The Federal Government has reaffirmed its support for the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA) to fight money laundering, terrorist financing, and arms proliferation.
Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), said this at the inauguration of the 40th GIABA Technical Commission and Plenary Meeting in Abuja.
Fagbemi, who is also the Chairman of the GIABA Ministerial Committee, said Nigeria has achieved improved technical compliance in ratings towards completion of the International Country Risk Guide (ICRG) Action Plan.
He said: “Nigeria will continue to provide the necessary support to ensure the remaining aspects of the programme are completed and that GIABA is a model of effective delivery during the next round of evaluations.
“Our support for GIABA is predicated on the awareness that it is currently the only mechanism through which our region can influence the development of the standards and recommendations by which we will be assessed.
“An effective GIABA that is confident and can articulate peculiarities and ambitions of our region within the global AML/CFT/CPF system should be a goal that all member states support.
“As we look to the future and next mutual evaluation cycle, it is becoming more imperative to ensure an effective representation of the diversity of views and voices within the global AML/CFT system.
“As global risks become complex, technology embedded and borders increasingly fragile, we must move towards a more tailored approach to responding to this new Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (ML/TF) proliferation environment.”
Speaking at the event on Thursday, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr Omar Toray, commended GIABA for its exit from the Fatal Effectiveness Improvement Programme, and efforts towards ending financial crime activities in the sub-region.
Toray, represented by Mr Mambury Njie, described the feat achieved as historic for GIABA and the sub-region in general.
“The Commission will continue to provide needed support to GIABA to sustain the gains in tackling outstanding issues in the action plans, including recruitment of the Director of Evaluation and preparation for the next round of mutual evaluation.
“We must not rest on the feat given the many challenges yet to overcome; ECOWAS will continue to provide the requisite leadership and space to accelerate your compliance with international standards.
“I reaffirm the Commission’s readiness to strengthen cooperation and collaboration with GIABA in the face of ML/TF and other organised crime in our efforts towards regional integration of peace, stability, and prosperity,” Toray said.
Also speaking, the Director-General of GIABA, Mr Edwin Harris Jr., said that although the accessed countries’ results from the second evaluation round showed progress in technical compliance across the member states, improvement was required for effectiveness.
According to him, it has become a pressing need for the Secretariat to work closely with member States to enhance effectiveness compliance, which could lead to more actions that create deterrence.
“Over the coming years going into the third round, the Secretariat will work with member States on Assets Recovery.
“This includes all phases, that is, freezing, seizure, confiscation, management, and disposal, with the ultimate goal of denying criminals the use of the proceed of crimes.
“GIABA will continue to provide technical support to these countries,” he promised.
For his part, Mr Jeremy Weil, Vice-President of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), said GIABA’s hard-won gains could only be sustained through collective will and efforts of its membership.
Weil said: “First, by continuing to foster deeper engagement between members and the secretariat, especially on strategic matters, by agreeing on the sequencing of the next round of mutual evaluations so that members can begin preparing.
“GIABA should continue to enhance the coordination and delivery of technical assistance and training.
“GIABA should continue building institute capacity by filling vacancies in the Evaluation and Compliance Directorate, which will be a critical unit in the next round.”
Meanwhile, Mr Tukur Modibbo, GIABA National Correspondent/Director of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), decried that ML/TF posed an enormous threat to global socio-economic development and peace in the West African sub-region.
According to him, Nigeria is also working assiduously to exit the FATF list of jurisdictions under Increased Monitoring, saying it is determined to complete the action plan ahead of the scheduled timeline.
“The government has taken a keen interest in the subject matter and is committed to ensuring the Nigerian economy is neither abused for money laundering and terrorist financing activities nor used as a conduit for such within the sub-region and the entire global community.
“At this juncture, I would like to assure the FATF, GIABA, and the entire global network of Nigeria’s unwavering commitment towards the course of the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing in West Africa and beyond.
“I also call on all other member States to support GIABA and the global fight so that together we can create a better future for our citizens,” Modibbo said.
The event, which marked GIABA’s 40th Technical Commission/Plenary and its 27th Ministerial Committee meeting, is held between Nov. 12 and 18.
Plenary meetings are GIABA Statutory meetings and are integral to ensuring Member States compliance with AML/CFT Standards, fostering regional peace, security, prosperity, and integration in the ECOWAS region.
The high point of the meeting was the consideration and approval of the follow-up reports of the mutual evaluation of member States’ level of compliance with the FATF Recommendations on AML/CFT. (NAN)