NIGERIA’S senate has passed for a second reading a bill seeking to allow the federal government to seize assets acquired by corrupt public officers and terrorism financiers as part of the ongoing campaign against corruption.
This piece of legislation is titled A Bill For An Act to Make Comprehensive Provisions For Seizure, Confiscation, Forfeiture and Management of Properties Reasonably Suspected to Have Been Derived From Unlawful Activities. Senator Suleiman Kwari, the sponsor of the bill in his lead debate, said the proposal passed first reading on March 16, 2021 and was also listed among the versions of bills of interest contained in the recent communication from President Muhammadu Buhari.
Last week, President Buhari had appealed to the National Assembly to pass three anti-corruption bills on proceeds of crime, whistle-blower and witness protection. On Tuesday, the senate passed the Witness Protection Bill for its second reading and has now taken this a step further.
According to Senator Kwari, the main objective of the bill was to provide for the establishment of a department in the relevant organisations to manage forfeited assets. He added that, the department would provide for an effective legal and institutional framework for the recovery and management of the proceeds of crime, as well as civil forfeitures in non-conviction based sentencing.
Senator Kwari said: “This bill further makes provisions for restraint, seizure, confiscation and forfeiture of property derived from property unlawful activities any instrumentality used or intended to be used in the commission of such unlawful activities and for non-conviction based procedure for the recovery of proceeds of crime. The bill’s other objectives are to strengthen the criminal confiscation procedure by ensuring that the total benefit from a person’s criminal activity is calculated and an equivalent amount, where recoverable, is confiscated on behalf of the federal government.
In his submission, Senator Smart Adeyemi, stated that it had become expedient for government to go after anyone who cannot account for how they acquired their properties. However, Senator Stella Oduah, who is under the radar of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, kicked against the bill.
She said: “For very brilliant senators such as us, we cannot be seen to pass a bill which we haven’t thought through and that is not in line with best global practice. We shouldn’t play ostrich with this bill.
“We are going to create a situation where conflict of interest within establishments will continue to exist. Subjectivity in handling issues will be the subject of the day, and innocent Nigerians will be made to be victims of this law and laws are not supposed to be like that.
“Laws are supposed to stand the test of time. This bill will not stand the test of time because it will be very subjective.”
Senate president Senator Ahmad Lawan, referred the bill to the Joint Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes; and Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters. Thos joint committee was given four weeks to report back to the senate in plenary.