If all goes well, the fight against corruption will soon receive a boost as the Proceeds of Crime Bill has been transmitted to President Muhammadu Buhari for assent by the National Assembly
The bill, which was transmitted on Monday, is considered as one of the key Legal instruments in the fight of the present regime against corruption.
According to the Chairman House of Representatives Committee in Financial Crimes, Hon. Kayode Oladele, the Proceeds of Crime Bill, 2017, is a 12- part bill which makes comprehensive provisions for the confiscation, forfeiture and management of property derived from unlawful activities.
When the President assents the bill, it will be a landmark in the effort to stem the tide of corruption in the country, he said.
The Proceeds of Crime Bill, 2017 (HB 872) was read for the First Time on Tuesday 7th December, 2016. And on Wednesday 18th January, 2017, the House referred the Bill to the Committee of the Whole for consideration, pursuant to Order Twelve Rule 16 of the House of Representatives Standing Orders.
While speaking on the objective of the bill during the second reading of the bill, the Oladele had said
“This important Bill before us for consideration today, among other things, seeks to provide a legal and institutional framework for the recovery and management of proceeds of crime or benefits derived from unlawful activities as well as harmonize and consolidate existing legislations on the recovery of proceeds of crime and related matters in the country.
” Even though we have in existence extant laws such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act, 2004, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Act, 2000, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons Act, 2003, Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, 2004, Recovery of Public Property Act (Special Provisions) Act, Failed Banks (Recovery of Debts) and Financial Malpractices in Banks Act and some other penal laws on asset recovery in the country, there is no legal and institutional framework in place to handle civil forfeiture.
“The absence of civil forfeiture law in the country makes mockery of the fight against corruption, as criminals in the country are not deterred because of the realization that they will not be denied the benefit of their loot, whether they are caught or not. This proposed legislation, is targeted at addressing this obvious lacuna in our law.”
The lawmaker noted in a chat on Tuesday the inherent benefits of the bill. He said:
“The Bill when passed will among other things, reverse the ugly trend associated with non-recovery of looted funds, consolidate the legal framework regarding forfeiture in the country and ensure the confiscation and civil recovery of proceeds of crime as well as facilitate the repatriation of stolen funds from abroad;
“Nigeria will achieve a milestone in its action plan to tackle corruption and it will provide complementary and collaborative roles between the agency and other law enforcement agencies, as the bill seeks to harmonize all existing laws on asset recovery in Nigeria.
“With this legislation in place, Nigeria will join the league of other nations like the United Kingdom, South Africa and New Zealand, etc with similar legislation, which has proved effective in their respective jurisdictions.”
The lawmaker further said that the passage of the bill is critical “to the sustainability, administration and implementation of government action plan targeted at the recovery and management of proceeds of crime in Nigeria, thereby substantially reducing her corruption records and stigma in the community of nations.”