Background: The ANEEJ-SERAP pre-GFAR Consultative summit held on the 26th October, 2017 may have come and gone. But it left many indelible momories and set the tone for the frank discussions and healthy debates which are expected to take place at the inaugural GFAR Summit in Washington DC in December, 2017. First to set that tone was the ANEEJ executive director, the Rev David Ugolor. Kindly find full text of his speech at the pre-GFAR summit in Abuja, Nigeria.
WELCOME ADDRESS BY ANEEJ EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, REV. DAVID UGOLOR DURING A PRE GFAR CONSULTATIVE MEETING @ REIZ CONTINENTAL, ABUJA, OCTOBER 26, 2017
I will like to first of all welcome you all to this important consultative meeting on the forth- coming Global Forum on Asset Recovery. The Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ) is partnering with the Socio-Economic Rights & Accountability Project (SERAP) and the Federal Ministry of Justice/OGP Secretariat to host this pre-GFAR consultative meeting in Nigeria. Support for this event is from the DFID and MacArthur Foundation.
The Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR) was established as an outcome of the London 2016 Anti-Corruption Summit hosted by former British Prime Minister, David Cameron. The inaugural forum will be held in Washington, DC from 4 – 6, December 2017. GFAR builds upon the previous experiences of the Arab Forum on Asset Recovery (AFAR) and the Ukraine Forum on Asset Recovery (UFAR). It will be structured along similar lines, with a high-level opening session, substantive technical work streams put in place to share best practices and provide technical training for asset recovery practitioners. The emphasis as a matter of fact will be on parallel bilateral and multijurisdictional meetings for case coordination. Kindly refer to the background note for this meeting.
The core objective of GFAR is to convene practitioner experts to provide an effective opportunity for countries to cooperate on asset recovery cases. It also tries to highlight the importance of strong political commitment, multijurisdictional coordination and practitioner interaction. Its inaugural meeting will focus on assistance to four priority countries – Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Tunisia and Ukraine.
The theme of this Pre-GFAR consultation is building an enduring framework for Asset Recovery in Nigeria. Without any shade of doubt, it is obvious that we need a new national asset recovery architecture to deal with the multiple challenges facing our country today. The anti-corruption agencies will need to explore more creative strategies to respond to the new-large scale incidences of corruption in both the public and private sectors. We need to strengthen our legal and institutional anti-corruption systems through the introduction of innovative legislative agenda. The Proceeds of Crime Bill and other anti-money laundering reform bill deserve urgent attention, particularly with the increasing reports of the looting of public resources. The Panama Papers Leak and the Thambo Mbeki Report provides strong evidence why we should all work together to stop illicit financial flows out of the Nigeria.
Considering the relevance of GFAR to Nigeria’s anti-corruption initiative with particular reference to asset recovery, this pre-GFAR consultative meeting in Nigeria has therefore become imperative as it provides the opportunity for the Nigerian government, anti-corruption agencies, civil society organizations and other stakeholders including development partners to interact and reach a common understanding on a number of issues ahead of the December 2017 meeting.
It is our strong hope that today’s meeting will enable stakeholders to critically examine a number of issues concerning the GFAR meeting. Some of these issues include:
- The proposed Charter on Accountable Asset Return, as a set of principles for asset return
- Initial findings and recommendations from CSO reports for the GFAR
- Priority topics for Nigerian delegation and civil society organisations at GFAR
We are glad that diverse groups showed interest in this meeting, hence the event has attracted large participation. As it is, we have representatives from Federal Ministry of Justice, OGP Secretariat, Anti-corruption Agencies, CSOs from different parts of the country, journalists, Development Partners and diplomats including Ambassadors of different countries.
Let me use this opportunity to urge the international community to walk the talk and fulfil some of the commitments made during the London Summit, which have direct implication for anti-corruption in Nigeria. For instance, the UK committed to establish a public register of company beneficial ownership information for foreign companies who already own or buy property in the UK, or who bid on UK central government contracts. The United States committed to rigorously identify, trace, and ultimately recover assets related to the proceeds of corruption and the returning of the proceeds recovered for the benefit of the people harmed by the corruption.
We are eager to see how these commitments will translate to an expeditious return to Nigeria, assets belonging to Nigeria stashed away in the UK, US and other countries. We are mindful that efforts are on in this regard. It is also instructive to note that the Nigeria Network on stolen asset have been carried along in some of the negotiations. A lot is still required in this.
The Global Forum on Asset Recovery scheduled for December 4 – 6, 2017 in Washington, DC provides another opportunity for Nigeria to consolidate on a number of issues including international co-operation to strengthen the mechanism for asset tracing, recovery and repatriation.
It is equally important to emphasize that the rising migration from Nigeria and other Poor African Countries is directly connected to the looting of the public fund, funds which should have been used to tackle the problem of unemployment and the implementation of the SDGs. Sustained international co-operation is required to arrest this trend.
We are grateful to the MacArthur Foundation and the DFID for providing the resources to host this important meeting. We are glad that the Ministry of Justice and OGP secretariat agreed to partner with us. In this regard, the cooperation we have so far received from the GFAR focal person in Nigeria has been wonderful. To all of you who have devoted time to be part of this meeting, we say thank you.