The Federal Executive Council has approved a bill that seeks to, among other things, create an agency that will be saddled with the responsibility of managing proceeds of crimes in Nigeria.
With Wednesday’s approval of the bill titled ‘Proceeds of Crime Recovery and Management Agency Bill,’ the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), was directed to transmit same to the National Assembly for the purpose of passing it into law.
Malami disclosed this to State House correspondents at the end of the weekly meeting of the council presided over by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).
Buhari presided over the virtual meeting from the Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa, Abuja with some ministers in attendance while others participated from their offices.
According to the minister of justice, the current situation in the country is that proceeds of crime are currently are with multiple government agencies.
He said after the passage of the bill and the creation of the agency, the organisation would be solely responsible for managing the proceeds of crimes in Nigeria.
He said, “The bill is targeted and intended to have in place legal and institutional framework. The legal componence of it is having a law while the institutional component of it is to have an agency that will be saddled with the responsibility of managing the assets that constitute proceeds of crime in Nigeria.
“What happens before now is that proceeds of crime are scattered all over, and mostly in the hands of different and multiple agencies of government inclusive of the police, the DSS (Department of State Services), the EFCC (The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) and the ICPC (Independent Corrupt Practices Commission).
“So, with that kind of arrangement which is ad hoc, there is no agency of government that is saddled with the responsibility of data generation, an agency that can give you offhand the number of landed assets, immovable assets, the amount in cash that is recovered by the Federal Government by way of interim forfeiture or final forfeiture. So, it is indeed over time a kind of arrangement that is not uniform and consistent.
“It is a next level of transparency and accountability that we will have in place an agency of government that is exclusively responsible for proceeds of crime.
“It will be a one-stop shop arrangement by which all the assets that are recovered arising from crime that are indeed vested in the Federal Government, you have a one-stop arrangement where you can have an information.”
Malami added that once there is a budget line for recovered assets directed by the President, the agency to be created would be in a position to provide information to the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning on demand concerning what amount is available for budget purposes, thereby establishing the desired transparency which has not been available before now.
When asked if the bill has to do with the recent experience with the EFCC, the minister said there were failed attempts to present the bill to FEC in 2007, 2011 and 2019.
“So, to now tie it to a particular institution or particular development of 2020, I think is unfounded taking into consideration the historical antecedents relating to the bill,” he said.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, also told journalists that the council approved a new national policy on occupational safety and health titled, ‘National Policy on Occupational Safety 2020.’
He said the new policy was aimed at ensuring that all workers were safe at their work places across the country.
The minister said the policy was formulated from the provisions of the nation’s constitution and the International Labour Organisation’s convention.
Ngige said, “This policy is designed to ensure safety and health of workers at work places.
“It derives from the main ground norm law of the 1999 constitution as amended, which in Section 17 (3c) prescribes that the Nigerian state shall make laws and bye-laws for preservation of the health and well-being of workers in the work places; men and women at work.”
He said the last time the policy was reviewed was 14 years ago.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, told reporters that she briefed the council on the recent Q2 report released by the National Bureau of Statistics and held the view that the nation’s economy performed better than expected.
She said, “The GDP report shows that the economy went into negative growth of -6.10% in the second quarter but that the aggregate performance for half year 2020 is -2.1%. This performance of -6.10% is a good performance in the sense that it is better than what we have projected second quarter performance to be at -7.2%.”
“This performance also is a good performance because it outperformed the projections that had been done by the Brentwood institutions. But it also outperformed very developed economies of the world and also economies that are comparable to us.”
Meanwhile, eminent lawyers on Wednesday reacted to the plan by government to establish asset management agency
Proceeds of crime management agency in order – Sagay
The Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof Itse Sagay (SAN), threw his weight behind the bill seeking to establish an agency to manage the proceeds of crime recovered by the various anti-corruption agencies.
Sagay, in an interview with one of our correspondents said, under the proposed law, anti-corruption agencies would only concentrate on the prosecution of suspects and recovery of the proceeds of crime from them, while the proposed agency would handle the management of the assets.
He said, “We all support that. Once the assets have been collected from any wrongdoer, there should be an agency whose role will be purely to manage them. The anti-corruption agney will no longer prosecute, recover and manage. No! They will prosecute, recover and hand over to an agency whose sole duty is to manage it. We all agree on that.”
Agency long overdue – SAN
Another Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, said the establishment of an agency to manage proceeds of crime was long overdue.
Awomolo urged the National Assembly to quickly pass the proposed bill into law.
He said, “The legislation for the control and management of forfeited assets is long overdue. Even from the first chief executive of EFCC, to the last, there have always been controversies over the management, accountability, transparency of forfeited asset.
“One should not be a judge in his own cause. There must be transparency, there must be accountability. I am even aware that there is an order of court directing all assets forfeited to the Federal Government from 2003 or 2004 to be published. Nobody can tell you there is a comprehensive record anywhere.”
FG not transparent on recovered loot – SERAP
But the Deputy Director, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, Mr Kolawole Oludare, said the Buhari regime had “failed woefully on the basic test of transparency and accountability in its assets recovery efforts.”
Oludare said, “The government has consistently failed to respond to Freedom of Information requests on how it has spent recovered assets and failed to obey court judgments and orders requiring it to explain to Nigerians how it has spent recovered loot.
“For example, Buhari has failed to obey the judgment by Justice Hadiza Rabiu Shagari ordering the government to tell Nigerians about the stolen assets it allegedly recovered, with details of the amounts recovered.
“Another judgment by Justice Mohammed Idris, ordering the government to publish details on the spending of stolen funds recovered by successive governments since the return of democracy in 1999, has been completely ignored by Buhari.
“This is not consistent with the attitude of a government supposedly committed to transparency and accountability and the fight against corruption.”