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Senate Passes Proceeds Of Crime Bill For Second Reading

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The Senate, yesterday, passed the Proceeds of Crime Bill for second reading.

The Bill titled, “A Bill for an Act to provide for a comprehensive legal and institutional framework for the recovery and management of proceeds of crime or benefits derived from unlawful activities, harmonize and consolidate the legal provisions on the recovery of proceeds of crime and related matters, 2021” was sponsored by Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi (Kebbi North).

Abudullahi in his lead debate noted that the country has been striving to put in place an appropriate Proceeds of Crime legislation since 2007.

He said that efforts to develop a comprehensive bill have been impeded by agency rivalry since 2011.

Abdullahi said, “Effort to sign the Proceeds of Crime Bill into law in 2019 was delayed as a result of complaints by agencies that claimed that the Bill is intended to take away their powers.

“There are many compelling reasons to put in place a comprehensive legislation on recovered assets.

“During the evaluation of Nigeria in 2007 by the International Financial Action Task Force (FATF), they observed in their report that the legal framework for the recovery and management of stolen assets in Nigeria is inadequate and do not comply with international standards.

“At the same time, due to lack of centrally managed database on recovered assets, it is difficult to track and maintain the actual number of the seized assets, their location and their value.

“There have been reported and verifiable instances over the years that showed that some recovered assets were being misused, stolen or lost.

“Further investigations have shown that some of the agencies opened multiple accounts for the payment of forfeited assets without keeping proper records.

“It was against this background that Mr. President constituted the Presidential Audit Committee on Recovery of Assets (PACRA) in 2017.

“Not surprisingly, the committee’s findings re-iterated the need for comprehensive and more innovative approach in the management of recovered assets in a transparent and accountable manner so that these assets would become a source of revenue for the country as is the case in many developing and developed countries of the world.

“Following the submission of the report of PACRA in 2018, the President directed that the following measures amongst other be put in place pending the passing of the Proceeds of Crime Bill into law.”

The measures according to him, include, “The establishment of an Asset Recovery and Management Unit in the Federal Ministry of Justice (ARMU/ FMOJ);

“The opening of a central asset recovery (final forfeiture) account and a central (interim forfeiture) account in the Central Bank of Nigeria. This is to enable the FGN track all recovered assets and the benefits derived from them;

“Use of recovered assets/funds as a source of revenue in the Appropriation Act of 2018 and in subsequent Appropriation Acts.”

He added that the reason the country always have to sign these agreements is to convince other countries that the government is focused on the development of the country with the recovered assets and that it will be accounted for in a transparent manner.

He said: “Proceed of Crime legislation is seen as one of the vital conditions to secure Nigeria’s full membership of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

“Nigeria’s application has remained elusive as the agencies argue to retain their powers at the expense of national interest.

“The Bill has, however, taken into account the issues raised by the LEAs in relation to their continuing engagement in civil recovery without compromising the international applicable standards in United Nations Conventions.

“It is a generally accepted that crimes, particularly those in the category of economic and financial crimes are usually committed for profit purposes.

“Asset deprivation attacks criminality through this profit motive. In the same way that starving a thriving small business of capital hampers its growth, removing assets from criminal enterprises, including terrorist organizations, kidnapping organizations and bandits who must necessarily undertake their operations with funding from individuals within or outside the country will certainly hinder and deter their illicit operations.

“A strong asset recovery measure can also disrupt the activities of these criminal organizations and reduce the level of insecurity in the country.”

The Kebbi North lawmaker added that removing unlawful assets also, “Engenders confidence in a fair and effective criminal justice system and shows that nobody is above the law.

“Removes the influence of negative role models from communities; deters people from crime by reducing the anticipated returns.

“Provides a powerful disincentive to commit crime in the first instance; prevents reinvestment in criminal activity; and disrupts organised criminal activity.”

Besides, he urged his colleagues to note that “virtually all of the processes and procedures for recovery of proceeds and instrumentalities of crime are, in accordance with international practices, properly brought under judicial oversight and will no longer be left to the whims and caprices of any agency.

“Also noteworthy are the specific statutory timelines established under the proposed enactment to ensure that the constitutional rights of the citizens are guaranteed in the implementation of the recovery processes and procedures.

“Importantly, the exigency of Nigeria having in place this all important piece of legislation cannot be over-emphasised as Nigeria to date is still deficient in meeting this outstanding obligation under Recommendation 4 on Confiscation and Provisional Measures of the FATF Recommendations adopted by the FATF Plenary in February, 2012 and updated in June 2019.

“This FATF Recommendation requires countries to establish mechanisms that will enable their competent authorities to effectively manage and where necessary, dispose of property that is frozen, or seized or has been confiscated and requiring that the mechanisms to be established should be applicable both in the context of domestic proceedings and requests to and by foreign countries.”

Senators in their contributions supported the Bill and approved that it be read a second time when it was put to voice vote by Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan, at plenary.

