Buhari, other African leaders seek repatriation of stolen funds

President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday evening joined his Zambian and Ethiopian counterparts in calling for unity among African countries to demand unconditional repatriation of assets stolen from the continent.

The call came at a high-level event on Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) held on the sidelines of the ongoing 74th United Nations General Assembly in New York.                

The theme of the event was “Promotion of International Cooperation to Combat Illicit Financial Flows and Strengthen Good Practices on Assets Recovery and Return to Foster Sustainable Development”.

According to some estimates, illicit financial flows from Africa is as much as 50 billion dollars annually.

In his address, Buhari stated that Nigeria alone lost about 157.5 billion dollars to IFFs between 2003 and 2012.

He said although his administration had recovered “millions of dollars stolen from our country” in the last five years, a lot more was still stuck in foreign bank accounts.

According to him, a combination of “international laws, different jurisdictions and justice systems”,  make it deliberately difficult for repatriation

Buhari noted that any lasting solution to the challenges would require international cooperation and coordination.

“Therefore, here lies a role for the African Union.  The New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) must be supported to play a critical role in securing the cooperation of African countries and their international counterparts”, he said.

The president of Ethiopia, Sahlework Zewede, described IFFs and the recovery and repatriation of stolen assets as complex subjects.

Zewede said “innovative solutions require sustained discussion among countries and various stakeholders in the spirit of partnership and shared responsibility”.

For his part, the President of Zambia, Edger Lungu, highlighted some challenges faced by African governments in effectively tackling  IFFs.

Lungu listed them to include lack of harmonisation in the legal and institutional frameworks and ineffective coordination between different jurisdictions.

These, in addition to “ineffective border control and in some cases conflicts between national and regional interests are indeed notable challenges”.

He, therefore, called for a harmonisation of legal and institutional frameworks to effectively tackle the monster.

President of the UN General Assembly, Amb. Tijani Muhammad-Bande, pledged the support of the organ to member state’s and organisations that seek return of stolen money hidden abroad.