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Pandora Papers: CSOs Urge Buhari To Investigate Those Implicated

Some Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have called on President Muhammadu Buhari to investigate everyone implicated in the Pandora Papers.

The CSOs are the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), the National Chapter of Transparency International (TI) in Nigeria, and the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ).

The Executive Director, CISLAC, Auwal Rafsanjani, at a news conference on Monday in Abuja, commended the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and its network of members globally for the exposure.

According to Rafsanjani, the Pandora Papers is one of the biggest ever corruption leaks led by ICIJ and more than 600 journalists from 117 countries, including Journalists from Nigeria’s Premium Times.

He said that the Pandora Papers just like the then Panama papers exposed systems and secrecy jurisdictions that enabled and abet crime, corruption, and illicit dealings by politicians, billionaires, influential individuals, and their enablers globally.

“Since its release on Oct. 3, Nigerians have read in awe details of financial transactions and practices of politicians and influential individuals that exploit.

“In some cases, violate and undermine extant financial guidelines and policies and threaten our corporate existence and collective wellbeing.

“ The Pandora Papers confirm therefore the continuing weaknesses in the Nigerian financial systems and regulatory deficiencies that have been at the root of the annual loss of 18 billion dollars to illicit financial flows out of Nigeria, according to the latest estimate.’’

Rafsanjani recalled that the Panama Papers and the Paradise papers exposure led to significant protests across the globe and the fall of governments, dismissal of officials, criminal investigations, and asset confiscations.

He, however, said that Nigeria did not do anything about the people exposed for corruption in the Panama Papers then.

He said that the Nigerian Government only managed to constitute a Panama Papers committee, which never triggered any action or any impact.

“The Pandora papers release is coming when Nigeria is reeling under the deleterious impact of COVID-19 and the debt pileup that has continued to stoke serious concerns across political divides and among Nigerians and its development partners.

“Therefore, it is a meaningful opportunity for the present administration to act decisively against corruption, aggressive tax planning, and other financial practices of politically exposed persons and their advisors and companies that threaten our country’s economic stability and corporate existence.’’

According to Rafsanjani, the coalition wants the president, the Minister of Justice and Attorney- General of the Federation, and all anti-corruption agencies to immediately commence an investigation of everyone and their companies indicted in the stories and revelations of dirty financial deals.

Also speaking, Ms Jessica Odudu, the Programme Officer, Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) urged the Federal Government to consider policy reforms and institutional strengthening necessary to curb the abuse of financial systems.

Odudu said the groups also want the Code of Conduct Bureau to be strengthened by digitising the assets declaration processes, documentation and verification, as well as 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 officer.

“On its part, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) needs to ensure that financial institutions fully carry out Know Your Customer (KYC), Customer Due Diligence (CDD) as well as Enhanced Due Diligence (EDD).

“Effective compliance with these guidelines and measures will curb the current abuse and indiscretion among politically exposed persons and their collaborators.’’

Odudu said that the CBN, Anti-graft agencies, the Ministry of Justice, and the Foreign Affairs work in synergy and engage their international counterparts.

According to him, this will ensure that global enablers like lawyers, notaries, accountants who help facilitate money laundering and tax evasion are blacklisted and deregistered.

The Programme Officer, Dubawa PTCIJ, Temitope Onilede, urged the Federal Government to reopen the Voluntary Asset and Income Disclosure Scheme (VAIDS) and the Voluntary Offshore Assets Regularisation Scheme (VOARS).

This, Onilede said was to enable Nigerians with undisclosed assets to declare them and pay taxes where they were liable.

She said that the National Assembly should ensure that it continued to play its constitutionally mandated oversight functions on the relevant government agencies to ensure that they carry out their mandate.

She added that with the electioneering period approaching, INEC, CBN, Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), and other relevant agencies should ensure that political parties conformed to political party financing regulations and prevent the use of “dirty money” in Nigeria’s politics.

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