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.
NASRDA Harps On Space Technology For Precision Agriculture
The National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) says it is engaging space science technology to boost agricultural products for food security in the country.
Dr Rakiya Babamaaji, the Head, Natural Resources Management Division of NASRDA, disclosed this on Monday in Abuja during an interview with newsmen.
Babamaaji explained that space science technology could be deployed into agriculture through the application of Geospatial technology that involved Remote Sensing and Geographic Information System application.
She said that geospatial technology could be used to map and monitor the location of natural resources, take inventory of vegetation and for smart agriculture and water resources management among others.
She further said the Agency had in May, commenced a Space-Based Smart Agriculture for Food Security in Nigeria.
Babamaaji said that the programme was in line with government’s mandate to ensure food security and enable the country achieve Sustainable Development Goal Two, aimed at ending hunger and increasing availability of food.
“We are trying to use space technology in agriculture and we have a programme called Space Base Smart Agriculture for Food Security in Nigeria which will address food availability.
“Under the programme, there is the Crop Watch project, a platform used to monitor agricultural activities across the country using geospatial technology.
“Under this project, we are going to gather all the spatial data available with restrictions to agriculture, so that farmers can know what is happening in their farms, from the cropping to monitoring the farmland.
“The project will provide the farmers with the climate data, letting them know when to plant, when to apply fertilizer, different soil type in terms of fertility,’’ she said.
“We want to achieve this by engaging farmers on their phones, use of jingles in the radio which could possibly be transmitted in the three major languages and English to reach rural farmers.”
The official said they were working with relevant stakeholders in the country, including the China Academy of Science and China Remote Sensing Centre as technical partners towards achieving the Crop Watch project.
Babamaaji also said the programme would be addressing the Value Supply Chain, whereby challenges faced by farmers from the beginning of the farming season to harvest time would be reviewed.
“We are trying to look at the challenges that prevent them from achieving maximum production in their farming activities and we have chosen a farm in Kuje and in Nasarawa to start this assessment.’’
Babamaaji, however, decried the dearth of data, funding to support the project and lack of awareness among farmers on the importance of space technology to farming.
She recalled that the management of the agency has been advocating for new and advanced satellites that would aid provision of data and help to plan better towards enhanced precision agriculture.
“Most of the farmers don’t know the importance of using satellite or geospatial technology in agriculture, so there is need for us to create more awareness on that.’’
She said that the agency was taking seriously the deployment of space science technology in other sectors to advance good governance and the socio-economic development of the nation.
FG, Konga Partner On Job Creation
The Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Mr Sunday Dare, has commended Konga, an e-commerce platform, for partnering with the Federal Government to generate creative employment for millions of Nigerian youths.
According to a statement released by Konga yesterday the Minister commended the company while signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to seal their partnership in Abuja.
Dare is quoted as saying that Konga, as a digital platform, had the immense capacity to help re-write Nigeria’s unemployment narrative.
”We at the Ministry of Youth and Sports are of the view that public-private partnerships remain the way forward when it comes to the onerous task of creating opportunities for our youths.
“ This belief has come to the fore with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic and has also been reinforced by a recent World Bank report.
‘‘We are delighted to have a technology-driven partner such as Konga partnering with us on this programme.
“ Also, we are confident that through this MoU which we have signed today, we will be re-writing the narrative for millions of Nigerian youths who are the beneficiaries of this project, “the minister is quoted as saying.
Chairman, Konga Group, Mr Leo-Stan Ekeh, who also lauded the ministry for its proactive zeal, said that Konga was driven by youths.
He said that they had the capacity to deliver world-class corporates, even with all the structural challenges confronting in country.
Ekeh noted that this was the right time for Nigerian youths to use their intellectual capital and digital skills to defend the nation and become global citizens.
He urged Nigerian youths to alter their destiny, while also stressing that their passion in this century must pay their bills.
Also, Mr Nick Imudia, Chief Executive Officer, Konga Group, affirmed that the partnership would afford Konga a chance to create millionaires across Nigeria within a short space of time.
‘‘Konga today provides employment directly and indirectly through partnerships for over 250,000 Nigerians.
“Through this partnership, we are looking to not only offer more hardworking and ambitious Nigerian youths a chance to earn good money and create wealth; we are also keen to create millionaires who will become their own bosses and employ others, “Imudia said.
He noted that in addition to opportunities which abound in joining their fast-growing database of Konga affiliates and merchants, more deserving youths would also get job opportunities across the multiple entities within the Konga Group.
Imudia said the company was currently conducting a pilot with the Ministry of Youth and Sports and had taken on board about 350 youths already, adding that they were all doing very well.
Our source reports that Konga unveiled an initiative under its Jobs category, a youth empowerment and job creation scheme of the Konga Group.
Specifically, the partnership will see Konga deploy its world-class assets, huge resources and cutting-edge technology backbone.
The scheme is targeted at the employed, unemployed and under-employed Nigerian youths across board.
NOTAP Restates Commitment To Protection Of Intellectual Property Rights
The National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP) has restated its commitment to uphold intellectual property rights as a tool for economic advancement and nation building.
Dr DanAzumi Ibrahim, the Director-General (D-G) NOTAP said this yesterday in Abuja in celebration of the African Day for Technology and Intellectual Property.
Ibrahim told newsmen that in realisation of the importance of intellectual property to national development, NOTAP was committed to protecting the latent creativities and inventive spirit of young inventors and innovators.
“Intellectual property is one of the ways through which rapid development of a nation can be achieved.
“Promotion of the development of indigenous technology will further help in sensitising and facilitating domestication and development of intellectual property right (IPRs) system in the continent.
“It will reawaken the creative ability of the people in the continent to eradicate poverty and drive sustainable development.’’
The D-G highlighted the correlation between invention, innovation and development of societies and economies adding that a nations that concentrates on inventive talents becomes potential sources of high innovation and modern technology.
Ibrahim said that the agency was able to stop capital flight and strengthen the weak IP culture through its refusal to approve the importation of technological services that could be rendered by Nigerian technologists.
“Most times, when Nigerian entrepreneurs enter into technology transfer agreements with their foreign counterparts, the agreements are drafted in such a way that indigenous technologists/service providers do not benefit.
“Rather expatriates will be deployed to execute jobs that Nigerian technologists are competent enough to handle.
“Through NOTAP’s interventions, poorly drafted patents are not approved unless redrafted to take care of indigenous technologists/skills and strengthen our intellectual property culture,” he stated.
Ibrahim said that the office was actively involved in patent protection from filing, examination, granting and publication; and ensured the conditions were favorable to indigenous inventors.
To further strengthen intellectual culture, the D-G said that NOTAP had embarked on establishments of Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer Offices (IPTTOs) in tertiary and research institutions across the country.
“NOTAP currently has over 50 IPTTOs that will spur the inventive and innovative prowess of researchers in the institutions and strengthen the poor innovative and intellectual property protection culture.
“IPTTO will facilitate the galvanisation of research results for onward commercialization and bridge the gap existing between the academia and the Industry.
He explained that the establishment of IPTTOs was in order to link education to industry due to the disconnection between both, which had led to shelving of research efforts with little or no contribution to industrialisation.
“Through IPTTOs, we have promoted Intellectual Property (IP), innovation and demand driven research in knowledge based institutions as we as contribute to the needs of industry through the technology value chain,’’ Ibrahim said.
He promised to continue to work closely with other government agencies and private bodies to ensure intellectual property was respected.
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