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Reps Pass Bill to Stop Presidency From Spending Recovered Funds Without NASS Approval

A bill seeking to stop the Federal Government from spending recovered funds by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, without appropriation by the National Assembly scaled second reading in the House of Representatives Thursday. The bill seeks to amend sections 14, 20, 21, 22, 26, 29, and 31 of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Act that allows the Federal Government to appropriate properties, funds and proceeds of crimes against known and identified victims of crime.

 

The sponsor, Ugonna Ozuruigbo (Imo-APC) said the EFFC Act was in contravention of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 and the United Nations (UN) declaration on equity, fairness and natural justice. He said: “Section 338 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 permits the Federal Government to appropriate properties, funds, or proceeds of crime only where the victim of crime is unknown." He, however, stressed that “states and local governments feel distressed and cheated when recovered looted funds and properties of theirs are appropriated by the Federal Government who already has 52.68 per cent of the Federation Allocation.”

 

He quoted sections 14, 20, 21, 22, 26, 29, and 31 of the EFCC, Act which he buttressed, deprived states  and local government their right to repatriation and restitution as victims of crime are considered unjust and at variance with present realities and the UN Declaration, and the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015. He argued that there was need to amend the aforementioned sections to address the injustices  unleashed on states and local governments.

 

He said: “This becomes more appalling when 40 per cent of States and Local Government allocations are adjudged to be looted by public officers. Recovering this 40% and paying it to the Federal Government is most absurd. “The practice of Federal Government appropriating looted States and Local Government funds and properties is perverse and one of the root causes of underdevelopment in our rural areas”. He lamented that “section 26 of the EFCC Act is killing businesses and causing untold hardship to Nigerians who have after many years of waiting at home, secured jobs in some companies or businesses considered being consequence of financial crimes."

 

“Same goes to closing down of companies or business entities whose activities are tangential to the economic development of Nigeria just because they are consequents of financial crimes.” “The right thing should be for government to take over the management or ownership of such companies and business, have it sold to subsequent investors who will retain the workers and keep the business on the path of economic prosperity for the benefit of Nigerian”.

 

According to him, “sealing and total shutdown of viable businesses is not good for growing economies like ours”. He explained that the Bill has introduced amendments to the Economic and Financial Crime Commission Act, 2010, “specifically- In section 6 by removing the word prison Service from the Act and inserting the correct word correctional service." In sections 14, 20, 21, 22, and 29 to enable the States and Local Governments take benefit of their inalienable rights to repatriation, restitution, costs and damages whenever their fund or property is the subject of an offence. “In Section 26 by allowing government to appoint receiver managers to take over operation of companies or businesses that are consequents of financial crimes until such time that the assets and property of the affected companies or business will be sold or disposed to willing investors."

 

In section 31 by barring EFCC officials or the Hon. Attorney General of the Federation from disposing assets and properties of States and Local Governments that forms subject of an offence. “In section 46 by adding definition of States and Local Governments in the interpretation section”. He stressed that the Bill has no financial implication on the budget of Government adding that “, it is merely an amendment to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act, 2010”. The Bill received support from Rep. Nkem Abonta (PDP-Abia), Minority Leader Rep. Ndudi Elumelu (PDP-Delta) and Deputy Minority Leader Rep. Tobi Okechukwu (Enugu-PDP).

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