Owalabi Bakre.*

Nigeria loses US$600 million annually to money laundering. Between the mid-1980s and 1999, Nigeria lost US$100 billion to money laundering activities. During the so called democratic era, between 2001 and 2004, the country lost an estimated US$25 billion to money laundering. Nigerians who specialise in international money transfer have also extorted about US$357,142,857 from overseas victims. The incredible negative impact of such illegal inflow and outflow of huge amounts of money on Nigeria’s economy cannot be overstated; but it remains the case that these illegal transfers of financial resources are only made possible by the willingness of financial professional, particularly the accountants.

This report utilizes archival documents to provide evidence which implicates the role of accountants in acting as the advisers and vectors of the ruling elites, politicians, public officials and multinational corporations and other foreign collaborators in siphoning the collective wealth of Nigeria into individual private bank accounts abroad. This report also provides evidence which suggests that successive Nigerian governments have been reluctant or unable to use its vast resources to investigate and prosecute corrupt public servants who have used their privileged positions to illegally enrich themselves.

Nigeria is the eighth highest exporter of petroleum worldwide, producing 2.4 million barrels of oil per day at an average price of between US$60–US$70 per barrel and generates US$36 billion annually from the oil and gas sector (Kupolokun, 2006)1. Paradoxically, the country ranks number nine on the United Nations’ (UN) poverty list [BBC News, January 20, 2006]. The reasons for such artificial poverty creation in Nigeria are not far-fetched. Through the unpatriotic attitudes of its corrupt rulers, politicians, public officials and their foreign collaborators, Nigeria loses US$600 million to money laundering annually (Elumelu, 2007)2. Between the mid-1980s and 1999, the country lost US$100 billion to money laundering [see Vanguard, October 25, 2005].

The former Nigerian dictator, General Sanni Abacha, utilized the services of a British businessman and generous donor to the British Labour Party, Uri David, and a British lawyer, Jefrey Tesler, to stash away US$4 billion in various banks in London and Switzerland, while he lost US$30 billion to the international fraud syndicate [see The Times, October 15, 1999 and September 5, 2000; Regis, 2005]. In the so called democratic era, between 2001 and 2004 alone, the country lost an estimated US$25 billion to money laundering [Okauru, 2006].

However, it is interesting to note that the implications of these foreign entities in criminalizing the Nigerian business culture and subverting the nation’s due process are diametrically opposed to global anti-money laundering conventions. These include the United Nations (UN), European Union (EU), United States (US) conventions and the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), which are all meant to criminalize cross-border corruption, trans-organized financial crimes and ensure accountability and transparency in the global financial system. These conventions and standards seem to have failed to achieve their goals in Nigeria.

These summary observations shall constitute the body of a more detailed and robust investigative report on this subject that would be published in due course on this platform.

*University of Essex, UK.

**Excerpt from the full article.

Photo credit: The Guardian