Nigeria and former British colonies in Africa are hoping to change that by jointly repatriating billions of dollars in offshore accounts from London and beyond.
At a regional conference in Abuja, Nigeria, this week, heads of anti-corruption agencies from across Africa met to discuss strategies to overcome bottlenecks in recovering stolen assets.
“Concerned at the heavy losses suffered by Africa through illegal transfers of proceeds of corruption and crime from Africa,” the anti-corruption representatives vowed Friday (18 may 2018), “to strengthen cooperation and partnership in finding, recovering and returning of assets “.
In a joint statement, they further committed to encouraging African countries to greater corporate transparency, and called for investments in anti-corruption agencies to “track, recover and return.”
Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said that Africa is losing tens of billions of dollars in corruption every year, and is calling on the anti-goth czars to lead the fight against this tsunami.
“We all know that the difference between the money we need to fulfill the hopes and hopes (of our people) and the money we have is the sum that is corrupted by corrupt practices outrageously diverted, “said Scotland.
Nigeria, the continent’s largest oil producer, is considered by the anti-graft group Transparency International to be one of the most corrupt countries in the world.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has promised to continue his war on corruption as part of his re-election campaign in 2019.
Buharis anti-graft leader Ibrahim Magu claimed earlier this year that his agency had recovered more than $500 billion in naira ($ 1.3 billion) from illegal funds.
But the government’s fight against corruption was accused of being politically motivated.
“Mafia the Leader”
The Commonwealth Adviser Roger Koranteng told the AFP that leaders at the Summit want a regional approach to salvage stolen assets.
“There is strength in unity, and if you go as a single country, you will have a problem because the countries outside of the African countries are together,” he said.
Maintaining momentum, however, can be difficult. Ghana’s independent prosecutor Martin Amidu said that there is a desire to fight transplantation in Ebbs and rivers on the continent.
“For me, over the past few decades, Africa has had a mafia of leaders who speak of corruption as if they were against it, but did not try internally to fight it,” Amidu said.
Nevertheless, countries will make a lot of money in rationalizing asset development.
Nigeria announced over $300 million from Switzerland in April as part of the money confiscated from the family of ex-dictator Sani Abacha, who ruled the country from 1993-1998.
Buhari said the money was spent on a social assistance program aimed at the “poorest Nigerians,” in a country where poverty is rampant and unemployment is rampant.
However, it is difficult to understand how the repatriated money is spent. Some critics express concerns that stolen money will be returned to Nigeria to be looted again.
“There is a need for robust monitoring mechanisms and continuous monitoring of the use of recovered assets to ensure they are properly and efficiently used for development outcomes and poverty reduction,” said Marie Chene of Transparency International in a 2017 report.
Greater global attention in this area helps reforms, say anti-corruption activists.
“It required the publication of the Panama Papers to provide many government officials with offshore accounts,” said Debo Adeniran of the lobby group “Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders”
“The decision to sign mutual legal assistance with several countries helps the (Nigerian) government in its efforts to save their prey,” Adeniran said.
In January, Nigeria signed an asset repatriation agreement with the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Buhari’s anti-corruption and banking reforms are daunting, Adeniran added.
“If you stand and can not keep the money in the banks, you stop stealing,” he said.