Assets Forfeiture: CSOs Mount Pressure On NASS To Enact Law

April 28, 2021.

The Lead Director, Center for Social Justice (CSJ), Eze Onyekpere has called on the National Assembly to give immediate attention to the Proceeds of Crime Recovery and Management Bill for onward action by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Onyekpere made the call Wednesday during a radio program, PUBLIC CONSCIENCE produced by the Progressive Impact Organization for Community Development, PRIMORG, in Abuja.

It will be recalled Daily Trust investigations had exposed how EFCC operatives converted seized assets or properties under interim forfeiture to accommodation and transit camps, hence sparking calls from journalists and citizens to demand urgent and speedy passage of a law to manage recovered assets.

Speaking on the management of recovered assets from proceeds of crime in Nigeria, Onyekpere identified lack of transparency and accountability as a major problem, which is now undermining the fight against corruption.

He noted that legislation of assets recovery and management entails an agency will be saddled with the responsibility of documenting proceeds of crime which will bridge the loopholes existing in Nigeria today.

“A situation where EFCC seizes property and then decides which government agency it will now hand the property to or whatever it wishes to do with it was not transparent enough.

“What we need now is a system where recovered assets will be in the public domain; what will come in, how it is being managed and there will be confidence in the system. We need more transparency, more accountability in public administration,” Onyekpere stated.

On his part, the Executive Director of Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), Revd. David Ugolor said that lack of political will by leaders is the main reason for the delay in the passage of the Proceeds of Crime and Management Bill into law.

He expressed dissatisfaction with the efforts of the Buhari-led government in ensuring the Bill becomes law, having been elected into office due to his promises to fight corruption. Adding that some of the key elements of the bill include: Provision of an institutional legal framework for the recovery and management of the proceeds of crime; management of crime proceeds within and outside Nigeria and to prevent the expansion of unlawful activities.

The Deputy Director of Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Kolawole Oluwadare backed the creation of an agency to manage recovered assets.

On transparency in the management of recovered assets, Oluwadare, disclosed that SERAP does not have access to records of recovered properties or monies from proceeds of crime by the present government.

While the President of Middle-belt Journalists Forum, Jonathan Ipaa stated that EFCC should be wary of their public perception owing to the conversion of seized properties into their use.

Ipaa also criticized the current administration over the delay in the passage of the Proceed of Crime Recovery Bill.

His words: “Nigerians do not expect that the government of the day will have so much time delaying in getting the law passed. Having their man in charge of the Senate, their man as the speaker, and the party having the majority in the two chambers of the National Assembly, one will expect that given the promises of the party and the pedigree of Mr. President before he was elected, he would be very hard on corruption.”

Ipaa, however, stressed that the creation of databases for recovered assets that will be accessible to the general public will go a long way in engendering transparency as well as urging citizens to hold the government accountable for the anti-corruption promises they made.

It will be recalled President Buhari had last year transmitted the Proceeds of Crime Recovery and Management Bill to the House of Representatives for expedited hearing and passage into law.

Public Conscience is a syndicated weekly anti-corruption radio program used by PRIMORG to draw government and citizens’ attention to corruption and integrity issues in Nigeria.

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