The frequency at which currency is being trafficked these days through our airports is disheartening and a sad reminder that corruption remains high in our country.
On Tuesday night, Aminu Lamido, son of Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa State, was arrested by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, after $50,000 cash was found on him.
Aminu was nabbed at the Mallam Aminu Kano international Airport in Kano for falsely declaring $10,000 instead of the $50,000 he was taking to Cairo via an Egypt Air flight.
Last Monday, the EFCC Chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, disclosed that no less than N15.5 billion was intercepted at the nation’s airports between January and now.
Lamorde said the amount represented physical cash and not legitimate cash transfer through the financial institutions, taken out through the nation’s airports.
He said N14 billion being taken out of the country was intercepted at the nation’s airports between January and August while the operation of a Special Task Team which is a joint patrol of the airport by the EFCC operatives and Nigerian Customs officers which commenced in September 2012, had yielded the arrest of illegal cash couriers with over $9 million dollars.
One person was even arrested at the airport in possession of $7 million (over N1.5 billion) in a briefcase as he was attempting to fly out of Nigeria.
The recent arrests may just be the tip of the iceberg as much more money might have been taken outside the country on daily basis undetected by the officials.
The process of not declaring at borders the exact amount of money being taken out of the country is known as money laundering, and it is a way of concealing the source of money obtained by illicit means.
The amount of money laundered each year in Nigeria is certainly in the billions of dollars and poses a significant policy concern for governments.
The money is stolen from public coffers by government officials and their aides and taken to the Middle East, Europe, America and Asia where it is invested in real estate with the hope that it will be converted back to cash when needed.
According to the law, the Central Bank of Nigeria and other bodies must be notified for any legitimate money transfer above $10,000.
But government officials and their aides flout the law and take huge sums of money outside the country daily.
As they take the stolen money outside our shores, at home unemployment is hitting the roof and poverty is ravaging the citizenry.
Corruption and embezzlement continue to cripple Nigeria and we cannot continue that way.
We call on the Federal Government to strengthen the Special Task Team to fight money laundering.
We also want to remind those taking our money abroad to have a change of attitude because this will not solve the high unemployment in the country.
It is only when we fight corruption at home and invest our money in Nigeria that we can tackle our gargantuan challenges.