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Disquiet as Bill Seeks to Usurp EFCC, ICPC Powers

There is disquiet within the anti-graft agencies as provisions of a bill seeking to establish the Proceeds of Crime Management Agency, seek to restrict the exercise of powers relating to civil forfeiture to the proposed agency.

Our correspondent gathered in Abuja on Monday that provisions of the bill entitled, ‘Proceeds of Crime Recovery and Management Agency Bill,’ which is currently before President Muhammadu Buhari for assent, are being opposed by existing anti-graft agencies.

A document entitled, ‘Proceeds of Crime Bill 2019,’ marked ‘Urgent’ and obtained by our correspondent from one of the agencies, indicated that the bill was one of several recently passed by the outgoing 8th National Assembly.

A careful study of the document indicates that the bill whittles down the powers of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, the Nigeria Customs Service and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, among others, with regards to civil forfeiture of proceeds of crime.

For example, Section 157 of the bill states, “Subject to the provision of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, where a provision of this Act is inconsistent with a provision of an applicable Act, the provision of this Act shall prevail and the provision of the applicable Act shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.”

It was gathered that the EFCC, just like its counterparts in the ICPC, NDLEA, NAPTIP and the Nigeria Customs Service, was also uncomfortable with the removal of the power.

A source in one of the anti-graft agencies who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution said, “No one is happy because if the President signs this bill, it will mark the beginning of the end of the anti-graft war.

The source said, “As presently constituted, the existing anti-corruption agencies exercise this power which allows for civil forfeiture or non-conviction based confiscation.

“One can say that the huge recovery and forfeiture of assets to the Federal Government which the EFCC has succeeded in doing over the years, has been on the strength of its effective use of provisions of Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act 2006.

“This bill is targeted and making the anti-corruption fight a huge joke.

“Section 157 of the bill effectively renders provisions of Acts establishing all existing anti-corruption agencies ineffectual should any of their provisions become inconsistent with the Proceeds of Crime Management Agency.

“It simply elevates the new agency above the Police Act, the EFCC Act, the ICPC Act, the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, the NDLEA Act, Evidence Act, Administration of Criminal Justice Act, Terrorism (Prevention) Act, Customs and Exercise Management act and so on.”

Another source who did not want to be identified said, “It makes no sense for us to make a law that gives so much protection to suspects and increases the burden of proof anti-graft agencies, especially in assets recovery proceedings.

“The bill even seeks to remove the investigative powers of the anti-corruption agencies that have the responsibilities of investigation and recovery of the proceeds of crime contrary to the Financial Action Task Force recommendations.”

The Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative and Advocacy Centre, Auwual Musa said, “What we require now is to strengthen existing agencies.”

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