The Vice-President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, has charged West African states to implement robust systems that will help cut the flow of financial resources to criminals who cause terrorism and political insurgence in the sub-region.
He noted that Africa was losing an average of $88 billion a year to illicit financial flows, with a chunk of it going into the financing of terrorism and insurgency.
He said the rising spate of coups d’etat, terrorist activities and other acts of instability in the region in recent times called for increased efforts to plug the loopholes and deny the perpetrators resources to help end the menace.
The Vice-President noted that members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) could achieve that by strengthening their collaboration in the fight against money laundering (ML) and terrorist financing (TF) in the region.
He gave the charge in a speech read on his behalf by the Senior Presidential Advisor, Mr Yaw Osafo-Maafo, at the closing ceremony of the 24th Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA) Technical/plenary meeting and the GIABA Ministerial Committee (GMC) meeting in Accra yesterday.
Dr Bawumia cited the recent military takeovers in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso and the failed attempt in Guinea Bissau, as well as an uptick in terrorist insurgence in the region, as wake-up calls to governments in the region to step up their fight against ML/TF.
“Our responsibility to stop the flow of illicit financing is an urgent one, which will cut down the outflow of funds to these groups and channel same into our development recovery to improve the quality of life of our people,” he said.
The two meetings opened on February 17 and ended yesterday, during which Ministers of Finance, National Security and Justice and Attorneys-General, government officials and experts in anti-money laundering (AML) and counter terrorist financing (CTF) in the region and beyond shared ideas on how to advance their cause.
Mr Yaw Osafo-Maafo (middle), Senior Presidential Advisor, with Mr Ken Ofori-Atta (right), the Minister of Finance, and Justice Kimelabalou Aba (left), the Director-General of GIABA, during the 24th Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa meeting in Accra
The GMC, which comprises Ministers of Finance, Justice and Attorneys-General and National Security of ECOWAS member states and the Union of Comoros and Sao Tome and Principe, which constitute the members of GIABA, is chaired by Ghana’s Finance Minister, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta.
Dr Bawumia assured ECOWAS members that Ghana would continue to play its part in warding off the malpractice and urged peer states to step up their game.
He said Ghana’s recent delisting from the global grey list of countries with deficiencies in their AML and CTF, which came earlier than expected, was testament to the government’s resolve to ensure that the country did not become a conduit for the menace.
“An effective AML/CTF in this region is key and we will not relent in our resolve to continually support various stakeholders, including the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC), as the lead institution in the fight against ML/TF,” he said.
“We need to contain the contagious trend in our sub-region before it devastates our entire region. I believe that our efforts at strengthening the collaboration among member states to counter ML will have a significant impact in countering terrorist activities and this insurgence,” he added.
Mr Ofori-Atta said the region had made significant progress against ML/TF, although a lot still needed to be done.
He assured member states of unalloyed support in strengthening their AML/CTF regimes to help contain the menace.
He congratulated Guinea Bissau on successfully going through the second round of mutual evaluation, noting that while the process was not easy, it was necessary to identify weaknesses in that country’s AML/CTF regimes for the appropriate solutions to be implemented to address them.
He also assured Senegal, Guinea and Mali of support to enable them to plug the weaknesses that had been found in their AML/CTF regimes.
The Director-General of GIABA, Justice Kimelabalou Aba, noted that the meeting was taking place at a delicate period when West Africa was witnessing the resurgence of military coups d’état.
“This explains why the ministers from Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali are not in attendance today, following their suspension by the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government from all community institutions until normal constitutional order has been restored or a reasonable calendar for return to normal constitutional order adopted.
“As you are aware, this situation is adversely impacting all measures designed to fight against ML/TF in those countries, considering that the authorities in the said countries have been banned from participating in fora such as this one, where experiences, lessons learned and relevant information are shared and/or brought to the knowledge of the august participants, as well as crucial decisions taken to strengthen the AML/CTF regimes in our region,” he said.