Corruption and Underdevelopment

CSOs welcome Buhari’s assent to 3 anti-corruption bills, commend NASS

By Paul Michael, Abuja

•    Calls for passage of Whistleblower, Witness Protection Bills
•    Buhari vows to end money laundering, others

An anti-corruption watchdog, the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice, (ANEEJ), and eight other Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have welcomed the signing into law of three anti-corruption Bills by President Muhammadu Buhari The Trumpet gathered.

The Bills, which include the Proceeds of Crime (Recovery and Management) Bill, 2022, the Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Bill, 2022, and the Terrorism (Prevention and Prohibition) Bill, 2022, were signed into law by the President on Thursday at the State House, Abuja.

ANEEJ and the eight CSOs, which are partners in implementing the “Enhancing Anti-corruption and Social Inclusive Reform Initiatives in Nigeria” project under the Strengthening Civic Advocacy and Local Engagement (SCALE) project of Palladium supported by USAID, described the development as a significant milestone in strengthening the war against money laundering, terrorism financing, and asset recovery.

Executive Director of ANEEJ and leader of the group, Rev David Ugolor, while reacting to the development at Benin City on Friday, said the CSOs have been calling for the passage of POCA and charge the National Assembly to do the needful.

He said, “The passage of the Bills and their eventual assent by President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday¬ marks a significant milestone in strengthening the war against money laundering, terrorism financing, and asset recovery in the country. ANEEJ and its allies have been campaigning for the passage of POCA and other anti-corruption Bills for a long time coming.”

More so, he called on the National Assembly to consider the passage of two other Bills, the Witness Protection Bill (2022), and the Whistleblower Protection Bill, (2022) before the end of the tenure of the present administration.

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According to him, both bills are direly needed by citizens who are prepared to volunteer information to the Anti-corruption Agencies and the judiciary, adding that they would complement the effectiveness of the three Bills signed by President Buhari.

Ugolor, a member of the Board of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) Coalition representing Sub-Saharan African CSOs also said the Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Act will help crackdown on Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) and other perpetrators of Illicit Financial Flows (IFF).

“Even though our quest to have a separate asset recovery and management agency was not achieved in the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA), ANEEJ and its allies are prepared to work with the Anti-Corruption Agencies (ACAs) to firm up assets management capabilities,” Ugolor noted.

On his part, the Executive Director of 21st Century Community Empowerment for Youth and Women Initiative, Mallam Lukman Adefolahan, Nigeria has met some milestones required by International anti-corruption bodies.

He said, “We are happy that we are able to pull through with these three pieces of legislation and our focus will now shift to the enforcement of anti-corruption laws. By this development, Nigeria has met some milestones required by International Anti-corruption bodies, and it is now left for all stakeholders to go ahead with implementation.”

Also, the Executive Director of the Joint Association of Persons with Disability (JONAPWD) Edo State Chapter, Ms Ann Ojugo commended members of the National Assembly, particularly, the President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, and the Speaker House of Representatives, Rt Hon Femi Gbajabiamila for expeditious consideration of the Bills brought before them by the President.

Ojugo urged anti-corruption agencies to put in place systems that would enable proper management of recovered assets that will help fight poverty in Nigeria.

“We expect that recovered assets should be used for development programmes that will help in poverty eradication. Persons With Disabilities should be carried along when such programmes are being conceptualized and implemented,” Ojugo requested.

Meanwhile, President Buhari while speaking at the signing ceremony at the Council Chamber, State House, described the bills as being in tandem with this administration’s commitment to fighting corruption and illicit financing activities, as well as critical to the governance agenda and the development of Nigeria.

The president noted that the inadequacy of all the repealed Acts had impacted legal actions against offenders. He, however, vowed to end money laundering, terrorism and financial crime.

“The new laws have provided enough punitive measures and containment strategies against abuses and compromises.

“We will not rest until we rid the nation of the menace of money laundering, terrorism, and other financial crimes,” he added.

President Buhari commended the National Assembly for their tenacity, courage, and commitment to ensuring that Nigeria has put in place effective measures to address the menace of money laundering, terrorism, and terrorism financing.

Buhari noted that the 9th National Assembly has proven to be patriotic, responsive, resourceful, and industrious in its legislative assignments, recalling that on January 14, 2022, he had sought expeditious passage of the said Bills.

He lauded the Assembly under Senate President Ahmed Lawan and the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, and their colleagues for responding to his request, saying they “have certainly carved out a worthy legacy for themselves.”

While emphasizing the importance of the legislation, the President said, “The signing of these Bills into law today not only strengthens the Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) framework in the Country but addresses the deficiencies identified in Nigeria’s 2nd round of Mutual Evaluation as assessed by Inter-Governmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa on compliance with the Financial Action Task Force global standards.

“Accordingly, the repeal of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended and enactment of Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Act, 2022 provides comprehensive legal and Institutional Framework for the prevention and prohibition of money laundering in Nigeria and confers on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the legal status of the Special Control Unit Against Money Laundering.

“The repeal of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011 as amended in 2013, and enactment of the Terrorism Prevention and Prohibition) Act, 2022 provides for the effective implementation of international instruments for the prevention and combating of terrorism and suppression of the financing of terrorism.

“The enactment of the Proceeds of Crime (recovery and Management) Act, 2022 makes comprehensive provisions for the seizure, confiscation, forfeiture, and management of properties derived from unlawful activity.”

President Buhari further stated that the executive arm of government “carefully avoided creating another asset recovery and management agency with its cost implications in deference to government’s sensitivity to the rising cost of governance.”

He explained that the new law mandates the creation of dedicated accounts for the proceeds of crime and other confiscated assets in order to enhance the accountability of the process.

“I have therefore taken time to note the emphasis placed on collaboration, synergy, and unification of strategies and measures to combat the scourge of Money Laundering and terrorism financing and proliferation financing in the Act.

“The primary objectives of these measures are to ensure the effective, unified and comprehensive legal, regulatory and institutional framework for the implementation of the Acts.

“This is profound and calls for coordinated responses to the challenges posed by the menace. I, therefore, charge all relevant agencies to ensure the effective implementation of these new laws.

“The robust frameworks diligently enshrined in the Acts can only serve useful purposes when every bit of them is enforced,” Buhari said.

Stressing that the fight against corruption requires an “All of Government, All of Nation approach”, the President affirmed that every Nigerian had a role to play to rid the country of corrupt practices.

He commended the members of the National Action Task Force comprising several Ministries, Departments, and Agencies of Government, noting that the bills are a clear demonstration of government functioning at its best with coordination, collaboration, and execution all towards a common goal.

He assured Nigerians that his administration will continue to do its best to secure the nation, adding that the bills signed into law represent not just legislative instruments but very significant governmental actions projecting courage, determination, and sincerity in tackling the menace of Money laundering, terrorism, and other financial crimes.

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