OrderPaperToday – The Senate advanced on a bill seeking to empower the Federal Government to seize and confiscate assets acquired though corruption.
The bill, which was sponsored by Senator Suleiman Abdu Kwari (APC, Kaduna North), is entitled, “A bill For An Act To Make Comprehensive Provisions For Seizure, Confiscation, Forfeiture, And Management Of Properties Reasonably Suspected To Have Been Derived From Unlawful Activities” and was read for the first time on 16th March, 2021.
The bill was debated and passed for second reading on Wednesday.
While leading debate on the general principles of the bill, Kwari said the bill was listed among others of interest contained in a recent communication from President Muhammadu Buhari to the Senate.
“The main objective of the bill is to provide for the establishment of a department in the relevant organisations to manage forfeited assets.
“The department would provide for an effective legal and institutional framework for the recovery and management of the proceeds of crime, as well as civil forfeitures in non-conviction based sentencing.
“This Bill further makes provisions for restraint, seizure, confiscation and forfeiture of property derived from property unlawful activities; any instrumentality used or intended to be used in the commission of such unlawful activities; and for non-conviction based procedure for the recovery.
“The Bill’s other objectives are to strengthen the criminal confiscation procedure by ensuring that the total benefit from a person’s criminal activity is calculated and an equivalent amount, where recoverable, is confiscated on behalf of the Federal Government.
“It also galvanizes collaborative efforts among the relevant government agencies to implement confiscation proceedings against a convicted person in tracing and forfeiting properties reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful through non-conviction based forfeiture activity proceedings”, Kwari stated.
Senator Stella Oduah (APC, Aambra North) kicked against the bill stating that they cannot be seen to pass a bill which they haven’t thought through and that is not in line with best global practice.
“We shouldn’t play ostrich with this bill. We are going to create a situation where conflict of interest within establishments will continue to exist. Subjectivity in handling issues will be the subject of the day, and innocent Nigerians will be made to be victims of this law, and laws are not supposed to be like that. Laws are supposed to stand the test of time. This bill will not stand the test of time because it will be very subjective”, she stated.
On his part, Senator Smart Adeyemi (APC, Kogi West), threw his weight behind the bill. He mentioned that it has become expedient for government to go after anyone who cannot account for how they acquired their assets.
“In supporting this bill, I hold the view that the people who have acquired their properties legally and with good funds have no cause to fear. Now that our nation is bleeding and our economy is in problem, we must look at how some people have acquired their properties. I say this with every sense of responsibility that those who have acquired properties through questionable means should be ready to forfeit them. If people have properties they cannot account for, the government should go after them”, Smart said.
Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi (APC, Niger North) said: “the critical caution they should be making here is the issue of fair hearing. By the time you decide to say somebody has done something unlawful or illegal where you have not been able to prove that, and you’re already taking the steps that a law court ordinarily in our present jurisprudence should be taking, I think is like putting the cart before the horse.
“I think it is our duty to support such a law, but it must not be done in a manner that at the end of the day, when you have somebody that does not mean well, you have given him a weapon to go after his perceived enemies. I think that is where caution has to come in”.
The bill after consideration was referred to the Joint Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes; and Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters for further legislative works.
However, the House of Representatives, in 2020, considered a bill to strip the President of powers to order forfeiture of assets.