The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, on Thursday, disagreed on the need to create a new agency to be solely responsible for forfeiture of the proceeds of crimes assets.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) also kicked against moves by the Senate to enact a new anti-money laundering law instead of amending the existing Money Laundering (Prevention) Act 2011.
These views were canvassed at a public hearing organised by the Senate Joint Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes; Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, as well as Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions in Abuja.
The public hearing was meant to get stakeholders’ input into three proposed anti-corruption bills being considered by the Senate.
The bills include: ‘Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) 2021’, ‘Public Complaints Commission (Repeal and Re-Enactment) Bill, 2022’ and the ‘Proceeds of Crimes (Recovery and Management) Bill, 2021.’
On the proposed Proceeds of Crimes (Recovery and Management) Bill, which seeks to establish a commission to handle forfeiture of assets acquired through criminal and illegal activities, the Chairman of the EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa, said creating a new agency is not necessary since the anti-graft body is well positioned to handle such duties.
Bawa, who was represented by the Secretary to the EFCC, George Ekpungu, said: “On the proposed Proceeds of Crimes Bill, I will only mention two things, the first one is that we should remember the federal government’s white paper on the reduction of the establishment of new agencies.
“I don’t think creating a new one that would manage the proceeds of crimes is necessary. This one is like a caveat. We remember the Presidential Panel on Investigation and Recovery of Public Property and what it almost foisted on the nation – crises, confusion and drawbacks.”
He added that the proposed agency would lead to additional financial burden for the country.
On his part, Malami in his presentation, supported the passage of the Proceeds of Crimes Bill and the setting up of a separate agency for asset forfeiture.
Malami, who was represented by the Deputy Director, Legal Drafting, Federal Ministry of Justice, Godwin Iheabunike, said: “We believe that the agency will not pose financial challenges for the country, it would only help us to recover stolen revenues.
“It would handle civil forfeiture for us. Our agencies right now are handling criminal forfeitures which means we have to wait until they are done with prosecutions before they can now come back to do recovery.
“But now, this agency will do civil recovery. It would also help Nigeria to gain reputation in the global community.”
Meanwhile, the Governor of CBN, Godwin Emefiele, said an amendment of the existing Money Laundering (Prevention) Act 2011, would best serve the interest of Nigeria than a repeal and re-enactment bill.
Emefiele, who was represented by a Director of the CBN, Mr Chibuzor Anthony Efobi, said: “Where the existing Money Laundering (Prevention) Act 2011, is repealed and re-enacted, there would be new legal foundations which have not been assessed against the FATF (Financial Action Task Force) standards.”
This, according to him, would bring about a new law that may likely be deficient in other areas not limited to the deficiencies identified in the Mutual Evaluation Report.
He said: “Additionally, the new law will have to be completely reviewed by the FATF and GIABA (Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa) for compliance with FATF recommendations.
“There will be a risk that the international assessment identifies new gaps which would lead to rating downgrades.
“Consequently, the CBN is opposed to the passage of the proposed bills for the repeal and re-enactment of the existing Money Laundering (Prevention) Act 2011. We have attached a copy of a proposed amendment to the 2011 Act for your consideration and necessary action.”
Senate President Ahmad Lawan, represented by the Deputy Chief Whip, Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, in his remarks before declaring the session opened, said: “The Bills reinforce the commitment of the administration to the fight against corruption and it is why all hands must be on deck to reduce, if not eliminate malaise using all legitimate means possible.”
Earlier in his remarks, the Chairman of the joint committee, Senator Suleiman Abdu Kwari (Kaduna North), said the proposed legislations were aimed at strengthening the fight against corruption in the country.
“We need to observe certain international commitments and obligations. We are mindful of our nation’s sovereignty and should therefore preserve it and also create home grown solutions to issues in our criminal justice system.
“I wish to urge all stakeholders to take cognizance of the Jakarta Principle that seeks the strengthening of our existing laws and enforcement. Therefore, all institutions should be free to discharge their mandates without working at cross purposes or being bullied by seemingly more powerful counterparts,” Kwari said.