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Saturday, March 08, 2008

GIABA -ECOWAS Tries to Stop West African Money Laundeirng

The Inter-Governmental Action Group Against Money Laundering And Terrorism Financing in West Africa (GIABA) is a body that was established by the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS), Authority of Head of State and Government in the year 2000. This is one of the major responses and contributions of the ECOWAS to the international fight against money laundering.
  • Money laundering is the crime of attempting to bring into financial system, resources that were earned illegitimately.
  • Such resources or proceeds may be money, property as other assets.
  • In essence, the act of conversion is the issue being discussed here.
  • It is all about making dirty money clear enough to spend without anyone raising an eyebrow.
GIABA is a specialised institution of ECOWAS that is responsible for the prevention and control of money laundering and terrorism financing in the region.

However, to be strategically functional, GIABA’s mandate includes the following:
  • Development of strategies to protect the economies of member states from abuse and the laundering of the proceeds of crime;
  • Improvement of measures and intensifying efforts to combat the laundering of proceeds from crime in West Africa and to strengthen co-operation amongst its members.

GIABA’s membership consists of all member states of the ECOWAS, namely, Republic of Benin, Republic of Ghana, Republic of Gambia, Republic of Guinea, Republic of Liberia, Republic of Guinea Bissau, Republic of Cote d’Ivoire, Republic of Burkina Faso, Republic of Cape Verde, Republic of Mali, Republic of Niger, Republic of Senegal, Republic of Siera Leone, Republic of Togo, and finally, the Federal Republic of Nigeria inclusive.

It has been made clear that observers status within GIABA shall be granted to African and non-African states, as well as inter-governmental organisation; which support the objectives and actions of GIABA and which have applied for observer status.

For GIABA to grow and fully functional in its commitment, it is in view of this fact that the organisation considered a few of them for a collaborative team work, some of which are:

  • the central bank of signatory state,
  • Regional Securities and Exchange Commisison,
  • the West African Economics Monetary Union (UEMOA),
  • the West Africa Development Bank (BOADC), the World Bank,
  • the International Monetary Fund (IMF),
  • the Financial Action Task Force (TATF) on money laundering,
  • (INTERPOL)
  • World Customs Organisation (NCO),
  • the Common Wealth Secretariat and the European Union (EU).

The establishment of GIABA as an FATF-style Regional Body (FSRB) is a demonstration of the strong political commitment of member states to combat money laundering and terrorism financing and cooperate with other concerned nations and international organisations to achieve this goal within its regional strategies framework. GIABA has the capacity to support its 15 members states to effectively combat the menace of money laundering in the region.

As the menace of money laundering and terrorism financing increase with globalization, criminals are also becoming adoptable, taking advantage of the slightest opportunity to break the law.

The gap between the rich and the poor seems to contradict conventional wisdom that income disparity would close as the world economy becomes more integrated. This is even the more reasons why the economies must be protected which would in turn attract foreign investment in the region.
Several workshops have been organized – the first one was sometime in Lagos tagged: and this second one in Abuja was the launching of GIABA House.
The first one was organized in Lagos. It was a two-day awareness raising workshop for journalists, civil society organisation and professional groups. It was in that workshop that Mr. Tola Akinmutini, a representative of the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CTN), Lagos, observed that the initiative is a welcome development in sub-regional collaborative efforts aimed at frontally addressing the social, economic and political problems plaguing the various countries in recent times.
Considered quite alarming, the multi-dimensional challenges of Money Laundering (ML), Terrorist Financing (TF) and Drug Trafficking (DT) to sustainable development effort of West African countries have become so clear to leaders in various countries that a collective approach in resolving them is not only desirable but expedient.
Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in his administration identified enthronement of the rule of law and best practice in governance as one of the cardinal polices of his administration.

The government is optimistic that "Proper enthronement of the rule of law will dissuade people from engaging in illicit drug trafficking, shun terrorism and avoid financial crime", said President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.

Director general of GIABA, Dr. Abdullahi Shehu in an opening address of the two-day workshop in Lagos identified the effect of financial crime. He said that, "Financial crimes constitute a major menace of our time and which requires concerted effort of all stake holders to tackle".
However, the official opening of GIABA House at the ECOWAS Secretariat in Abuja revealed the secrets of money laundering and terrorism financing in the sub-region, most especially in Nigeria.

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