Nigeria is committed to using innovative and digital technology to prevent, identify and manage conflicts of interest, including by assessing and mitigating corruption risks through effective and transparent financial disclosure, according to the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Lateef Fagbemi (SAN).
Speaking at the 10th Session of the Conference of States Parties to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) in Atlanta in the United States, from December 11 to 15, 2023, Nigeria’s Chief Law Officer said: “As corruption is now aided by the development in technology, we are improving our operations to meet this emerging challenge.”
He said Nigeria has established the Nigerian Open Contracting Portal (NOCOPO) for increased disclosure of procurement information to all stakeholders in order to ensure improved transparency and accountability, to prevent corruption and enhance active citizen participation for better service delivery and improved ease of doing business.
The Minister said Nigeria has suffered from the damaging effects of corruption, including loss of billions of dollars to foreign havens, stolen and expatriated by corrupt leaders and their foreign accomplices, including multinational companies, adding that the diversion of strategic resources continues to challenge Nigeria’s growth and development.
Saying that Nigeria had taken bold and proactive measures to combat corruption and continued to make significant progress in its efforts to prevent and combat corruption, block leakages, and recover its stolen assets, he stressed that Nigeria is committed to beneficial ownership transparency and has adopted a roadmap for implementation.
The Minister said Nigeria had deployed a holistic Beneficial Ownership Register encompassing all sectors, adding: “The Beneficial Ownership Register is online, searchable, and publicly available at no cost.”
According to him, “We believe that focus must be placed on the opaque shell companies that are seeking to exploit sovereign states for their own financial gains at the expense of the security, health, education, economy and infrastructural development of the developing nations. We reiterate the importance for beneficial ownership information to be publicly available and accessible.”
The Minister argued that asset recovery is the “kernel of the anti- corruption fight” as “criminal convictions without asset return will not dissuade the corrupt or serve as sufficient deterrence.”
He said Nigeria expects the conference to continue to re-emphasize clear, unambiguous and uncomplicated modalities for assets recovery and return since proceeds of corruption and illicit financial flows constitute a huge chunk of resources needed for sustainable development.
The Minister stated that Nigeria was not relenting in its efforts at the national level to recover the proceeds of corruption.
He explained that to facilitate the identification and recovery of illicit funds, the government enacted new laws and issued regulations, including the Proceeds of Crime (Recovery and Management) Act 2022; the Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Act 2022; the Terrorism (Prevention and Prohibition) Act 2022; the Companies and Allied Matters Act 2020; among others, to provide sufficient punitive measures and strengthen the anti-money laundering and counter terrorism financing framework to address gaps in its review.
The Minister reiterated “Nigeria’s unwavering commitment to the fight against corruption and the implementation of our obligations under the convention.”