KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, MUHAMMADU BUHARI, PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, AT THE OPENING SESSION OF THE 16TH CONFERENCE OF THE COMMITTEE OF INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY SERVICES OF AFRICA (CISSA) ON 18TH JULY 2019, ABUJA).
It is my pleasure to welcome you all to Abuja, for the 16th Conference of the Committee of Intelligence and Security Services of Africa.
When this committee was founded here in Abuja on 26th August, 2004, there was great optimism that it would help to bring down walls of suspicion and mistrust, and galvanize cooperation among Africa’s Security and Intelligence Services, consistent with the African Union’s vision for an integrated, prosperous, and peaceful continent.
This meeting today, 15 years since the founding of CISSA, is a measure of the organisation’s continuing relevance and an affirmation that the vision and hopes of its founding fathers are alive and well.
The theme of this year’s Conference, ‘Illicit Financial Outflows from Africa and its impact on National Security and Development,’ is a burning issue that this committee should focus on.
Illicit financial outflows are funds that have been obtained illegally, typically through fraud and corrupt means, and moved across international borders.
Criminals and their collaborators cheat the system through various practices, including trade mis-pricing, trade mis-invoicing, tax abuse and evasion, as well as money laundering. Several unfair commercial agreements and illegal resource extraction by multinational companies, in cahoots with their local collaborators, also create routes for illicit financial outflows.
Frankly, we may never know the true extent of the damage. Estimates, however, suggest that African countries lose over 60 billion US dollars annually due to illicit financial outflows, a staggering amount for a continent in dire need of development finance.
Corroborating this figure, a United Nations Report on “Illicit Financial Flows and the Problem of Net Resource Transfers from Africa: 1980-2009,” observed that during the period 1980 to 2009 between $1.2 trillion and $1.4 trillion was taken out of Africa. This figure is half of the current Gross Domestic Products of all the countries of Africa.
As partners in the fight against crime and insecurity, you know that terrorist networks, organized criminal syndicates of drugs, arms and human traffickers and sundry hostile non-state actors are actively undermining the security and stability of our countries.
These criminal groups not only fund their operations from the proceeds of crime, but are implicated in much of the illicit financial outflows from Africa.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, firm and unwavering action is required to bring this threat under control. Any evasion of rules and regulations in ways that aid corruption in its various manifestations, including illicit financial outflows, must be vigorously fought and defeated.
My role as African Union’s Anti-Corruption Champion brought me closer to appreciating more the devastating impact of corruption and illicit financial outflows on our continent. I am, therefore, pleased that this conference will boost the sense of urgency that we collectively have about this devastation and raise our response capacity at operational levels.
In Nigeria, we have risen to the challenge. The fight against corruption remains at the core of our efforts to accelerate national development. We have recorded successes even though the perpetrators are not giving up and are trying to fight back.
I would like to remind you that while the task you have set for yourselves at this Conference is laudable and essential to the future prosperity and stability of Africa, it is not an easy one. Success will require robust efforts and resolute commitment by individual services in order to lay the solid base for the collaborative efforts that are required to address this daunting challenge.
Recently in Abuja, I underscored this point at the launch of the new Transnational Security Report “Cooperating Across Borders: Tackling Illicit Flows”, put together by Munich Security Conference, where I stressed the necessity of collective, well-resourced approaches to counter illicit flows as “no government can do it alone.” Also recently in Abuja, the Fifty-Fifth Ordinary Session of the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government underlined “the need to strengthen direct exchange of information and intelligence among Member States”.
I therefore, urge you to:
a. develop a template of risk factors and actionable strategies to stem the flow of illicit funds from our continent;
b. give priority to examining the links between crime and instability on our continent; and
c. propose measures to ensure that terrorists and criminals are denied access to our financial systems.
Finally, I would like to charge this committee, to remain steadfast as a model platform of cooperation, in words and deeds.
I wish you a very fruitful conference. It is now my special honour to formally declare open the 16th CISSA Conference.