand the importance of tackling money laundering, terrorism financing, especially what we have gone through since the past 15 years.
“The only way to remove the monster within our internal security architecture is by getting to the root of tackling the financing of these organised crimes,” Ojo said.
Also speaking, the President of ECOWAS Commission, Omar Touray, represented by Mr Mambury Njie, promised to support GIABA towards taking steps to consolidate existing gains.
He urged member states to continue to take practical steps to effectively address the strategic deficiencies identified in their AML/CFT systems, especially to strengthen key AML/CFT/P institutions.
“The judiciary should be more responsive in the adjudication of cases of money laundering, terrorism and terrorist financing to deprive criminals of the proceeds of their crime, recover stolen assets, and dismantle criminal enterprises.
“In addition, member States should deepen their risk understanding, strengthen domestic coordination and international cooperation and promote public-private partnerships,” Touray said.
For his part, the Director-General of GIABA, Edwin Harris, said the new website designed to provide detailed information about the organisation will become officially operational on Dec. 4, 2023 to promote growth.
Harris said, “We look forward to your support and guidance, so we do not go back into an effectiveness programme due to poor quality of our work, let us sustain the gains and allow others to emulate us.”
Meanwhile, the FATF Vice-President, Jeremy Weil, commended Nigeria’s progress to date, saying he recognised the high degree of political commitment to sustaining the reforms.
According to him, the challenges posed by money laundering and terrorism financing in West Africa are no secret.
“GIABA’s evaluations and research showed West Africa is exposed to a combination of risks, such as drug and human trafficking, fraud, and corruption that are closely associated with money laundering and terrorism financing.
“It is therefore critical for member countries to address their deficiencies through the effective implementation of the FATF standards,” Weil said.
Plenary meetings are GIABA Statutory meetings and integral part to ensure Member States compliance with AML/CFT Standards, foster regional peace, security, prosperity and integration in the ECOWAS region.