ATTORNEY-GENERAL of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) on Thursday said he has not taken over the powers of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and other anti-graft agencies with a new gazzette on asset tracing, and recovery.
He said they still retain their powers to seize assets from corrupt suspects.
Malami made the clarifications in a statement by his Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations, Dr. Umar Jibrilu Gwandu.
The statement said: “The Attorney -General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN said the issuance of the Asset Tracing, Recovery and Management Regulations, 2019 was to address the absence of coordination and proper management of seized, forfeited or confiscated assets as well as to ensure transparency in the process of disposal of forfeited assets.
The Minister observed that the “Asset Tracing, Recovery and Management Regulations, 2019 as contained in the Federal Government Gazette Vol. 106, No 163 was informed by the need to regulate the procedures for the tracing, recovery, management and disposal of illegally acquired assets as required under various extant legislation.
“Such extant legislations included the EFCC Act, 2004, the ICPC Act, 2000, the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 as amended in 2012, the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011 as amended in 2013, the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Agency Act, 2018 as well as the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act, 2019.
“Section 4 of the Regulations retains all the powers of law enforcement and anti-corruption agencies in their extant laws as it relates to asset recovery and therefore the issue of taking over the powers of these agencies does not arise.
“The Attorney-General noted that where more than one agency is involved in the tracing of the same proceeds of crime, the Attorney General shall coordinate and ensure that there is synergy and successful recovery.
“The 2019 Regulations provides for the oversight of the non-conviction based forfeiture by the Attorney General as it requires the application of civil procedure in the recovery of specific assets.”
Malami also gave insights into what he termed the gains of the new regulations.
He added: “In addition, the Minister highlighted that Section 3 of the 2019 Regulations recognized the need for agencies to provide details of all seized and forfeited assets to the databank established by the Federal Ministry of Justice while Section 11 of the Regulation addresses theissue of what happens once assets are disposed of.
“It is clear from the Regulations that when the assets are disposed, the funds recovered whether it is recovered from outside or from within the country shall be paid into the Asset Recovery Account in the Central Bank of Nigeria. From the moment it is paid into this account, the Minister of Finance becomes accountable for the management of these funds for the purpose of moving it into the consolidated revenue account and to disburse it as required under the Appropriation Act.
“This is an important improvement from what has been the procedure where agencies maintained multiple accounts after disposing assets.
“It is also important to note that since 2017, the President approved a line item in the Appropriation Act where Recovered Asset is identified as a source of revenue. No President in the history of Nigeria took this step to understand that all recovered assets belong to allNigerians and should be properly accounted for.
The Attorney-General asked Nigerians to commend the Presidentfor “this foresight and his continuing support to all the efforts of all the anti-corruption and law enforcement agencies responsible for the recovery and repatriation of recovered assets.
“Another benefit of the regulation which he pointed out is that the Regulations provides for a disposal process that it makes allstakeholders participants in the disposal exercise. For example,Section 10(1) of the Gazette reads “the Attorney-General of the Federation shall set up a structure for transparent management of all Final Forfeited Assets” comprising of relevant stakeholders.
“Section 10(2) enumerated the stakeholders to include but not limited to Federal Ministry of Justice, EFCC, ICPC and Federal Ministry responsible for matters relating to Finance; Central Bank of Nigeria and Federal Ministry of Works and Housing.
“Other stakeholders listed in the Gazette included Accountant-General of the Federation and Auditor-General of the Federation, Nigerian Army (Joint Task Force), Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Police Force, Nigeria Security Civil Defence Corps, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency and representative of Civil Society Organisations