Ibrahim Lamorde, chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has stated that currency declaration by travellers out of Nigeria amounted to $12.058 billion in three years.
He made the disclosure in Abuja at the opening ceremony at the opening ceremony of a five-day inter-agency training programme on, Cross Border Financial Investigation organized by the United States Department of Homeland Security.
It was organised for officers of the Nigeria Police Force, NPF; Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS; Nigeria Customs Service, NCS; National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, and the EFCC..
Lamorde said currency declaration in 2012 was $9.9 billion. In 2013, it dropped to $1.324 billion as Nigeria stepped up surveillance at the airports.
“There was a further drop in 2014 as currency outflows recorded an all- time low of $807,585,061.70″.
He called for improved financial intelligence gathering by the anti-graft agency and other law enforcement agencies in the country to check flow of illicit funds, if the war on terror must be won.
“A reputable strategy to fight insurgency is to deprive the insurgents of funds, because there is no dispute that illicit funds movement across borders fuels organized crimes, including terror attacks and insurgency in Nigeria,” Lamorde said.
According to him, “There is an urgent need to strengthen our financial intelligence architecture to enable us effectively monitor cash trails and check illicit cash flow to organized criminal gangs.”
“Up till now, the major concern in the fight against insurgency is on how the insurgents fund their operations within the sub-region.”
“While tremendous progress has been recorded in strengthening the Anti-Money Laundering Regulations and the Compliance Regime in Nigeria, monitoring the movement of cash outside the financial sector, remains a major challenge, because of Nigeria’s predominantly cash-based economy,” he said.
The EFCC boss, also applauded the commitment of the United States government in assisting Nigeria surmount its contemporary challenges through institutional development.
“it is gratifying that this programme is coming a few weeks after the historic visit of President Muhammadu Buhari, to the United State, where he and President Barack Obama pledged to deepen the cooperation and friendship between our two countries”.
Lamorde who said he had always considered the United States as a dependable ally in the fight against economic crimes and corruption in Nigeria, explained that the record of partnership between the EFCC and major US institutions, such as the Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI, United States Postal Inspection Service, United States Secret Service, among others, bears testimony to this.
He said the EFCC has benefitted from many training programmes organized by US agencies in Nigeria, Ghana, Malta, Botswana and the United States. He however described the impact of such exposure on the operations of the Commission as invaluable.
He said while tremendous progress has been recorded in strengthening the anti money laundering regulation and compliance regime in Nigeria, monitoring the movement of cash outside the financial sector, remains a major challenge, considering that Nigeria is still predominantly a cash-based economy.
His solace is however in the fact that the EFCC, in collaboration with the Nigeria Customs Service and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, have in the last few years taken very bold step to check illicit movement of cash across our borders; where operatives stationed at major international airports across the country have intercepted millions of dollars in cash, which were not declared to customs by their owners.
Deputy Chief of Mission, United State Embassy, Maria Brewer said that the training programme will expose participants to new trends and techniques in combating economic and financial crimes. “Since economic and financial crimes is a global phenomenon, the training will focus among others, on taking away proceed of crime, because when you take away the money, you take away why people do crime”, she said.
Other dignitaries at the opening ceremony included, Benjamin Bryan, acting director, International Narcotics and Law Enforcement US Mission Abuja; Steve Robinson, Attaché, Department of Homeland Security Investigation, DHSI; T. A. Hundeyin, Deputy Comptroller General of Immigration, who represented the NIS boss, and Alhaji Hamisa Lawal, Commander of Narcotics, who represented the NDLEA boss.
Highpoint of the ceremony was the donation of a high-tech counting machine to the EFCC. Brewer, who made the presentation on behalf of the US government, said that it was one way, in which the President Barack Obama-led administration, planned to assist the EFCC and the country at large in fighting corruption.