A law that will empower the Federal Government to confiscate assets of corrupt public officers, terrorism financiers and others is at an advanced stage in the Senate. The Executive bill entitled, “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”, has passed second reading in the upper legislative chamber.
Sponsoring the bill, Sen. Suleiman Kwari, said the bill is to among others provide for the establishment of a department in the relevant organizations to manage forfeited assets.
The department will provide 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, he explained.
The bill is among the versions of bills of interest contained in the recent communication from President Muhammadu Buhari to the National Assembly.
Persecondnews recalls that Buhari had last week appealed to the lawmakers to pass the three anti-corruption bills on proceeds of crime, whistle-blower and witness protection.
On January 25, the Senate had passed the “Witness Protection Bill” for second reading.
Contributing to debates on the bill, 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.”
Supporting the bill, Sen. Smart Adeyemi (Kogi West), said it had become imperative for the government to go after anyone who cannot account for how they acquired their properties.
“In supporting this bill, Mr. President, I hold the view that the people who have acquired their properties legally and with good funds have no cause to fear.”
In his contribution, the Deputy Majority Whip, Sen. Aliyu Sabi-Abdullahi, cautioned that it could be used by the government against ” perceived enemies”.
“I think it is our duty to support such a law, but it must not be done in a manner that at the end of the day, when you have somebody that does not mean well, you have given him a weapon to go after his perceived enemies. I think that is where caution has to come in.”
But Sen. Stella Oduah (Anambra), who is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) rejected the bill.
“For very brilliant senators such as us, we cannot be seen to pass a bill which we have not thought through and that is not in line with best global practices. We should not 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,” the former Aviation Minister in the Goodluck Jonathan administration said.
Meanwhile, Senate President Ahmad Lawan has referred the bill to the Joint Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes and Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters.
The committee was given four weeks to report back to the House.