Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN)
By Davidson Iriekpen
The Federal Government Monday disclosed that about $1.6trillion was being frittered away annually through criminal activities and money laundering.
The government also stated that half of the said amount originated from bribes given to public officials from developing countries, including Nigeria.
The disclosure, however, came on a day the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) called on the National Assembly to expedite action in passing the Assets Forfeiture Bill into law.
Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN), who disclosed this at a workshop on “Stolen Asset Recovery and Management of Proceeds of Crime” organised by the ministry in collaboration with Justice for All and the International Centre for Asset Recovery, lamented that developing countries had not mustered enough political will to fight corruption, let alone recovering the loots.
Adoke, therefore, advocated the establishment of a dedicated account to be called “Asset Confiscation Fund”, where recovered looted funds would be kept for the purposes of short and medium term planning.
He said: “The cross border flow of the global proceeds from criminal activities particularly corruption and economic crimes, is estimated to be between USD $1.6trn, annually. Half of this amount is looted from developing and transition economies. Statistics further reveal that USD $20 to $40billion of this inflow originated in bribes to public officials from these countries.
“It is, however, apposite to state that the road to successful recovery of stolen assets is a long and tortuous one. Equally important is the political will to pursue recoveries by developing countries.
“We cannot over-emphasis the need for developing countries to hold accountable, all those who have frittered away their national resources in this regard, victim-states must not rely solely on other countries to initiate proceedings that will ultimately be of benefit to them.”
Also speaking, the EFCC chairman, Mrs. Farida Waziri, said the commission had introduced a bill on forfeiture of stolen assets, adding that: “In 2008, the EFCC pioneered the introduction of a comprehensive non-conviction based asset forfeiture law in Nigeria.”
She explained further that: “The principal aim was to have in place a legislation that will complement the current conviction-based regime. The bill which had input from the relevant committees of both houses before presentation to the National Assembly suffered a setback in the House of Representatives. The reasons advanced for defeating the in the House were legally and morally unstoppable.
“All the National Assembly needs to do is to make a law that prescribes the mode of that process. It is therefore strongly recommended that this initiative by the AGF and DFID should result in the urgent representation of that bill to the seventh National Assembly for its consideration and passage into law.”
In his contribution, the acting Chairman of ICPC, Alhaji
Abdullahi Bako, had called on the citizenry to assist the anti-graft agencies to trace assets which are hidden abroad.
“We should try to trace assets hidden abroad; the countries where these assets are hidden should relax their laws to make it easier for Nigerians to get the assets. The National Assembly should see that we reciprocate our foreign partners in the fight against corruption.
“It is not enough for politicians to steal public funds and display them; we will be making mockery of the nation’s anti-graft crusade. The National Assembly should consider the necessity of the assets recovery bill and pass it into law to move Nigeria forward,” he said.