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Business News of Thursday, 15 October 2020

Source: Economic Confidential

FG seeks powers to impound, freeze stolen funds

The Federal Government has approached the National Assembly for more powers to freeze and seize stolen public funds and assets.

President Muhammadu Buhari, in a letter to the House of Representatives, which the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, read at the plenary on Wednesday, sought creation of a Proceeds of Crime (Recovery and Management) Agency.

In the letter dated October 6, 2020, Buhari noted that the bill seeking to establish the agency was presented to the Federal Executive Council on September 16, 2020, and was subsequently approved for transmission to the National Assembly.

The letter partly read, “Please recall that this bill was passed by the National Assembly in 2019 but was not granted assent due to some issues that were identified during the review.

“The Proceeds of Crime Bill is essential and critical in building an enduring and sustainable foundation for the fight against corruption, money laundering and illicit movement of stolen funds through the banking system and across the Nigerian borders.

“The bill will also improve the ability of law enforcement agencies to seize, freeze and confiscate stolen assets in Nigeria while observing all related constitutional and human rights laws.

“This bill will also address the problem of lack of transparency, accountability and lack of credible records associated with the current procedure in the management of recovered funds by anti-corruption agencies and other institutions in Nigeria.”

According to the President, the objects of the proposed agency include the enforcement and administration of the provisions of the bill, and the coordination of the recovery and management of the proceeds and instrumentalities of unlawful activity in Nigeria, in collaboration with anti-corruption and other law enforcement agencies.

He said, “Most importantly, the agency will ensure that Nigerians can benefit from proceeds of crime by ensuring that once recovery is made, the properties and assets will be secured and that the final forfeitures granted through a court order can be paid into the Confiscated and Forfeited Account to be domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria.

“These funds will be used for development projects approved by the National Assembly under the annual Appropriation Act and also support the work of the law enforcement and anti-corruption agencies.

“It is my expectation that the House of Representatives will give the bill expedited hearing and passage into law given the importance of the bill in generating revenue tor the country.”

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