Vice President Yemi Osinbajo SAN virtually delivers keynote remarks at the centre for Lion Gadgets & Technologies Conference. 21st September, 2020. Photos; Tolani Alli

…Represented by VP Osinbajo, President advocates international cooperation to curtail illicit financial flows

There is a compelling need to strengthen international cooperation in the global effort to curtail the menace of Illicit financial flows as current international mechanisms are not strong enough to address the menace, according to President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR.

This was stated in a speech delivered on his behalf by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, Thursday, at the Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity (FACTI) Panel Video Conference, organized on the sidelines of the ongoing United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

The session also featured presentations by the immediate past President of the United Nations General Assembly, Prof. Tijjani Muhammad-Bande and Amb. Mona Jul of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

According to the President, “the current international mechanisms for asset recovery are not good enough as can be seen in the amounts lost to illicit financial flows and the length of time taken before the repatriation of just a small fraction is made. The FACTI Panel report can play an important role in bridging the expectations of source and destination countries as well as in harmonizing the process of assets recovery and return.”

Speaking on the approach to promote equity and help achieve economic growth, President Buhari said “we agree with the Panel on the importance of having a balanced approach that reflects the situation in different regions and the priorities of different stakeholders”.

He said “I believe that for the global aspiration to recover better from the impact of the pandemics and to yield any inclusive result, we must comprehensively address existing structures that make it impossible for countries to generate and retain a sizeable chunk of their resources. The success of the FACTI panel’s final report will be measured by the clarity of its recommendations in support of global governance reforms”.

Justifying the call for an urgent overhaul of the global system, the President said “evidence suggests that the contemporary international tax system uses a taxing rights regime that is not fit for purpose, as it makes combating tax abuses, especially by multinational corporations, difficult for most developing countries.”

According to him, “It is my hope that the final report of the FACTI Panel would introduce proposals that would lead us towards a fairer international tax regime. I also hope that the report would contain proposals that would address the continuing advocacy for country-by-country reporting, open disclosure and automatic exchange of information on beneficial ownership, as well as eliminate financial secrecy jurisdictions and tax havens that facilitate base erosion and profit shifting.

“Profit shifting, harmful tax competition (the so-called “race to the bottom”), and the taxation of the digital economy should also receive adequate attention and focus in the report of the Panel.”

Emphasizing the point about the dangers posed by the illicit financial flows and how the Panel’s work can be useful, the President said the problem will be best addressed internationally. 

In his words, “FACTI Panel’s report should assess how effectively we are meeting our commitments to combating the scourge and strengthening cooperation in dispute settlement and peer learning, particularly in assets recovery and return.”

The event which brought together FACTI Panel chairs and high-level representatives from member states was convened to present the interim report of the FACTI Panel which identified the major gaps in the implementation of the existing international frameworks for tax cooperation, anti-corruption, and anti-money laundering.

Other leaders who spoke at the forum include the Prime Minister of Norway, Erna Solberg; the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi; Former President of Lithuania and FACTI Panel Co-Chair, Dalia Grybauskaite; and Ibrahim Mayaki, former Prime Minister of Niger and FACTI Panel Co-Chair.