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Tuesday, 07 June 2011 17:59

About $148 Billion Looted Annually From Continent

By Roland Bankole Marke

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone June 7, 2011 (Concord Times) — The chairperson of Nigeria's anti-graft agency, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Farida Waziri, has called for special courts to try corruption cases and urged developed countries to help Africa to recover its looted funds, her office said recently.

 

Until this is done, anti-graft agencies on the continent will continue to complain about the slow pace of trial in corruption cases, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission head Farida Waziri said in a paper at an international conference in Gaborone, Botswana, the EFCC said in a statement.

 

She said although Nigeria was yet to have special courts, the drive for their creation which began in 2008 had continued to win support across the country. She said despite the constraints of slow judicial process, the support and independence given the EFCC by the Nigerian government had helped its work since its establishment eight years ago.

 

If without special courts we can secure over 600 convictions within this short time, you can imagine what we will do if we are to have dedicated judges or courts to hear only corruption cases, she said. Today, our record of recovery is in excess of 11 billion dollars...What it means is that, with special courts and assets forfeiture law, the war against graft would have been taken to a different level, she said.

 

Farida also called on developed countries to assist Africa to recover embezzled money stashed in foreign accounts. She said more than 148 billion dollars was being stolen from the continent annually and foreign countries were not doing enough to help repatriate the loot.

 

She said the idea of holding on to stolen funds even after they had been traced and established as ill-gotten was a distortion in global macroeconomic indices. Our experience with certain countries has not been palatable.

 

Consistently some countries have not been too cooperative in retrieval of stolen funds and it will appear that peculiar national interest guides cooperation with us, she added.

 

We must understand that the ill effects of corruption does not only affect the origin of the illicit funds but also the receiving countries in the sense that in both locations, funds that have no bearing on productive ventures has either left the economy or has been injected into it, she added.

 

It was reported in Forbes journal that United Kingdom has located and blocked 20 billion pounds in Libyan assets and a 10 million pound mansion. While the United States Treasury has located and blocked $30 billion in Libyan assets.

 

Goldman Sachs lost 98% of Libya's $1.3 billion Sovereign Wealth Fund Investment that squarely contributed towards the global economic meltdown. But how many business officials have been held accountable and brought to justice for conducting business in an unethical and reckless fashion?

 

Africans, especially Liberians have the right to know what happened to Charles Taylor's alleged $ 5 billion worth of transactions derived from the sale of timber and diamonds exported to the West from Liberia, and evidence that the transactions were handled by 2 US banks during his rule.

 

The BBC had earlier reported this news before the commencement of Taylor's trial at the Hague. How could such huge amount of money evaporate into thin air, or escape the West's scrutiny, as no one is talking about it anymore?

 

The struggling people of Liberia are desperately awaiting investigations and the successful conclusion of this matter. Similarly, in the case of Nigeria, the late military dictator Sani Abacha looted about $ 2-3 billion in petro-dollar revenue from Federal coffers and kept the same in Swiss Bank.

 

Despite appeals from the Nigerian government to return the loot in full, only a piece meal portion is believed to have been returned to the people and government of Nigeria. Is it not weird thinking or logic that African leaders could steal their nation's wealth and after they have left office, or expired, succeeding governments have to beg the West for what was originally theirs? Africa has to seamlessly scrutinize the caliber of politicians they elect as their leaders. For the cat cannot resist the smell and sight of sumptuous fish.

 

Waziri's bombshell revelation is an indictment of the continent, where corruption is plenty, fleshy, and bloody. And drives home the inconvenient truth that Africa does not need more aid or unfavorable loans that could stall the economic engine of a budding and promising economy.

 

For what Africa needs most is an aggressive blueprint policy that tracks down and discourages corruption before it germinates roots. And the emphasis should be put on trade not aid. For aid has a counterproductive effect of dependency. Handouts come with built in conditions for control. Production is the buzz word that generates economic wealth and a resultant higher standard of living of the people. (END)

 

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