|We are at the very bottom of the ladder- Akere Muna|
In a report, the World Bank accused African lawyers and accountants of facilitating the illicit financial flows from the continent.
But Barrister Akere Muna argues that they (African lawyers) cannot stop illicit financial flows from Africa as they are at the bottom of the ladder and do not have the advantage of seeing the big amounts of African wealth in foreign banks.
Barrister Akere Muna spoke to News Watch Cameroon at the end of the general assembly of the Pan-African Lawyers Union that held in Yaounde from June 5-7, 2014. Excerpts
NWC—Barrister, can African lawyers really make a difference in the fight against illicit financial flows from Africa?
Muna—I think any citizen can make a difference in his country, you know who said that? , Michael Jackson in the song, the man in the mirror. I am looking at the man in the mirror and asking him to change his ways. If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at your self and make that change, so anybody can including lawyers. In illicit financial flows yes, because we are accused of being those who are in the background with accountants figuring out technically how you can do that. May be lawyers but i don’t think African lawyers. We are at the very bottom of the ladder and we are struggling to survive. The lawyers who might have the advantage of seeing the big amounts are those are in different countries not in Africa. So I think if we can make the link between developments, a demand of 50 billion dollars a year, we lose from Africa in financial flows. That is an under estimate because that only money which is recorded from transfer pricing, under pricing, for services which are fake. For example you write to somebody to send you a bill of 2billion that you sent him something which you didn’t send. You send him the money and when you go on holidays, you find the money on the other side. That is the kind of thing we are talking about. So development aid to Africa is 22billion, this means that twice over with some change are still owed money, so i think it is important. So if you seal the leaks, it will be better for you and me.
NWC—If African lawyers cannot solve the problem, why did you bring it to general assembly?
Muna—Because the World Bank in its report says that the vectors and facilitators of illicit financial flows are lawyers and accountants. So we are answering the question. If we are, what can we do about it? And I hope our final communiqué will help.
NWC—You are handing over the baton to Elijah Banda, what legacy, what is it to retain about your tenure?
Muna—Well, I think I am founding member of this organisation. I was founding member when I was chair of the Cameroon bar association. And we have grown from strength to strength. From when we couldn’t have a guest speaker to when we have had. For the last time we had Mo Ibrahim, now we have Thabo Mbeki. This shows that we are gaining in respectability. We cooperate now with the African Union in many commissions. So I think that I have hope for the future and the future is built from the past.
|Thabo Mbeki, Paul Biya and Akere Muna|
NWC—By bringing President Thabo Mbeki to Cameroon, giving an award to president Paul Biya what is Akere Muna looking for?
Muna—Hmmm, a good question, the Pan-African Lawyers Association made a prize for peaceful resolution of conflicts. At that time the Bakassi dispute had been settled. Don’t forget Cameroon won the case in court, so we could have taken a decision that we have won the case we execute; Nigeria get out of our land, we execute. But Biya decided that the execution be by settlement, by talking-and had witnesses. And it was settled that way; that is a great thing and that is what we are saluting……as a matter of fact president Biya delayed till the process was completely over. Don’t forget it is only last year that Nigeria completely forfeited the chances of attacking that decision and then the African Union in January made a declaration in which it saluted the efforts of Cameroon and Nigeria and Koffi Annan for settling that dispute in a friendly manner, that’s great. Look at what is happening in Bangui, in Mali, conflicts are not good because those who suffer are the poor of the poorest. So I think we should start looking at cases where people do things in the interest of their citizens.
Barrister Akere Muna was interviewed by Ndi Eugene Ndi