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Understanding The Proceeds Of Crime Bill

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The House of Representatives on July 17, 2018 passed ‘’Proceeds of Crime Bill’’, which seeks to harmonize and consolidate the existing legal frameworks, also seeks to establish a central agency to manage the proceeds recovered from illegally acquired properties.

The Bill, which was sponsored in the 8th Assembly by the Chairman of the House Committee on Financial Crimes, Hon. Kayode Oladele, and passed before the National Assembly proceeded on its annual recess, provides a legal and institutional framework for the confiscation, seizure, forfeiture, recovery and management of assets or proceeds derived from unlawful activities, including instrumentalities used or intended to be used in the commission of unlawful activities.

The Bill, which seeks to harmonize and consolidate the existing legal frameworks, also seeks to establish a central agency to manage the proceeds recovered from illegally acquired properties.

According to a report by the Federal Ministry of Justice while justifying the need for the passage of the bill as far back as 2014, the Proceeds of Crime Bill is a product of far reaching consultations and collaborations with stakeholders and development partners, all in a bid to ensure that its provisions are in conformity with global best practices, while also meeting Nigeria’s legal framework for rule of law.

Godwin Iheabunike of the Federal Ministry of Justice while writing on the need for the passage of the bill, stated: “Properly applied, the system that is envisaged will create a comprehensive toolbox of measures designed to effectively remove the proceeds of criminality from criminals. It will allow for a full financial investigation of the criminal and criminally acquired proceeds. The limitations of criminal forfeiture including the fact that the sentencing process is an inappropriate forum to confiscate all crime-tainted property informs recent trends in some jurisdictions that incline to civil forfeiture process. Civil forfeiture represents the second generation of modern forfeiture laws. It is obvious that the in rem character of civil forfeiture which avoids the need to prove a person’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt would have an obvious appeal to policymakers.”

Several stakeholders, including the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, have also at various times called for the urgent passage of the Proceeds of Crime Bill, which, according to them, would greatly assist the government in its anti-corruption campaign.

Commending Oladele and the House of Representatives for passing the bill before going on recess, an international lawyer, Akinwole Ogunlola, stated that when signed into law, the bill will supersede the controversial Executive Order Number 6 of 2018 on the Preservation of Suspicious Assets Connected with Corruption, which was recently signed by President Muhammadu Buhari on the same subject-matter and which in his opinion, raises a lot of constitutional and due process questions.

According to reports, the Bill had also scaled through Second reading in the Senate awaiting consideration by Committee of the Whole but a source in the House of Representatives disclosed that the House version, which is similar to the Senate’s will be transmitted to the Senate for concurrence in order to fast track its passage and transmission to the President for his assent.



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