Economic and financial crimes have over the years been a hindrance to Nigeria’s development, economic prosperity, and greatness. Nigeria, a country with abundant natural and human resources, found itself in the storm struggling for survival. This unfortunate situation can, among others, be attributed to the various forms of economic and financial crimes ongoing in the country. Resources that can be used for critical infrastructure and developmental projects are lost to criminal acts.
Such criminal acts include money laundering, terrorist financing, tax evasion, bribery and corruption, massive contract, pension, wire, internet, securities, bank and charity frauds, identity theft and embezzlement among others.
Also, among them are public resource transfers to private entities, allocation of public resources to political allies, and misuse of public funds. These crimes are linked to individuals, corporations, political and economic actors, public servants, civil servants, and organised criminals.
Economic and financial crimes do not only undermine treasuries, they also cause social damage, general indignation, weak political structure, poor project delivery, unemployment, increasing poverty, insurgency; and therefore need a holistic fight if we do not want it to completely ruin our system. The fight may be challenging, but it is a must if Nigeria really wants greatness.
In fighting economic and financial crimes, there is a need for us to build strong institutions. These strong institutions will in turn help in blocking leakages and ensuring viability and accountability. We need to use technology to build electronic platforms that can help in managing government finances. We should create analytic apps that make sharing with citizens’ information on revenues and expenditures easy.
We need a strong and vibrant judicial system. A strong and vibrant judicial system will improve speed and quality of justice delivery. In improving speed and quality of justice delivery, we can have ‘special Courts’ where only criminals and suspects of economic and financial crimes will be tried. This will thus help in reducing unnecessary delays and bottlenecks in our usual courts.
We equally need to ensure independence and transparency of the anti-crime agencies. Nigeria’s anti-crime agencies such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission need to be devoid of political and powerful influences. Dependence of the anti-crime agencies on the government would limit their effectiveness. The anti-crime agencies need to forge partnerships with intelligence agencies, law enforcement agencies, civil society organisations, and other organisations with similar mandates.
The Nigerian anti-crime agencies should work with the media in the fight against crimes. For example, in recent times, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists published the Pandora Papers—leaked documents exposing the secret offshore accounts of some world leaders, billionaires, celebrities, and business leaders.
Crimes like money laundering, terrorist financing, and internet fraud can be reduced through monitoring of customer deposits and transactions by financial institutions. The financial institutions must verify sources of large sums, monitor suspicious activities, and report transactions exceeding the amount stated by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Nigeria needs to provide platforms for citizens to make complaints and report suspected cases of economic and financial crimes. With the advancement of technology, we can create new methods of citizen reporting. An example is the Eagle Eye; the EFCC’s mobile app for reporting of crimes. Lots of complaints have trailed the app, and it would be better if we have more reporting platforms that ensure anonymity. It is not necessary we prosecute whistleblowers when they ‘blew unethically,’ we should rather sensitise them to the need for truthful performance.
Citizens also have roles to play in the fight against crimes; they, particularly the youth, should serve as advocates of discipline and integrity in their communities. They should urge their contemporaries to desist from crimes. They should support training programmes and campaigns aimed at creating a culture of integrity and zero tolerance for crimes.
The Nigerian anti-crime agencies need to align and maintain deep relationships and cooperation with foreign countries and their anti-crime agencies to ensure ease of trials of persons living abroad and/or maintaining monies and property derived from criminal acts in this country. The Federal Government should sign repatriation treaties with those countries for quick return of money stolen by individuals and public officials.
There is a need for education and enlightenment of the public on and against crimes to enlist and foster public support for the fight against crimes. In this regard, the anti-crime agencies can make use of the media and the National Orientation Agency for the outreaches. The EFCC, in particular, should inaugurate its Integrity Club in secondary schools and tertiary institutions to educate the youth on the effects of crimes and the need for them to maintain discipline and integrity.
In conclusion, the Federal Government should maintain the political will, devoid of party affiliation and influence to ensure the trial of individuals, officials, or groups suspected of crimes. Nigeria will get back on the path of greatness.
- Abdullateef Isa sent this piece from Ibadan, Oyo State