House Moves to Make States, Local Govts Beneficiaries of Looted Funds

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By Udora Orizu

The House of Representatives has passed for second reading, a bill seeking to include states and local governments as beneficiaries of looted funds and properties.

The bill, which is titled: “A Bill for an Act to Amend the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act 2010,” was sponsored by Hon. Ozurigbo Ugonna.

The proposed legislation seeks to amend Section 6 of the Act by removing the word prison service from the Act and inserting correctional service. It also sought to amend Sections 14, 20, 21, 22, and 29 to enable the states and local governments take benefit of their inalienable rights to repatriation, restitution, costs and damages whenever their fund or property is the subject of an offence.

It also proposed the amendments of Section 26 by allowing government to appoint receiver managers to take over operation of companies or businesses that are consequents of financial crimes until such time that the assets and property of the affected companies or business would be sold or disposed to willing investors.

The bill also proposed the amendment of Section 31 to bar the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) and officials or the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation from disposing assets and properties of states and local governments that forms subject of an offence.

Ugonna argued that states and local governments feel distressed and cheated whenever the federal government appropriates recovered funds and properties that were looted from them.

According to Ugonna, “Sections 14, 20, 21, 22, 26, 29, and 31 of the EFCC Act, which deprive the states and local governments of their right to repatriation and restitution as victims of crime are considered unjust and at variance with present realities, United Nations Declaration, and our Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.

“There is cogent need to amend the aforementioned sections to address the injustices it unleashes on states and local governments. This becomes more appalling when 40 per cent of states and local government allocations are adjudged to be looted by public officers. Recovering this 40 per cent and paying it to the federal government is most absurd.”

He appealed to the lawmakers not to fold their hands and watch the federal government appropriate funds and properties meant for the development of the rural areas in the name of recovered loot.

Meanwhile, the House also passed for second reading, a “Bill for an Act to Provide for Establishment of Federal Roads and Highways Forest Guards” that is charged with the responsibility to detect and prevent crime, banditry, kidnapping, terrorism and violence within all the forests lying 100 meters adjacent to all federal roads and highways in Nigeria and other related matters. The bill was sponsored by Hon. Usman Danjuma Shiddi.