Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi, yesterday, disclosed that the federal government would resume the prosecution of some alleged terrorists, including Boko Haram members, in the next two weeks.
Fagbemi made the disclosure in Abuja, at the opening of the 40th Technical Commission and Plenary Meeting of the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA). He said the federal government had secured over 500 convictions, and N45 billion forfeitures in two years.
The revelations came as National Security Adviser (NSA), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, yesterday, said violent extremism in some parts of the country had been on the decline since President Bola Tinubu assumed office in May.
Ribadu made the assertion at the ongoing 19th All Nigeria Editors’ Conference in Uyo, while speaking on the topic, “Oil Theft, Illegal Bunkering, Pipeline Vandalism: Impact on Nigerian Economy.”
He called for patience on the part of the citizenry, saying Tinubu is working hard to address the country’s critical problems.
Fagbemi stressed that the federal government was alive to the issue of bringing suspected terrorists to justice and was finalising efforts to ensure their smooth and successful trial
He said, “Efforts are on to resume the trial of those categories of people. And I think, in the next two weeks, it will be a different story. We are conscious of that issue.
“Facilities are being put in place. Apart from the regular physical mode of trial, we are working on ways to ensure that virtual trial can also be conducted.”
The minister said the adoption of virtual trial was aimed at preventing delay, and added that the government was not shying away from its responsibility of providing funds for the purpose.
The AGF emphasised the importance of regional and international cooperation in order to effectively combat money laundering, terrorist financing, and the financing of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
According to him, “Our ability to tackle the most complex criminal activity, money laundering and violent terrorist attacks, is predicated on the capabilities of our supervisory, law enforcement and prosecutorial authorities, and the outcomes that we are achieving point to the need for greater investment in human and technical resources and improved training and capacity development.
“In 2022, we increased the budgets for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, and National Drug Law Enforcement Agency by almost 95 per cent. We now have over 1,500 officers dedicated to investigating and prosecuting money laundering across these three agencies alone.
“These sustained investment has seen increased numbers of investigations, prosecutions and convictions consistently since 2021, with 5,118 investigations, 1,509 prosecutions and almost 500 convictions secured, resulting in over N45 billion of illicit proceeds seized.
“We have also made progress in tackling the financing of terrorism and, in particular, I am pleased that we have identified and designated a number of individuals and entities linked to terrorist activity and seized funds linked to them.”
Fagbemi observed that the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) had become a global model and had achieved the outcomes envisaged by the passage of its enabling legislation in 2018, which established it as an independent, autonomous unit.
He urged that as GIABA moved towards the conclusion of the second round of mutual evaluations and began preparations for the third round, members should take time to reflect on how they had contributed to strengthening their national AML/CFT/CPF frameworks.
Fagbemi stated, “I believe that the FATF standards are merely the minimum benchmark that we must all aspire to in order to address the serious criminal offences that are prevalent in our countries and across our region.
“Our legal frameworks, policies and institutional capacities must aspire to put in place the foundations necessary to achieve the vision of the Africa 2063 Agenda, of an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens, representing a dynamic force in the international arena.
“As we survey the results of this round of mutual evaluations, it is, indeed, clear that more needs to be done across our sub-region to enhance effectiveness based on FATF Standards.”
In a goodwill message, President of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr Omar Touray, commended GIABA and its Director General for the agency’s “laudable performances” in the recent exit of GIABA from the FATF Effectiveness Improvement Programme (EIP).
Touray said the “Commission will continue to provide the needed support to GIABA to sustain the gains of the EIP and address other outstanding issues in the EIP Action Plan, including the recruitment of the Director of Evaluation and Compliance as well as adequately prepare for its next round of mutual evaluation.”
He urged the region not to rest on its oars, as money laundering, terrorism financing and other organised crimes threatened regional peace and sustainable development.
Touray called on member states to continue to take steps to effectively address the strategic deficiencies identified in their AML/CFT systems.
Speaking at the event, also, GIABA’s Director General, Edwin Harris, said the gathering was an attestation that the collective effort in the fight against money laundering, terrorist financing and others forms of transnational crimes urgently required coordination and cooperation.
Harris stated, “GIABA, as a FATF styled region body and specialised ECOWAS institution, is responsible for safeguarding the economies of its member states, will continue to work with both its members and partners in delivering on its mandate in a more meaningful way using the collective expertise and shared vision of member states in strengthening their AML/CFT regimes and increasing advocacy to political leaders on the urgency of demonstrating political will that trickle down at operational and policy levels for a more effective and robust fight against transnational crimes.
“Results from accessed countries thus far published from the second-round show progress has been made in terms of technical compliance across member states.
“However, fundamental major improvements are required in terms of effectiveness.
“In this regard, it becomes a more pressing need that the secretariat works with member states in enhancing effectiveness compliance that will lead to more actions that create deterrence.”
Ribadu: Nigeria’s Security Situation Has Improved under Tinubu
The NSA said violent extremism in parts of the country had been on the decline since President Bola Tinubu assumed office. He pointed out that the country was going through a tough time. But he assured Nigerians that in no distant time, most of the challenges, especially in the area of security, would be addressed.
Ribadu said the country used to record over 1,200 deaths on a daily basis due to criminal activities, but since Tinubu assumed office, there had been a significant drop to about 100 cases. Furthermore, he pointed out that in the South-east, police stations used to be under severe attacks, but that was no longer the case.
The NSA stated that the country’s crude oil production had increased to 1.7 million barrels per day, with the hope of hitting two million barrels per day by next year.
“Work is ongoing, the government is adopting work more and talk less to address the insecurity challenges headlong.”
He appealed to Nigerians to be patient, saying the Tinubu administration is doing everything to improve the security situation of the country.
Ribadu said, “We have given Nigeria to President Bola Tinubu to manage it for us.
“In the last five months, I have been there by his side and have seen how things were and how things are when we started, and hopefully the direction we are going is okay.
“We inherited a tough period. We appeal for patience and understanding. It’s tough times and that is the reality. We are not condemning anyone but that is the truth. Those who are in charge must say the truth, say it as it is, and then hopefully things will be better for you.”
Ribadu also told the editors, “Like I said, my coming is to identify with you. I also appeal to you for support, we are going through tough times. It requires all of us to come together. We are all in it together, it is not going to be for too long. In a matter of time, it will be better.
“In the South-east, when we took over last year, we had 46 police stations attacked, today we don’t have one single one. In the last two months, not a single person had been killed through violent attacks in the South-east, we don’t talk. The leadership we have in our country does understand things a bit better.
“This government is the most transparent ever in the history of Nigeria. Honestly, we will be sincere and do our best.”