A coalition of civil society organisations, on Monday, called on the Nigerian government led by President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently investigate every person exposed and indicted in the leaks from the Pandora Papers.

The coalition also called on the federal government to consider mechanisms on policy reforms and institutional strengthening systems to curb the continuous abuse of financial systems and ease the prosecution of violators.

The groups, comprising the Civil society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), the affiliate of Transparency International (TI) in Nigeria, and the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), made the call during a joint press conference in Abuja.

The Pandora Papers project involves 617 journalists and 151 media outlets collaborating to investigate a vast amount of previously hidden offshore records of the powerful and super-rich in the world.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) obtained a trove of 11.9 million confidential files and led the partners, including Nigeria’s PREMIUM TIMES, that spent two years sifting through them, tracking down sources and digging into court files and other public records from dozens of countries.

The leaked records come from 14 offshore services firms from around the world that set up shell companies and other offshore nooks for clients often seeking to keep their financial activities in the shadows.

Under Nigerian law, offshore shell companies are not necessarily illegal and they are at times used for legitimate purposes. But many of them often feature prominently in illicit financial flows. Corrupt politicians also use them to launder proceeds of corruption across international jurisdictions.

However, in the Nigerian series, published by PREMIUM TIMES, several serving and past Nigerian public officers have been reported as having links to offshore companies, many undeclared by the law and some others used to anonymously acquire UK properties.

Some prominent Nigerians already named in the papers as holding offshore assets through shell companies as exposed by PREMIUM TIMES include Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State; a former minister of aviation, Stella Oduah,

The names of Mohammed Bello-Koko, a finance director at the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA); a former two-term governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi; and Governor Adegboyega Oyetola of Osun State, have also featured in the revelations.

Reactions

Mr Rafsanjani regretted that previous exposes of the Panama Papers, and Paradise Papers, also published by PREMIUM TIMES, had little impact in Nigeria unlike it was in other nations where they led to significant consequences such as “dismissal of officials” and “assets confiscation” of those who used offshore secrecy schemes, not only to siphon funds but to avoid tax.

He noted that despite that the federal government constituted a committee on the Panama Papers’ findings, the President Buhari administration had failed to ”take decisive action against corruption and bring all those indicted in the two papers to account.”

”Some of you would recall that the Panama Papers and the Paradise Papers led to significant protests across the globe and the fall of governments, dismissal of officials, criminal investigations, and assets confiscation. They also precipitated hundreds of tax probes and criminal investigations, prosecutions and reforms in the United States, Canada, Europe, and parts of Africa.

”Sadly, both have had minimal in Nigeria as the federal government led by President Buhari has failed on both occasions, to seize the opportunities to take decisive action against corruption and bring all those indicted in the two papers to account.

”The Nigerian government has only managed to constitute a Panama Papers committee, which never triggered any action or any impact. It is to be assumed that given the large number of Politically Exposed Persons (PEP), present in Panama and other leaks, committees consisting of PEP’s are unlikely to indict their own,” he added.

On his part, Chido Onumah, the executive director of the African Centre for Media and Literacy (AFRIMIL), noted that elites and the ruling class are usually united by corruption with almost every part of the country adequately represented.

“So it looks like our political class are united by corruption.

“It is not surprising, as this is not the first one we are having including the Panama Papers, we have the Paradise Papers and now Pandora Papers,” Mr Onumah said.

He added: “All this shows that Nigerians have almost become a norm not because these things are shocking, but because those who are supposed to act have refused to act.

“It is a shame really because we have anti-corruption agencies in the country we have the government and the ministry of justice that ought to necessary take bold steps to investigate and prosecute those that should be prosecuted.

“But unfortunately they, (government) are not going that. And that leaves room for all kinds of doubts and their commitment to the fight against corruption.”

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