President Muhammadu Buhari has sent a bill to the House of Representatives, seeking their approval to grant the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) the powers to freeze accounts allegedly holding proceeds of crime and go hard on money launderers.
This is contained in a letter written by the President and read by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, during plenary on Wednesday, October 14, 2020, at the National Assembly complex in Abuja.
It can be recalled that assent to the same Bill was withheld by President Buhari in 2019, following the worsening working relationship between the National Assembly and the Executive.
According to the letter read by Gbajabiamila, part of the bill sought the creation of a Proceeds of Crime (Recovery and Management) Agency. This is coming after the bill was approved by the Federal Executive Council on September 16, 2020, for onward transmission to the National Assembly.
The letter from the president, partly reads, “Please recall that this bill was passed by the National Assembly in 2019 but was not granted assent due to some issues that were identified during the review.
“The Proceeds of Crime Bill is essential and critical in building an enduring and sustainable foundation for the fight against corruption, money laundering and illicit movement of stolen funds through the banking system and across the Nigerian borders.
“The bill will also improve the ability of law enforcement agencies to seize, freeze and confiscate stolen assets in Nigeria while observing all related constitutional and human rights laws.
“This bill will also address the problem of lack of transparency, accountability and lack of credible records associated with the current procedure in the management of recovered funds by anti-corruption agencies and other institutions in Nigeria.”
The President, in the letter, said that some of the objectives of the proposed agency include the enforcement and administration of the provisions of the bill, the coordination of the recovery and management of the proceeds and instrumentalities of unlawful activity in Nigeria, in collaboration with anti-corruption and other law enforcement agencies.
He disclosed that once recovery is made from the proceeds of crime, the agency will ensure that Nigerians derive maximum benefit from it. The properties and assets will be secured and the final forfeitures granted through a court order can be paid into the Confiscated and Forfeited Account to be domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria.