The chairman of Nigeria’s Coalition against Corrupt Leaders (CA-COL) has called on President Goodluck Jonathan to veto a proposed measure that seeks to enable public officials to own foreign bank accounts.
Debo Adeniran said if passed into law the proposed measure will not only lead to money laundering, but also encourage terrorism in Nigeria and around the world.
“We are calling on President Jonathan [not allow the bill to become a law], if indeed he wants to be seen to be doing something about money laundering and terrorism financing,” said Adeniran. “It is not only official corruption that would be exacerbated by such an act, it will also help in terrorism financing, and that is more dangerous.”
It is illegal for Nigeria public officials to own and operate foreign accounts. But, the House of Representatives is currently reviewing an amendment that would enable public officials to maintain or operate bank accounts outside Nigeria.
Adeniran said several government officials have been accused of embezzling state funds and transferring the money into foreign accounts, despite an existing law which makes it illegal.
“The reason why many of the public officials are unable to traffic in currencies is because the laws against money laundering in other countries are very strong. So, most of those who engage in money laundering are caught, while trying to pass the money to those who have bank accounts in those other countries,” said Adeniran.
He adds that Mr. Jonathan’s quest to root out perceived endemic corruption could be irreparably damaged.
“We are worried that Nigeria will be closer to the precipice if public officials are allowed to own international accounts, such that they would be able to lodge ill-gotten wealth,” continued Adeniran. “They can steal a lot of money in Nigeria and transport it to their foreign accounts. That will not help us in fighting corruption. It will not help in fighting terrorism, and curbing illicit wealth, especially gotten from narcotics and other harmful drugs.”
Adeniran said his group plans to petition the various arms of government as well as embark on a nationwide demonstration to press home their displeasure with the new measure.
“We intend to send a petition to the president, and if eventually they pass the bill we intend to do a protest march to the presidency at least to register our displeasure over such shenanigans,” said Adeniran.
Some observers have also expressed concern that the proposed measure could also damage the country’s banking system since public office holders will now be able to transfer larger amounts of money out of the country.