Lawan thereafter referred the Bill to the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters for further legislative work and to report back in two weeks.

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Senators Fault Buhari’s Planned Farm Settlements

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Some senators have expressed concerns over plans by the regime of President. Muhammadu Buhari, to establish farm settlements in each of the 108 senatorial districts in Nigeria.
They noted that any arrangement to acquire land by the Federal Government at the moment without giving details of what it would be used for, might face stiff resistance from various communities.
The President had last month, directed the National Agricultural Land Development Authority to set up the integrated farm estates in 108 senatorial districts nationwide.
Already, the policy has been greeted with criticisms from the leadership of the various ethnic groups in the middle belt, and southern part of the country, describing it as an attempt in disguise, to create grazing areas for cattle.
The Senator representing Edo South Senatorial District, Matthew Urhoghide, said the Federal Government should give details of the project before approaching state governments for land allocation.
He said, “We are in the Senate to represent our people. I know what my people want
“What we quarrel against is open grazing; we are not against ranching. We are not saying that a Fulani man that has a herd of cattle cannot come to the South to do the business of ranching but he cannot come to carry out open grazing.
“Grazing has two effects. It leads to wanton destruction of farmland. You cannot use animal husbandry to destroy crop farming. There are also criminal cases associated with it including murder.
“If the Federal Government is coming to get land in my state for ranching, it is okay because we need beef, which would be richer, when it is from the ranching system.
“However, the government should make its intention very clear on the policy to avoid major clashes and crisis.”
Similarly, Senator Abba Moro, representing Benue South in the red chamber said government could make arrangements for herders to do the business of ranching but not at the  expense of the farmers.
He advised the Federal Government to go to the drawing board and come up with a modern arrangement to make ranching the way to go.
He said, “When government policies are viewed with suspicion, when citizens lack trust in government policies, then something is wrong.
“Until we address the root causes of conflicts between herders and farmers, and genuinely come out with the right way to go through dialogue, any policy that is thrown at the citizens will be looked at with suspicion which would cause some level of tension.

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Senator Wants Improved Network For Results Transmission

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The Senate Chief Whip, Sen. Orji Kalu, says  Nigeria requires 95 per cent of national network coverage to enable electronic transmission of election results in the country.
Kalu said this in an interview with The Tide source yesterday in Abuja.
Recall that 52 senators on July 15 voted against electronic transmission of results in the forthcoming general election while 28 voted for and 28 absentees.
The senators insisted that the Independent National Electoral Commission should be compelled to seek clearance from Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) while the National Assembly would have to approve the verdict of NCC.
Kalu, insisted the current network coverage was inadequate.
“I have never been against transmission of results , I only said we don’t have adequate coverage where we live,this is the issue.
“We have coverage, but it is not adequate.
‘Like Abia North Senatorial District where I come from, there is no adequate coverage, may be 43 per cent coverage, so how are we going to do that.
“ I believe in electronic transmission,but I want to quickly urge the NCC to deploy their technology to ensure wider coverage; I believe in that process because it is transparent.
“ I don’t want to listen to officials who want to buy equipment and make commissions, I am telling myself the truth, if we even have a coverage of 95 per cent it will be okay, but we have below 50 per cent in the entire country.
“I am not talking about my constituency.
“ It wasn’t a party decision to vote against e transmission and not a clique decision, it was out of my conscience.
“ I can only do what I will do that will benefit all Nigerians,” Kalu said.

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Igbo Stakeholders Decry Absence Of S’East Govs At Forum

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The absence of four Governors of the South-East in the Southern Governors’ Forum meeting held last Thursday in Enugu has been strongly condemned by members of the Concerned Igbo Stake-holders Forum (CISF). 
The leader of the group, Mr Chukwuma Okenwa told newsmen in Enugu that there was no justifiable reason that would be enough for these governors to be absent in a meeting of such magnitude.
According to him, it was wrong particularly coming at a time when the region is battling socio-economic and security concerns stemming from the sit-at-home order issued by the proscribed separatist group, Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
His words: “The absence of the Governors of Abia, Ebonyi, Imo and Anambra States leaves a lot to question the commitment of these governors to the growth and advancement of the South-East in missing a crucial meeting held within their geopolitical zone.
He further described as very disturbing the conspicuous absence of the Anambra Governor, Chief Willie Obiano, or a representative from the state at the meeting. 
Okenwa said that the body language of the South-East governors in recent times leaves no one to doubt that these governors have magnified their interest above that of the region and Ndi-Igbo in general.
“Their gaze at the forthcoming elections in 2023 is becoming an unbearable distraction for them in delivering their mandate to the people,” he also lamented.
The group, therefore beckoned on Ndi-Igbo, regardless of political party affiliation, to unite and formidably negotiate a favourable space in the political scheme of things.
According to him, when this is done, we will ensure an unhindered growth and development of all Igbos, he added.

By: Canice Amadi, Enugu

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