By Bolaji Ogundele, Abuja
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved the establishment of the Proceeds of Crime Recovery and Management Agency Bill.
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, disclosed this to State House correspondents after this week’s virtual FEC meeting, which was presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa .
According to Malami, the bill is targeted and intended to have in place a legal and institutional framework through which all recovered stolen assets are pooled and managed under an agency, ending the era when various government agencies work at variance with regards to recovered assets.
He explained that once the bill becomes law and the agency is established, it would see to proper documentation and management of such recovered assets and thereby guarantee transparency and accountability.
“It is a Proceeds of Crime Recovery and Management Agency Bill. It is in essence a bill that is targeted and intended to have in place a legal and institutional framework. The legal component of it is having a law. And the institutional component of it is to have an agency that will be saddled with the responsibility of managing the assets that constitute the proceeds of crime in Nigeria.
“What happens before now is the 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, EFCC, and ICPC. So, with that kind of arrangement which is adhoc, there is no agency of government that is saddled with the responsibility of data generation, an agency that can give you off head the number of landed assets, number of immovable assets, the amount in cash that are recovered by the federal government by way of interim forfeiture overweigh of a final forfeiture. So, it is indeed overtime a kind of arrangement that is not uniform and consistent.
“So, what this law now seeks to do is to move the fight against corruption to the next level. Next level of transparency next level of accountability and in essence, have in place an agency of government that is exclusively responsible for anything proceeds of crime. So, a one-stop shop arrangement by which all the assets that are recovered arising from crimes that are indeed vested in the federal government, you have a one-stop arrangement where you can have an information.
“As it is for example the federal ministry of Justice is only in a position to account and giving comprehensive account of what recoveries were made by the ministry. But any recovery made by the police, DSS, the ministry of justice is not in a position to know. So, for the purpose of decision making and policy, the FG is not in a position to have a holistic appreciation.
“So, by the bill that is now presented for the consideration of the council, we’ll have (1) a law that establishes an agency, (2) an agency. And for your information, even for the purpose of planning what we will have at the end of the day if this bill is passed into law, is we’ll have an agency that will be responsible. And as you rightly know, Mr. President has sanctioned ever since he came on board, that there should be a budget line, a budget item for recovered assets.
“If you have a budget item for recovered assets, this agency will now be in a position to provide information to the federal ministry of finance, budget and National Planning on demand as to what amount is there available for budget purposes, thereby establishing the desired transparency, the desired accountability which has not been available before now.
“So, it is about a memo that seeks to establish a legal framework, that seeks to establish institutional framework, that seeks to further take the fight against corruption to the next level by way of establishing transparency, accountability and making the possibility of forfeiture a proceeds of crime easy through the sanctioning of non-conviction based forfeiture among others,” he said.
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