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ANEEJ, NGOs urge Buhari to sign Proceeds of Crime, Mutual Legal Assistance bills



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THE Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ) and its partner organisations have urged  President Muhammadu Buhari to sign two bills before him: the Proceeds of Crime (POCA) bill and the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters bill.

The POCA bill, passed in April, was transmitted to the president on Monday by the National Assembly, and the second bill had been passed by the Senate since May 2017.

ANEEJ, in a press release made public on Tuesday, said both bills when assented to will strengthen the anti-corruption fight of the administration.

“We urge the resident to assent to both bills to strengthen the asset recovery architecture in Nigeria and also institutionalise the enabling frameworks for the effective implementation of the London anti-corruption and the Global Forum for Asset Recovery (GFAR) commitments which the president signed unto in 2016,” ANEEJ’s executive director, David Ugolor, said.

“We commend the National Assembly for transmitting both bills after painstaking negotiations. While we note that the POCA cannot be perfect as passed by both chambers of the National Assembly, if assented to by the president, it will help send a strong message to other jurisdictions withholding our stolen funds,” he added.

“We also want to place on record the excellent support offered by the senate committee chairman on the judiciary, human rights and legal matters, David Umaru, leading to the passage of this all important bill.

“We equally appreciate the leading role of the Honourable Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) and his team in the Federal Ministry of Justice as well as Civil Society Organisations for their relentless efforts towards the passage of the bills over the years.”

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Non-governmental organisations partnering with ANEEJ, under its Monitoring of Recovered Returned Assets Through Transparency and Accountability (MANTRA) project, have also lent their voice to the recommendation.

Zikirulahi Ibrahim, executive director of the Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED), described the passing of the bills as a significant milestone for all of the country’s anti-corruption activities and said it is a big leap in implementing the government’s anti-corruption strategy.

“We must ensure that looters of the nation’s treasury are not allowed to keep proceeds of their criminality,” he said. “When assented by the president, POCA will make our campaign for the recovery and management of looted assets a lot more easier.”

The Civil Resource Development and Documentation Centre (CIRDDOC) through its executive director, Ralph Ndigwe, said the transmission of both bills to the president signals a significant milestone in the war against corruption in Nigeria.

He added that Utazi Godfrey Chukwuka, senator representing Enugu North and chairman of the Senate committee on anti-corruption and financial crimes, “has written his name in gold in the struggle to rid Nigeria of corruption by this development”.

“We are happy with this development and we call on the President to assent to both Bills and use it as a template to firm up assets recovery institutional framework in the country,” said Abiodun Oyeleye, executive director of the New Initiative for Social Development (NISD), another MANTRA partner.

“It will surely give the needed teeth to anti-corruption activists to bite treasury looters. Unexplained wealth can be seized and the onus placed on the owner to showcase why the government will not seize such suspicious assets with POCA,” he added.

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The bill on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters has been touted to have the capacity to assist in the repatriation of looted funds in foreign countries. It will also enable Nigeria obtain evidence, identify witnesses, and transfer suspects in other countries.

Like this instrument, the Proceeds of Crime bill is also crucial in tackling corruption. It provides for the confiscation, forfeiture, and management of property derived from unlawful activities.

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