Rotimi Jacobs, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), has urged President Muhammadu Buhari, not to assent to the bill seeking to amend the Economic and Financial Crimes (Establishment Act) 2004.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria said this in an interview granted Authority Newspaper.
He said: “I commend the president and the vice-president in their quest to fight against corruption but I must state that the National assembly has not been given us the support we demand from them. An attempt to improve the law should not to the path of circumventing the administration of justice.
“The whole provision of section 19, 20, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26 and 34 of EFCC Act that gives EFCC power to trace, forfeit, manage and confiscate were completely deleted from the Act.
“It means that you have deprived EFCC of their responsibility and power to trace, forfeit, confiscate and manage assets procured with proceed of unlawful activities.
“Section 34 which the outgoing national assembly horribly deleted is the power to investigate any suspected assets either account in banks or property for analysis on inflows and outflows vis a vis opening package for proper identification of who runs the account meaning that EFCC can no longer investigate suspected unlawful activities.
“Mandate given to EFCC is to investigate economic and financial crime and to do these they need information from banks because most of these crimes are done through accounts in banks and other financial institutions. The backbone of EFCC to do these is section 34 which they deleted and want Mr president to sign.
“It’s only in this country that you see a governor who has been convicted sitting in the National assembly making laws, receiving a salary and making laws to remove a section that empowers government agencies such as section 34 of EFCC Act to fight corruption approval of Mr. president
“In the interest of over 200 million Nigerian, we are pleading with our president not to sign the bill.”
The amendment seeks to empower the president to appoint EFCC chairman from not below the rank of an Assistant Inspector-General (AIG) or equivalent in other security agencies.
If the amendment scales through, it will disqualify the Acting Chairman of EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu from being represented to the 9th National Assembly by Buhari.
Another aspect of the bill makes it compulsory for the EFCC to obtain ex parte orders before seizing suspects’ assets.
The ex parte order clause will deny the EFCC the powers of invoking Interim Forfeiture Clause in its Act without recourse to the court.
The amendment bill has been in the works since 2015.
According to reports, there has been renewed agitation to hasten work on the EFCC bill’s amendment because the Senate has the legislative power to engage in concurrence in a day.
The passage followed the adoption of the report by the House Committee on Financial Crime.
Although there were amendments to the Act, the only controversial one was Section 2, which relates to the composition of the commission.
Before the amendment, Section 2 had read: “(1) The commission shall consist of the following members: (a) a chairman, who shall (i) be the Chief Executive and Financial Officer of the commission; (ii) be a serving or retired member of any government security or law enforcement agency not below the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police or equivalent; and (iii) possess not less than 15 years cognate experience.”
After the amendment, it reads, “(a) A Chairman, who shall (i) be a retired or serving member of any government security or law enforcement agency not below the rank of Assistant Inspector-General (AIG) of Police or an equivalent and possessing not less than 20 years cognate experience; (ii) a legal practitioner with at least 20 years post-call experience.”
The House also removed the Secretary of the EFCC from tenured offices in the leadership of the commission.
On the qualifications to be considered in the appointment of the EFCC Secretary, paragraph “e” was added to Section 8(1), which reads, “A person who is qualified to practise as a legal practitioner in Nigeria and has been so qualified for not less than 10 years.”
An amendment was also made to Section 27(4), making it compulsory for the EFCC to obtain ex-parte order from court before seizing suspected assets.
It’s an avenue for the patties suspected to have procured such property with the proceed of unlawful activity to dispose of such asset.
The Senior Advocate wondered if a person with a fore-knowledge of his arrest would not evade arrest.
He said: “If you put the owner of an asset on notice of the intention to commence proceedings against the property which he acquired through illegitimate means, this law allows such as dispose of such asset before proceeding can commence.
“Is this the type of amendment which has been agitating for to strengthen the administration of Criminal forfeiture? Certainly no!!, Jacobs answer in affirmative.
“This amendment is not in the best interest of the present administration of anti-corruption crusade.
“The spirit behind overnight passage of this bill and speed at which the outgoing national assembly is going about it is mischievous.
“In fact the bill also allows the person to who the proceeding of forfeiture might institute will be entitled to legal fees allowance, upkeep allowance, dependants allowance from the assets sought to be forfeited.
“Also, the House deleted Section 1(2) relating to the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, which has now been domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria as demanded by the EGMONT Group, from the EFCC Act.”
SaharaReporters, New York