Senate Passes Bill on Mutual Assistance on Cross Border Crimes

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Damilola Oyedele in Abuja

The Senate on Tuesday passed the bill for mutual assistance in criminal matters between Nigeria and other foreign countries to facilitate the identification, tracing, freezing, restraining, recovery, forfeiture and confiscation of proceeds, property and other instrumentalities of crimes.

The bill, an executive one, would provide a legal framework that would strengthen the fight against corruption, terrorism, economic and financial crimes, money laundering and other related offences.

It would also facilitate the voluntary attendance of persons in the requesting state. The Senate passed the bill following the adoption of the report of its Committees on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes, and Foreign Affairs.

The bill is also intended to effect the temporary transfer of persons in custody to assist in investigations or appear as witnesses, facilitate obtaining and preserving of computer data, and providing any other assistance that is not contrary to the law of the requesting state.

Presenting the lead debate, the Chairman of the Committee on Judiciary, Senator David Umaru (Niger East), said the enactment of the law is paramount to the anti-corruption drive of the government, as it seeks to eliminate territorial jurisdictional constraints in the prosecution of cross border crimes.

“The globalisation and advancement in information and communication technology have made it imperative for a legislation of this nature to be put in place in order to promote cooperation for the prosecution of cross border offenders and transnational organised crimes,” he said.

Umaru explained further that the scope of the bill has been widened from the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters in the Commonwealth (Enactment and Enforcement) Act 2004, to assume international dimensions in participation and laundering of the proceeds of crime.
He, however, added that the joint committee rejected clauses that could give rise to torture (coercive investigative measures) as it is unconstitutional.

Presiding, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, said the passage of the bill would restore the confidence of foreign investors in doing business in Nigeria.

The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, had accused the Senate of slowing down the anti-corruption war with the delay in passing of the mutual assistance on criminal matters bill, which was laid in February 2016.
Malami had claimed that President Muhammadu Buhari was disappointed with the delay in the passage of the bill and other anti-corruption bills.