By Francis Etuko
A Bill seeking to establish a commission that will manage assets which are proceeds from criminal activities on Wednesday scaled second reading on the floor of the Senate.
The Bill which is a brain-child of Senator Mohammed Hassan representing Yobe south seeks to amongst other things provide the legal and institutional frame work for the recovery and management of proceeds of crime in such a manner that is more organized, coordinated an allows Nigeria benefit rather than record loses in the value of property[s] obtained from illegal activities.
Presenting his lead debate on the floor of the Senate, Wednesday, Senator Mohammed Hassan told colleagues on the floor of the red chamber that ‘‘ What we have now creates a very consuming system that leaves both the victim and the state as losers as the values recovered by agencies of government ends up decrepit an decaying with little or no accountability or ultimate responsibility’’
He said ‘‘ Though there are assets forfeiture provisions in the extant laws we have like the EFCC Act, NDLEA Act; Recovery of Public Property [Special Provisions] Act; The Failed Banks [ Recovery of Debts] and Financial Malpractices in Banks Act and Other penal laws in the country. These Provisions basically cover forfeiture after conviction and considering the gestation of most criminal prosecutions in Nigeria, many suspects in corruption cases always manage to hold on to the property or where such property is seized, they are left to the elements of wear and tear and decay’’
‘‘The absence of a civil forfeiture law in the country makes a mockery of the anti-corruption fight; it has continued to remain a case of double-jeopardy. 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’’
Speaking to Newsmen after the end of Wednesdays plenary session, the Yobe Born lawmaker who is also the Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on FCT stressed the need to institutionalize agencies that will assist the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission, ICPC to properly manage assets and other sundry proceeds acquired through corrupt activities.
‘‘Nigeria needs to institutionalize its systems to ensure that proceeds of crime have no hiding place, one of the challenges with getting back the Abacha loot is because of the absence of this particular law’’
We want the ICPC and the EFCC to concentrate on their anti-corruption activities while an independent body sees to the effective management of seized assets which are most times left to rot, what the bill sets out to do is ensure that the management of these proceeds is centralized and not have assets scattered all over the country’’