FG Seeks More Powers to Seize Proceeds of Crime

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Muhammadu Buhari

By Udora Orizu

The federal government has approached the National Assembly seeking for the creation of an agency with more powers to freeze and seize stolen public funds and assets.

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday sent the Proceeds of Crime Recovery and Management Bill to the House of Representatives for legislative work and passage into law.

The bill will improve the ability of law enforcement agencies to seize, freeze, and confiscate stolen assets in Nigeria while observing all related constitutional and human rights laws.

This was contained in a letter to the House, which was read at the plenary by the Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila.

Buhari in the letter said that the bill was presented to the Federal Executive Council in council memo EC (2020)159 on September 16, 2020, and was subsequently approved tor transmission to the National Assembly.

He stated that the bill was passed by the National Assembly in 2019 but was not granted assent due to some issues that were identified during the review.

He explained that the bill is essential and critical in building an enduring and sustainable foundation for the fight against corruption, money laundering and illicit movement of stolen funds through the banking system and across the Nigerian borders.

He said the bill will also improve the ability of law enforcement agencies to seize, freeze, and confiscate stolen assets in Nigeria while observing all related constitutional and human rights laws.

The letter read in part, “Please recall that this bill was passed by the National Assembly in 2019 but was not granted assent due to some issues that were identified during the review.

”The Proceeds of Crime Bill is essential and critical in building an enduring and sustainable foundation for the fight against corruption, money laundering and illicit movement of stolen funds through the banking system and across the Nigerian borders. The bill will also improve the ability of law enforcement agencies to seize, freeze, and confiscate stolen assets in Nigeria while observing all related constitutional and human rights laws.”

”This bill will also address the problem of lack of transparency, accountability, and lack of credible records associated with the current procedure in the management of recovered funds by anti-corruption agencies and other institutions in Nigeria. An important feature of the bill is the creation of the Proceeds of Crime (Recovery and Management) Agency. The objects of the Agency include the enforcement and administration of the provisions of the Bill and the coordination of the recovery and management of the proceeds and instrumentalities of unlawful activity in Nigeria in all collaboration with anti-corruption and other law enforcement agencies.”

”Most importantly, the agency will ensure that Nigerians can benefit from proceeds of crime by ensuring that once recovery is made, the properties and assets will be secured and that the final forfeitures granted through a court order can be paid into the Confiscated and Forfeited Account to be domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria.

“These funds will be used for development projects approved by the National Assembly under the annual Appropriation Act and also support the work of the law enforcement and anti-corruption agencies.”

“It is my expectation that the House of Representatives will give the bill expedited hearing and passage into law given the importance of the bill in generating revenue tor the country.”