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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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NDLEA Arrests 774 Suspects, Seizes 3,874.3kgs Of Drugs In Benue, Nasarawa, Plateau

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NDLEA arrested 774 suspects and seized 3,874.3kgs of various narcotics and psychotropic substances in Nasarawa, Benue and Plateau State in the first half of 2022.
The three states make the Zone D of the narcotics agency.
Zonal Commander in the zone Umoru Ambrose, said this in Lafia yesterday while marking the 2022 UN International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.
He said 134 drug suspects were prosecuted during the period, while 378 drug users were counselled and rehabilitated.
He added that states in the zone had intensified their operations in the War against Drug Abuse and sensitisation.
Ambrose called on all stakeholders to get involved in curbing drugs menace in the zone.
In his remarks, NDLEA Commander in Nasarawa State, Peter Odaudu, said the celebrations underscored the need for access to proper treatment for people with drug disorders.
He stressed that the war against drugs must be intensified in Nasarawa State especially given its position as the second highest drug prevalence state in the North Central after Kwara.
“Statistics from the 2018 drug survey showed a very alarming trend, the involvement of females in drug issues.
“We have at least one female out of every four drug users; this development is worrisome and must be reversed,’’ he said.
Odaudu thanked Nasarawa State’s Governor Abdullahi Sule for his support for the NDLEA and solicited urgent intervention in the provision of operational vehicles and the construction of a rehabilitation centre.
Guest speaker, Mr Nwora Okpalaeke, who is coordinator of the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria in Nasarawa State, said 494,000 users died of drug abuse in 2019.
He spoke on “Illicit Drugs in Health and Humanitarian Crises.’’
He said drug abusers suffered liver cirrhosis, stroke, hepatitis, kidney and heart failure, noting that 14.3 million Nigerians are drug addicts, while three million are suffering from drug-related disorders.
“Government should strengthen the system to prevent proliferation of drugs and pay attention to agencies charged with reversing the situation.
“Drug abuse affects economic growth; the higher the abuse the higher the level of insecurity and poverty,’’ he said.
Senior Special Assistant on Primary Healthcare to Governor Sule, Margaret Elayo, commended the NDLEA in the state and assured of partnership to curb drug abuse in Nasarawa State.
The theme for this year’s celebration of the Day is: “Addressing Drug Challenges in Health and Humanitarian Crises.’

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NDLEA Arrests 218 Suspects, Seizes 1,471.314kg Of Drugs In Imo

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The Imo State Command of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has arrested 218 drug suspects made up of 171 males and 47 females.
The agency has also seized 1,471.314kg of drugs between July 2021 and June 2022.
The state commandant, NDLEA, Mr. Reuben Apeh, disclosed this while speaking to The Tide ahead of this year’s International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drugs Trafficking.
He said that 1,458.49kg of Cannabis Sativa, 1,0513kg of cocaine, 0.2077kg of Heroine, 3.896kg of Methamphetamine and 3.184kg of Tramadol were exhibits seized within the period under review.
Apeh disclosed further that cannabis farm in hectares was also destroyed in Imo State while 0.5278kg of Rohypnol and 2.5135kg of diazepam were among the seized exhibits.
He stated that some of the arrested suspects had been arraigned and convicted for drug related offences at the Federal High Court.
According to him, “Within the period covered, 51 were convicted and 145 were charged and their cases are still on going”.
Apeh described the drug situation in Imo State as worrisome, saying women have joined the illicit trade for financial gains.
He lamented that drug peddling was alarming among the younger generation in the state.
He, therefore, called on the stakeholders to partner with NDLEA to sensitize the society on the dangers of drug abuse.

By: Joe Nwachukwu, Owerri

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NDE Trains 750 Youths On Apprenticeship Skills In Imo

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The National Directorate for Employment (NDE) has commenced the training of 750 youths on various apprenticeship skills in Imo State.
Director-General of the NDE, Mallam Abubakar Nuhu-Fikpo, made this known while flagging off the training programme in Owerri, the Imo State capital.
The Tide reports that the training is captured under the Advanced National Open Apprenticeship Scheme (A-NOAS) and Basic National Apprenticeship Scheme (B-NOAS) of the Directorate’s Department of Vocational Skills Development (VSD).
The training skills include barbing, basic tailoring, hairdressing, welding, event planning, make- up, confectionery and auto mechanic, among others.
Nuhu-Fikpo, represented by the State Coordinator of the NDE in Imo State, Mrs Ngozi Ihenacho, explained that the trainees include youths and women drawn from the 27 local government areas of the state.
According to him, the intensive training programme will take place in the Directorate’s training centres, one in each senatorial district of the state, and last for three months.
He urged the trainees to utilise the opportunity provided by the training programme to acquire viable skills that would enable them become self-reliant, and thereby decongest the labour market, and reduce poverty and hunger.
“In today’s world, opportunities such as these are rare and hardly come on a platter and I  urge you, my dear beneficiaries, to take this opportunity serious, be punctual at the training venue with the aim of liberating yourselves from the chains of poverty and unemployment”, he advised.
Also speaking at the programme, Director of the VSD, Mallam Isa Abdu, explained that the training scheme would run simultaneously, with the beneficiaries receiving transport allowances for the duration of training.
Abdu, represented by a senior staff in VSD, Mr Onyekwelu Igwesi, said that expert trainers had been hired to conduct the training and urged the trainees to justify the opportunity given them to become employers of labour.
“All over the world, as the value of money depreciates, entrepreneurs are adjusting with the times, hence the need for viable skills that can drive the economy. Learn the skills and be your own boss”, he said.
One of the trainees, Miss Oluchi Uchenna, who responded on behalf of his colleagues, thanked the NDE for creating the opportunity for them to thrive in their quest to become economically independent.

By: Joe Nwachukwu, Owerri

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