-Proposed amendment of rules of legal practice under scrutiny, says AGF
By Omololu Ogunmade
The federal government yesterday approved a new bill, Proceeds of Crime Recovery and Management Agency Bill, for onward transmission to the National Assembly.
Briefing reporters after the virtual Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in the State House, Abuja, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Malam Abubakar Malami (SAN), said the bill, which was first conceived in 2007, was rejected several times by FEC of successive administrations, including the current cabinet before it was eventually approved yesterday.
Also, responding to a question on his decision to unilaterally amend the code of legal professional practice, Malami said the matter is currently under scrutiny and declined comment on the matter.
He said the objective of the bill is to secure a legal and institutional framework that will assist in harnessing proceeds of crimes that are currently scattered across several government agencies and bring them into one agency.
According to Malami, the pursuit of a legal framework for recovered assets have become a necessity because there is hitherto no agency of government saddled with the responsibility of providing data on landed assets, immobile assets as well as the value of cash recovered by government agencies.
He said: "It is in essence, a bill that is targeted and intended to have in place a legal and institutional framework.
"The legal component of it is having a law, and the institutional component of it is to have an agency that will be saddled with the responsibility of managing the assets that constitute the proceeds of crime in Nigeria.
"What happens before now is that the proceeds of crime are scattered all over, and mostly in the hands of different and multiple agencies of government inclusive of the police, the DSS, EFCC, and ICPC.
"So, with that kind of arrangement which is ad hoc, there is no agency of government that is saddled with the responsibility of data generation, an agency that can give you off-hand the number of landed assets, the number of immovable assets, the amount in cash that is recovered by the federal government by way of interim forfeiture, overweight of a final forfeiture.
"So, it is indeed over time a kind of an arrangement that is not uniform and consistent."
Malami explained that when the bill becomes law, it will move the fight against corruption to the next level because all recoveries made by different agencies of government will be in the custody of a single agency.
He also said the agency would be responsible for provision of data on necessary issues, including budget items for recovered assets and consequently guarantee transparency.
"So, if you have a budget item for recovered assets, this agency will now be in a position to provide information to the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning on demand as to what amount is there available for budget purposes, thereby establishing the desired transparency, the desired accountability which has not been available before now.
"So, it is about a memo that seeks to establish a legal framework, that seeks to establish an institutional framework, that seeks to further take the fight against corruption to the next level by way of establishing transparency, accountability and making the possibility of forfeiture, a proceed of crime easy through the sanctioning of non-conviction based forfeiture among others," he added.
Responding to a question on his decision to unilaterally amend the code of legal professional practice, Malami said the matter is currently under scrutiny and hence, declined comment on the matter.
"The first question has to do with rules of professional conduct with particular reference to a gazette in contention. My response is simple, that the matter is being interrogated and I will make statement at the appropriate time and say no more as far as that issue is concerned," he said.