By Dennis Agbo
THE Anti-Corruption and Research Based Data Initiative, ARDI, has advoacted that the National Assembly should consider an accelerated passage of the Proceed of Crimes Recovery and Management Agency Bill recently approved by the Federal Executive Council, FEC.
The group said that the bill if passed into law will serve as an antidote to the alleged intimidations and exploitations citizens suffer in the hands of some staffs of government agencies responsible for recovery of proceeds of crime in the country.
A council memo for Proceed of Crime Recovery and Management Agency bill was recently approved by FEC for the office of the Attorney General and Federal Ministry of Justice to transmit to the National Assembly for passage.
The aim of the Bill is to provide a comprehensive legal and institutional framework for the recovery and management of proceeds of crime or benefits derived from unlawful activities, harmonize and consolidate the legal provisions on the recovery of proceeds of crime and related matters in Nigeria.
ARDI Director of Publicity, Yiniyes Jibrailu, in statement made available to Vanguard, on Tuesday, lamented that complaints of intimidations and harassments were daily occurrences which government seem to be helpless due to the thin line between sincere fight against corruption and alleged official corruption perpetuated daily by staffs of such agencies in their line of duty.
Jibrailu said: “There are complaints of citizens being intimidated into surrendering properties perceived to be proceed of crime. Most of these properties afterwards end up in the private possession of staff of some of the anti-corruption agencies without traces of such recoveries in government records. They are simply relooted or sold to friends and cronies at give-away prices, thereby denying government expected revenues.
“This could be one of the major reasons the Honorable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice facilitated this bill to save government of such embarrassments.
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“It is one of such feats achieved by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, after much efforts by the country since 2007 to put in place an appropriate Proceeds of Crime legislations.
“Efforts to achieve this feat is stalled by agency rivalry in the country. The closest break-through in signing the bill in 2019 by the President was frustrated as a result of complaints by agencies that it is intended to take away their powers. But that is false as facts shows that many agencies are not ready to provide information on assets recovered and the amount recovered.
“At the moment, agencies cannot manage recovered assets under their establishment laws due to conflict of interest and the inadequacy of the provisions with regards to the transparent management of the assets and funds.
“The inability of the former EFCC boss, Ibrahim Magu, to properly account for his commission’s recovered assets is one of such problems that was highlighted in Malami’s memo that indicted the former EFCC boss, who is currently facing the Presidential Panel headed by Justice Salami.”
He noted that the Bill also provides for a non-conviction-based approach to the recovery of proceed of crime and the return of such funds to the Federal Government of Nigeria, adding that earning from the recovered funds will serve as a source of revenue for the implementation of Annual Appropriation Acts and for development of critical infrastructures in Nigeria.
“By this bill, Malami and his team are classical and clearly have addressed the reoccurring issues of scattered recovered assets being re-looted by the management of most of the multiple agencies of government. The agency bill, if passed by the National Assembly, is expected to provide a centralized platform to coordinate the management of all recovered assets.
“Malami has in no doubt demonstrated capacity, ingenuity. He churns out innovations on each passing day to consolidate and strengthen the judicial legal framework, an effort that has also boosted the economic sector.
“The AGF’s sagacity and humility have earned the country so much income through repatriated funds and more are still coming. Very recently, he saved the country fortunes from the ongoing P&ID case. Nigeria would have paid out the sum of $9.6 billion in judgement against the country.
“All these, as the Recovery and Management Agency Bill also intends to achieve, in no doubt have enabled the country achieve so much in the ongoing massive infrastructural developments by this administration, in addition to the palliative measures for poverty alleviation programs ongoing.
“The AGF’s initiative in formulating the Proceed of Crimes Recovery and Management Agency Bill is indeed a step worth commending. The National Assembly should complement the efforts of the Executive by ensuring that this Bill receives urgent attention as it deserves. The drafters of the Bill have done a thorough and detailed job. Crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s is all that is needed for final passage,” Jibrailu stated.