OrderPaperToday – The Senate at its plenary on Wednesday adopted the contentious Clause 74 of the Proceeds of Crime Bill already passed by the Upper Legislative Chamber.
The adoption followed the consideration of the report by the Joint Committees on Judiciary Human Rights and Legal Matters and Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes.
The report was presented by Senator Bamidele Michael Opeyemi (APC, Ekiti Central).
It could be recalled that on Wednesday 9th March 2022, the Senate in the Committee of the whole concluded on the report of the committee on the bill and passed it for third reading.
The Proceeds of Crime Bill seeks to provide for the restraint, seizure, confiscation, and forfeiture of properties derived from unlawful activities.
The bill, when signed into law, would expand the mandates of existing statutory institutions to manage proceeds of crime, and facilitate the establishment of departments in relevant organisations to manage forfeited assets as well as provide for an effective legal framework for the recovery of proceeds of crime.
The House further recalls that a series of reactions trailed the passage of the bill with respect to clause 74. Consequently, the Senate resolved to recommit same to the joint committee to engage the revelant agencies with a view to safeguarding against the alleged abuse.
The decision to re-amend the bill followed the consideration of a motion for re-commital sponsored by the Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi (APC, Kebbi North).
In his presentation, Senator Abdullahi, relied on Orders 1(b) and 52(6) of the Senate Standing Orders 2022 (as amended) to move for the amendment of the bill.
He explained that the re-amendment of the bill became imperative in view of the amendment that was made to Clause 74 which placed the Burden of proof on the investigating Agencies but not on Defendant as recommended by the Joint Committee in its report.
According to him, the amendment runs contrary to the provision of Article 12(7) of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (UNTOC).
According to Senator Opeyemi, the Senate’s ruling was pursuant to section 84 of the Senate standing rule.
In line with the mandate of the Senate, the committee consulted with the relevant agencies, and a common position was taken with respect to clause 74 as passed by the Senate.
Senator Opeyemi stated that the agencies assured that retaining the clause as recommended by the committee was in the interest of the country.
The contentious clause 74 stipulates that that the defendants bear the burden of proving that he is the legitimate owner of the property suspected to be a proceed of crime or derived from unlawful activities.
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The lawmaker further said that the recommendations of the committee was appropriate and in line with international best practices.
“Making it mandatory for a crime to be established before forfeiture of assets was in general interest of the intendment of this bill, adding that it was in conformity with United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (UNTO) which Nigeria is a signatory to,” Opeyemi stated.
The Senate, accordingly adopted the recommendations of the Joint Committee after it considered the report.