The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has promised Nigerians that it will investigate and prosecute government officials and prominent Nigerians who are named as having secret foreign accounts or foreign firms that allow them to escape paying tax as contained in PanamaPapers.
The Director of Information at the EFCC, Mr. Osita Nwaja, gave the assurance while addressing protesters, who had stormed the Abuja head office of the anti-graft agency to demand the probe of all Nigerians accused of operating offshore accounts in notorious tax havens.
Nwaja said, “These papers (Panama Papers) did not emanate from Nigeria but they touch the lives of the people of Nigeria and corruption as well as money laundering has gone beyond national borders as we are seeing from these papers.
“The EFCC is not just a Nigerian organisation. The work that we do goes beyond national borders. So, this request will be looked into along with other requests by other well-meaning Nigerians along the already charted course of Mr. President, which is zero tolerance for corruption, zero tolerance for impunity, zero tolerance for the abuse of public office and continued subjugation of the Nigerian people.”
The leak of the Panama Papers details how political leaders and the super rich conduct business behind a veil of secrecy.
The 11.5 million documents, held by Panama-based Mossack Fonseca, released to a German newspaper and the International Consortium of Journalists, have caused upheavals around the world.
Fonseca, reputed to be the world’s fourth largest offshore law firm, helps clients to register offshore entities, which are sometimes used to launder money and evade tax.
Online medium, Premium Times, had, last week, sighted documents showing that Senate President, Bukola Saraki; his predecessor, Senator David Mark; a former Defence Minister, Lt. Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (retd.); and others allegedly operated offshore accounts while holding public offices.
Also addressing protesters, a former Minister of Education, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili, said Nigeria must investigate all those mentioned in the Panama Papers just as other developed countries were doing.
She said, “I want to add my voice to the voices of the members of civil society groups who are demanding that action be immediately taken by our government in initiating a process for further investigation into the allegations coming out of the Panama Papers leaks.
“In fact, in some of the countries, ahead of the facts being established or confirmed, some of the public officials are already resigning from their positions.
“The reason we have the EFCC is that when things like this happen globally, and other nations are taking measures to determine how it affects them, our own EFCC, our own government, our own Ministry of Justice must show responsiveness. That is what responsive governance is all about.”
The Executive Director, African Network for Environment and Economic Justice, David Ugolor, who coordinated the protests, said the government must investigate all the accused persons as tax evasion was economic sabotage.
“Other governments are already responding. Ours must not be an exception and we thought that we must raise our voice to demand this,” he said.
The protesters also marched to the Office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice to submit a petition demanding the probe of those mentioned in the Panama Papers. Punch