Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun has said looting the treasury was too easy while discovering and repatriating them takes years.
The minister spoke in Abuja on Tuesday, the second day of a three-day conference on ‘Promoting International Cooperation in Combating Illicit Financial Flows and Enhancing Asset Recovery to Foster Sustainable Development.’
She said repatriation of funds stashes in foreign accounts have remained an uphill task that consumes time.
Adeosun said the Federal Government was working to block avenues of theft and make it harder to hide stolen funds abroad.
She said, “We are taking steps to improve tax administration, to improve compliance and just to generally make it a little more difficult for people to loot the treasury.
“My experience from the little time I’ve spent as a minister is that it’s far too easy to do these things in Nigeria, and we’ve got to make it much more difficult.”
She said Nigeria was still struggling to repatriate stolen funds stashed in foreign accounts two decades ago.
She said, “A lot has been done about speaking about the problem. We need to move to how to solve the problem. From the Ministry of Finance’s perspective, our view is that prevention is better than cure.
“Recovering money is exciting but it’s difficult. It takes years. We’re still battling to recover money that was looted from Nigeria 20 years ago. So, my perspective as Minister of Finance and as an accountant is: how do we block the money from getting out in the first place? How do we strengthen our controls? How do we create the early warning systems that tell us to flag certain transactions?
“Let’s stop the money going out; let’s stop the loss, and then we can work on recovery.”
The minister said Nigeria would have been able to achieve most of its development goals if public funds had been well utilised.
She said, “There’s a saying that you can’t miss what you’ve never had. But when we see our crumbling infrastructure, we are missing what we never had.
“We are missing the road, the power, the capital projects that could have been funded with money that has left our shores illegally, or money that is concealed within the country equally illegally.”