From Ngozi Onyeakusi, Lagos
The Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo has urged Nigerians to treat money laundering and financial crimes with zero tolerance in order to maintain and sustain economic, financial and political stability.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA) 18th Ministerial Committee meeting, held in Abuja.
According to him, “We have for long enough affirmed our commitment as a sub-region to fighting Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing. We must now back this intent with forceful action and visible results”
Explaning further, he said: “In the last decade, more than 20,000 lives have been lost to terrorism propagated by Boko Haram, and more than 2 million persons displaced. One important question that arises is this: How did a once-obscure sect, domiciled primarily in a single city in Northern Nigeria, evolve to become, at one point, a menace, not only to the country but to the entire Lake Chad Basin?
“I’m certain that a significant part of the answer to those questions will be found in the complicated multinational networks of financing that sustained the group and nurtured its hateful vision. There is absolutely no way that Boko Haram would have grown as dangerous as it did without access to funding and resources, mobilized from far and wide.
“It is clear that without dealing a lethal blow to those powerful criminal networks that funnel money to terrorist groups, we cannot reasonably hope to completely obliterate the threat of terrorism and other organized criminal activity in our sub-region.
“Boko Haram is just one example of how much evil can be done by a subversive group that has figured out how to raise money in the shadows. There are many others like it, with similar or different goals, all of them united by the need to raise financing to achieve their aims. We know that the lines between terrorist groups, corrupt politicians, traffickers (whether of drugs, guns or people); fraudsters; smugglers; kidnappers; illegal oil bunkerers, etc, have always been blurry; that these groups have always found complementary need for one another’s tactics and strategies. Indeed, if there’s one thing that the world’s deadliest terrorist groups, from Al Qaeda to ISIS to Al-Shabaab, have in common, it is the ease and expertise with which they diversify their criminal activity while retaining their overarching goal of inflicting maximum devastation.
“Today, in the age of the Internet, that blurring has intensified. Cyberspace has made it easier than ever for criminal syndicates to not only draw inspiration and learning from one another, but to also devise increasingly complex means of fundraising and of bypassing conventional financial system checkpoints and safeguards.
“The advent of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies provides the unprecedented levels of discreetness preferred by criminal networks. The result is that financial crime is able to always stay a few steps ahead of governments and the law”.