By Abibatu Kamara, GIABA Media Coordinator
The Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA) has concluded its 33rdvirtual Plenary and Technical Commission meeting for its member States.
Speaking during the virtual meeting, the Vice President of the ECOWAS Commission, Madam Finda Koroma says, “I am particularly proud of the efforts of GIABA in ensuring that there is a collective, cooperative and collaborative resolve to fight transnational organised crimes in our region, particularly money laundering and the financing of terrorism”.
She added that Money laundering and the financing of terrorism have adversely impacted not only socio-economic development but also peace and security in member States, adding that for some years now, the West African region has been experiencing terrorism, radicalization and violent extremism at an alarming rate.
“We have continued to grapple with the security shocks in the Central Sahel area and North-Eastern Nigeria. The COVID-19 pandemic has added to these challenges by causing severe disruptions to health systems, economies and local communities around the world – and laid bare profound fragilities in our world today”, she reiterated.
Madam Koroma further stated that this has generated various Government responses ranging from social assistance and tax relief initiatives, to enforced confinement measures and travel restrictions, noting that while unintended, these measures have led to an increase in several criminal activities such as fraud, cybercrime, bribery and corruption and provided new opportunities for criminals and terrorists to generate and launder illicit proceeds of crimes.
The ECOWAS Vice President said that “the re-prioritization of efforts by national authorities to other areas, including humanitarian and economic recovery efforts, will no doubt adversely impact on resources available to implement Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Counter-Terrorist Financing (CFT) measures effectively”.
“I wish to commend GIABA for adopting strategies to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on its programmes, to ensure that member States effectively implement their AML/CFT obligations. These include the proactive engagement with member States on the application of their AML/CFT measures and working constructively with them to minimise the potential impact of COVID-19 and the use of the virtual space in programme delivery, including the hosting of this Plenary,” she maintained.
In his statement, the Director General of GIABA Justice Kimelabalou ABA, said that, since December 2019, immediately after our last Plenary, the whole world has entered an unprecedented health crisis, still battling a coronavirus disease that has become a pandemic called SARS COV 2, better known as COVID-19, and which has disrupted socio-economic life, the world over.
This predicament, he said, has also dealt a nefarious blow to the activities of the GIABA Secretariat, due to its consequences on international travel resulting from the preventive and precautionary measures taken worldwide by all countries to tackle the spread of the disease, in particular the ban on gatherings or meetings, confinement of populations at the national and/or local level, which has led them to go virtual in the conduct of their activities and programs.
The Director General noted that, during this session, the agenda features no examination of a mutual evaluation report, a great first in a long time, nor does it table a follow-up report under the second round of mutual evaluations.
Justice Kimelabalou ABA, reiterated that “the Mutual Evaluation Processes and Procedures do not provide for a virtual or written procedure for adopting said documents under this round, and they can therefore only be the subject of a discussion, in the physical presence of all stakeholders”.
In his statement Mr. Ahmat Jidoud, Deputy Minister in charge of Budget of the Republic of Niger, thanked GIABA and its partners for their support given to Member States to fight against money laundering and financial crimes.