Nigeria seeks global support on illicit assets

Foreign affairs minister Geoffrey Onyeama has called on the international community to demonstrate strong commitment to policy of returning of all illicit assets and money to their countries of origin.

Onyeama made the appeal at the High-Level Meeting on Financing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the ongoing High-Level Segment of the 73rd UN General Assembly in New York, U.S.A.

On illicit financial flows, he urged the international community to complement the efforts of Member States, particularly developing countries.He said that they should increase public awareness on the need to curtail the illicit flows and stressed the need to dismantle safe havens for proceeds of illicit assets.In this regard, he called on all UN member states to consider the possibility of waiving or reducing the processes and costs of recovery of illicit assets.

He encouraged countries and relevant multilateral organisations to continue to provide technical assistance and capacity-building assistance to developing countries to improve their capacity to prevent, detect and combat illicit financial flows.He noted that to a large extent the successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union Agenda 2063 depends on strengthening of institutional and human capacities.According to him, the success also depends on improving strategic linkages at various levels, and mobilising and financing of the value-chain of a well-structured economic transformation.

He requested the support of the international community, particularly in the areas of Official Development Assistance (ODA).
He expressed concern that the total amount of ODA from developed countries was still far below the target of 0.7 per cent of gross national income that was set by the UN.He said that ODA was indispensable in the collective resolve to achieve the agenda for sustainable development bearing in mind that it is the main channel for international cooperation.

Meanwhile, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to intensify the crackdown on stolen funds to fund the new minimum wage proposed by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC).Mr. Timothy Adewale, the Deputy Director of SERAP, said this on Sunday in Lagos.

“The minimum wage of N18, 000 for Nigerian workers stands in sharp contrast with outrageous and sometimes illegal salaries and allowances of high-ranking public officials who continue to enjoy lavish lifestyles with impunity.“Vulnerable Nigerian workers are left in a precarious situation, unable to ensure a decent standard of living for themselves and their families, with access to water, health, and education seriously undermined,” Adewale said in a statement.The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the NLC had on Sept. 27 directed workers to go on a nationwide warning strike.

The NLC gave the directive following the failure of the government to review the N65, 000 minimum wage proposed by organised labour.

Adewale urged President Buhari to provide bold leadership to improve conditions for the ‘working poor’ and ordinary Nigerians by publicly supporting a just remuneration to enable them to live a decent life.The organisation said the Federal Government could make this a reality by pushing to recover assets and other illicit wealth stolen by public officials and institutions since the return of democracy in 1999.

He said: “The government can begin to take tangible steps like proposing legislation to cut security votes of around N241 billion yearly.“The Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) should take legal action to seek refund of N13.5 million monthly ‘running cost’ for each senator and N10 million for each member of the House of Representatives.

“The RMAFC has already declared the allowances illegal and contrary to the law on salaries and allowances of public office holders, namely ‘Certain Political, Public and Judicial Office Holders (Salaries and Allowances, etc.) (Amendments) Act, 2008’.”The organisation also urged President Buhari to stop former governors from receiving double pay and life pensions as serving senators and ministers.

SERAP said the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice should seek refund of over N40 billion public funds received by ex-governors now serving in appointive or elective positions, leveraging the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended).SERAP urged the government to swiftly end the strike by reaching an agreement with organised labour and push for the harmonisation of the proposed minimum wage across the states of the federation.

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