The Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ) has called on the federal government to investigate all Nigerians implicated in the Panama Papers.
In a statement signed by the ANEEJ Executive Director, David Ugolor, the watchdog group explained that the Panama Papers expose the ways in which Nigerians have hidden their wealth in offshore tax havens. They argued that President Muhammadu Buhari should take action to immediately investigate these offenders in line with his anti-corruption stance.
The confidential files belonging to Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, dubbed the “Panama Papers,” were leaked by an anonymous source to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, who then shared the files with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
According to a report on the files by the ICIJ, roughly 140 politicians and public officials, including 12 present and former world leaders, have used a total of over 214,000 offshore entities to hide their assets.
The leak revealed that former Senate President David Mark was involved in running eight companies registered in the British Virgin Islands. Mr. Mark’s ex-wife was also implicated in the report for owning shell accounts.
Other Nigerians listed in the Panama Papers include Senate President Bukola Saraki’s wife, brother Laoulu, and his associates Obi Asika and Olufela Ibidapo. Former Delta State Governor James Ibori was also implicated.
The Panama Papers have already led to the resignation of Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson after the leak revealed he held a secret offshore account. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is under pressure to step down after the Panama Papers indicated that he has an offshore trust used for tax avoidance, an allegation the president denies.
Governments across the world have announced that they would investigate persons implicated in the Panama Papers, while the government of Nigeria has remained silent.
“We are concerned about the silence of our government to this mind-boggling report. Since governments all over the world including the US, UK and India have started to respond to this monumental fraud, it would not be out of place to ask President Buhari to order the EFCC to investigate Nigerians whose names have been featured in the Panama Paper Leak,” Mr. Ugolor said.
"It is expected that such an investigation would reveal the true identity of all those involved and how much they stashed in Panama. Such monies are direly needed to finance development now that the country's economy is in shambles," he added.
Mr. Ugolor asserted that the Nigerian government should not only investigate individuals implicated in the report, but should work to strengthen the country’s anti-money laundering laws and regulations.
"We call on the Nigerian government to review our anti-money laundering laws according to global best practices, to curtail the ability of Politically Exposed Persons to use their positions to siphon public funds to tax havens. If the government can at least develop and make public its asset recovery blueprint, it would go a long way in sending the right signal to the comity of nations that Nigeria is serious this time around with the fight against corruption.”