The Chairman of Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, SAN, has advised African governments to prioritize the recovery of assets at domestic, regional and global levels, including the return of artworks and artifacts. Owasanoye gave this counsel on Tuesday during a virtual Commonwealth regional conference for anti-corruption agencies in Africa.
Presenting a paper titled “Understanding the Common African Position on Asset Recovery (CAPAR)”, the ICPC boss noted that the prioritization of recovery of assets at the domestic, regional and global levels had become necessary to facilitate the recovery of African assets.
“In Nigeria, precisely Benin, Edo State, two major artefacts have been returned while the country has recovered between $600 million and $700 million assets in the last six years,” he said. He advocated the strengthening of legal and financial institutions to further aid the process of asset recovery.
This, according to him, should include establishment of funds, trusts and dedicated African escrow accounts to be held by regional financial institutions. The ICPC chairman stated that Africa could not eradicate poverty or meet sustainable development goals without improving domestic resource mobilization, adding that domestic resource mobilisation was being hampered by corruption and illicit financial flows.
“The reality on ground is that domestic resource mobilisation cannot improve if corruption is not diminished; illicit financial flow from the continent is not reversed, and fiscal governance from revenue and expenditure sides is not improved. “We need to reverse the anomaly of Africa being a net creditor to the world yet burdened by debt,” he stated.
On the Common African Position on Asset Recovery (CAPAR), Prof. Owasanoye said the policy and advocacy instrument was to assist Africa identify, repatriate and effectively manage assets while respecting the sovereignty of member-states. He urged African countries to ensure accountability, transparency and measures to boost public confidence in the management of recovered assets including monitoring of use by the civil society organisations and the media. In addition, the ICPC boss called for the adoption of policy on use of recovered assets for development goals or implementation of any other social investment project as deemed fit by member-states. In her remarks at the conference, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Rt. Hon. Patricia Scotland, emphasised the need for African countries to tackle corruption, noting that social and economic resources were increasingly stretched.
“Corruption leads to illicit financial flows. Africa has lost $1.26 trillion to illicit financial flows while $50 billion is lost annually by the continent. “Corruption and illicit financial flows need to be brought to the front burner as they have continued to pose enormous challenge to the continent,” Scotland said.
The Commonwealth secretary-general urged the anti-corruption agencies to strengthen their oversight function. “We need to continue to improve and strengthen our capacities. We, at the Commonwealth Secretariat, will greatly work with member-countries to realise that goal as well as the United Nations Development Goals,” she added.