Centre trains journalists on investigating illicit financial flows

The Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID), formerly known as the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), in collaboration with an international organisation, Torchlight Nigeria, has trained journalists on understanding and reporting illicit financial flows (IFFs) in Nigeria.

Speaking during the training held Wednesday in Abuja for select journalists from print, online and electronic media organisations, the Editor-in-Chief of Premium Times, Mr Mojeed Musikilu, said journalists must keep reporting on IFFs and other issues affecting Nigerians, despite the seeming impunity and lack of prosecution of culprits.

He said: “Money laundering is a complex trend that has the involvement of people in high places. The CBN is very key in foreign currency racketeering. Most times, when journalists don’t understand real issues, they end up not asking the real questions. IFFs is a topic you will enjoy writing about if you understand it. You have to understand local and international laws on money laundering in order to track missing money. Many of the culprits hire lobbyists, illegal consultants to avoid detection or prosecution.

“Many times, even after uncovering corruption and IFFs, there is no prosecution, which often lead to disenchantment and the chagrin of journalists. Some folks will even tell you to leave the culprit alone, that he is not the only thief in Nigeria. However, you must continue doing your job as a journalist. Continue to report, even if nothing is done by those in position of authority. Nothing lasts forever. One day, there will be a change of government and your report will be remembered and acted upon. In fact, sometimes, after writing your report, the government will ring changes that you may not even be aware of.”

Also speaking, a European Union Consultant on Anti Money Laundering/Counter Financing of Terrorism Anti Corruption Financial Issues, Stella Atakpa, who doubles as the Managing Director of Opportunity and Risk Management Institute, Ghana, said that there is need to partner with CSOs and constituted authorities to tackle IFFs.

She said: “Money laundering is not a lineal thing. It is complicated. However we are all human beings with feelings. At a point, some people will start feeling guilty about helping their bosses to steal and they will start leaking documents. An accountant can start giving vital information to a journalist on IFFs, leading to investigation.

“Therefore, having a deeper understanding of IFFs will encourage journalists to not only identify the culprits, but also follow the illegally acquired wealth by tracing friends, families and close associates of the accused persons. In tracking the money, you need to look out for the offender, his family, friends and associates. There is need for journalists to partner with the antigraft agencies, especially the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), among others, to curb IFFs.”

On his part, the Deputy Director, Accountability Programme, Mr Mboho Eno, said that the training of journalists on ethical reporting will help to curb the trend of IFFs.

“The aim of this training is to sensitise the public on the impact of IFFs on Nigeria. The overall aim of the project is to increase public reporting of those involved in IFFs as well as to reinforce and demonstrate how this directly impacts and affects the country.

“There is need for more reportage from different media houses; in order to stop IFFs trend and effect the required changes in society. Building the capacity of more journalists in reporting IFFs will drive better engagements and possible prosecution of culprits. We have had in recent years a lot of leaks on how Nigerians hid their wealth in tax havens abroad and how they engaged in illicit financial flows. So, training journalists to understand the implications of IFFs will help sustain conversations around it and hasten prosecution,” he said.

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