Pandora Papers: CISLAC, Others Urge FG to Investigate Indicted Nigerians

By our reporter, 11 October 2021

The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), the National
Chapter of Transparency International (TI) in Nigeria, and Premium Times Centre for
Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) yesterday, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to activate the process of
investigating every Nigeria implicated in the Pandora Papers.

The Pandora Papers is one of the biggest ever leaks of secret business ventures linked to politicians, billionaires, socialites and other influential individuals globally. It follows the same patter as the Paradise Papers and Panama Papers released in 2016 and 2017 respectively.

The latest document, released on October 3, 2021, exposes details of business ventures incorporated offshores as well as the financial
transactions and practices of their secret owners that exploit and, in
some cases, violate and undermine extant financial guidelines and policies in some countries.

Executive Director, CISLAC, Mallam Auwal Ibrahim Musa who addressed journalists on behalf of the coalition in Abuja, charged the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mallam Abubakar Malami and all anti-
corruption agencies to immediately commence actions to investigate all the people and
companies indicted in the document. Musa also called on civil society organizations to urgently come together to track and document the reports and commence effort to ensure that the exposures do not go the
way of the Paradise and Panama Papers.
The coalition urged the Federal
government to consider policy reforms and institutional strengthening necessary to curb
the abuse of financial systems and ease the prosecution of violators. The Federal government, he said, should consider strengthening the Code of Conduct Bureau by digitizing the assets declaration processes, documentation and verification, and the prosecution of violators.

“As
of now, the asset declaration administration in Nigeria is dysfunctional and a
major enabler for corruption. The federal government must equally work with
the National Assembly to remove all the obstacles to public access to asset
declarations of every eligible public officers.
“The Company and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) 2020 provides for the setting up
of a Beneficial Ownership (BO) register. We call on the government to fully
implement this so that beneficial owners of companies in Nigeria can be
identified. This will prevent the diversion of public funds through procurement
corruption in the first place. The Nigerian government must “live the talk” by
ensuring the beneficial ownership data is publicly accessible and must show
leadership by acting on them. So far, the lack of action on financial data leaks
proves the opposite,” he said.

The coalition also charged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to ensure that financial
institutions fully carry out Know Your Customer (KYC), Customer Due
Diligence (CDD) as well as Enhanced Due Diligence (EDD) as required by the
Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Inter-Governmental Action Against
Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA), and other international financial compliance guidelines.
According to Musa, effective compliance with these guidelines and measures
will curb the current abuse and indiscretion among politically exposed persons and their collaborators.
He urged the CBN and the anti-graft agencies, the Ministry of Justice, and the Foreign Affairs
work in synergy and engage their international counterparts to ensure that global
enablers/middlemen like lawyers, notaries, accountants who help facilitate
money laundering and tax evasion are blacklisted, deregistered, or held to
account under the several national laws, policies and international frameworks which Nigeria is a signatory.
“There is enough open data available exposing
PEPs, military leaders, senior public servants, and others to own lavish properties
all around the world. No significant international cooperation with many key
jurisdictions takes place at the moment.
“The Federal Government should reopen the Voluntary Asset and Income
Disclosure Scheme (VAIDS) and the Voluntary Offshore Assets Regularization
Scheme (VOARS) to enable Nigerians with undisclosed (offshore) assets to
declare them and pay taxes where they are liable.
“The National Assembly should ensure that it continues to play its constitutionally
mandated oversight functions on the relevant government agencies to ensure that
they carry out their mandate.” he said.

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