A former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, on Wednesday alleged that a lot of investments that are done in the country are from funds earned through illegal activities.
He also identified illicit financial activities such as terrorism financing and money laundering as a major challenge affecting the country’s quest for development.
Ribadu spoke in Abuja at the 2nd Anti-Money Laundering/Combating Financial Terrorism Stakeholders Consultative Workshop organised by the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists.
He said Nigeria had yet to maximise its potential owing to terrorism financing and other money laundering activities, noting that the country lost huge amount of money though such activities.
He said, “Everything that is wrong about Nigeria has to do with dirty money. If you can follow it, get it back and punish these people, then you have cured the problem of Nigeria.
“When I look around, I see a lot of investments that were done with dirty money. Government needs help in identifying and catching these people.
“Though, it may seem like a daunting task, but with professionals like ACAMS, Nigeria is already poised to achieving this.”
In order to check the trend, Ribadu said there was the need for collaboration between relevant stakeholders to fight money laundering and terrorism financing.
He called for the building of a strong anti-graft institution to spearhead the fight against money laundering, adding that the restructuring of the banking sector had also helped to restore confidence in the Nigerian economy.
He said, “In 2003, Nigeria was on the black list of most developed countries, especially US, for money laundering. This meant that our financial institutions found it difficult doing business in foreign lands.
“We could not use Mastercard, Visacard or credit card. Our financial institutions could not access international loans. At one time, it was almost impossible for a Nigerian to open an account in the US or UK.
“Nigerians, travelling abroad, were subjected to serious scrutiny relating to drugs, terrorism and money laundering. The list is endless.
“But now, things are changing. Nigerian banks are now listed on the London Stock Exchange and getting access to foreign loans. This is a sign of improvement; however, more can be done.”
The Deputy Governor, Financial System Stability, Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr Okwu Nnanna, said there was the need to regulate the use of “virtual currencies” in order to curb money laundering.