Abuja — The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Tuesday urged the House of Representatives to accord the agency powers to retain seven per cent of all its recoveries from proceeds of crimes which are assets allegedly owned by corrupt public officials.
Secretary to the EFCC, Mr. Emmanuel Aremo who represented the Commission's chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, made the plea to the lawmakers at a one-day public hearing on four bills on the proposed amendments to the EFCC Act 2004.
The anti-graft agency in a position paper on the amendments to the House Committee on Economic and Financial Crimes said that the enabling Act establishing it should be amended to give it the powers to retain seven per cent of recoveries from proceeds of crime by corrupt public officials.
The EFCC boss added that the seven percent of recoveries currently being proposed to be retained is still a far cry when compared to the percentage of proceeds of crimes being retained by anti-graft agencies of other neighbouring African countries, particularly Ghana which retains 30 per cent on a similar situation.
The agency also informed the lawmakers that it returned over N34 million to crime suspects who were later found to be unwarranted arrests in 2017 alone and assured of its readiness to return every kobo illegally taken with interest.
However, opposing the agency's request, a commissioner at the Nigeria Law Reform Commission (NLRC), Prof. Jummai Audi, rejected the proposal for the retention of 7 per cent of recovered confiscated asset monies from suspects and convicts because the EFCC ought to have a comprehensive budget proposal from the outset in such a way that it will not contemplate the use of any confiscated asset or money or resources for its operations.
She said:"It is legally and morally improper to use the proceeds of crime for their operations."
She also opined that the "NFIU should be independent and an autonomous body separate from EFCC".
In her words, "the Nigerian Law Reform applauds the initiative but recommends the establishment of NFIU as an independent and autonomous body separate from EFCC rather than as a unit domiciled in the EFCC as proposed in the bills".
Audi noted that the bill was a good idea saying, "the commission recommends the establishment of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) as an independent and autonomous body separate from the EFCC as proposed" saying this will ensure that Nigeria complies with the requirements of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units (Egmont Group).
She explained that Nigeria was suspended from the Egmont Group for lack of autonomy in the real sense of the NFIU and this position has not been addressed by the bill. According to her, "a better approach to addressing the issue of autonomy of the NFIU is a bill passed by the Senate on the establishment of NFIU as a unit independent of the EFCC"
"The Egmont Group requires that the NFIU be independent and autonomous to guarantee its effectiveness in countering terrorist financing, money laundering and fighting corruption", she stated.
But, a Director General of Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) Mr. Ashishana Okauro supported the aspiration of the. EFCC.
She said: "As a foundation member of EFCC I know what the Egmont Group wants and it is autonomy within the EFCC.
"It's baffling that ten years after we were registered by Egmont Group we've been suspended and we stand to lose more if we are finally expelled from the group.
"From Nigeria, we may not be able to make scholarship payments and card monies may not be honoured if we are finally expelled."
However, clauses 3-6 of one of the bills sponsored by the House Committee Chairman, Hon. Kayode Oladele is that the NFIU be established in a different law so that it can be independent of the EFCC.
Oladele at the end of the hearing assured of the readiness of the committee to absorb all the inputs of invited stakeholders to effect all the necessary amendments to the EFCC Act 2004 so as to quicken dispensation of justice on all corruption cases pending before the nation's law courts.