Why is the House of Representatives considering this Bill after the same House passed a similar Bill. I am referring to the Chartered Institute of Forensics and Investigative Professionals of Nigeria.?
Let me start with the issue of similarity. That bill is not new. It was passed in the 8th Assembly but the President declined assent. Why? First of all, it is an open secret that it is promoted by husband and wife. It was not promoted by an institution. In this case, it is more of a commercial enterprise. That was the basis upon which several voices came against the bill and the President graciously declined assent upon good advice. Unfortunately, it was reintroduced again in the 9th Assembly. Not much has changed from what we know of the former Bill. Some of the very ridiculous clauses in that Bill – such as that its president will receive a lifetime salary and allowances – are still there. Not surprisingly, so many petitions have been written against that Bill to the President, to the Attorney General of the Federation and the leadership of the 9th Assembly. We are not joining issues with them; we are pursuing our Bill on its merits. By the way, this Institute is 10 years old. The Association of National Accountants of Nigeria (ANAN) in its wisdom, as far back as 2011, decided to form the Society for Forensic Accounting and Fraud Prevention. This is the body that is transforming into a Chartered Institute in the emerging area of Forensics and Fraud Examination to tackle new trends in fraud and criminality. So, it is part of the wisdom of ANAN and it’s not just the only institution it has created. ANAN created the Nigerian College of Accountancy which has become a University today. Point is, ANAN understands the concept of creating institutions. Promoting the institute is just one of the core philosophies of ANAN as a visionary organisation.
The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) opposed your Bill at the public hearing. Does this in any way have to do with institutional rivalry between ANAN and ICAN?
I wouldn’t put it that way. ICAN is a monopoly. From 1965 when it was created, it didn’t want the existence of the ANAN. ANAN was founded in 1979, incorporated in 1983 and chartered through Decree 76 of 1993 by the Gen. Ibrahim Babangida regime. Nigerians can now see within the past 42 years what ANAN has achieved as an institution. This has created a healthy competition from ANAN point of view. People should have a choice and now ANAN has gone ahead to create those institutions we’ve talked about: the college, the university and now it is promoting the chartered Institute. There are other areas in Nigeria that show that having two or more bodies gives you a better outcome. For example, if you remember clearly when we only had WAEC, you have a situation when you miss and have to wait till the next year until NECO came on board. We now have the two and you can even combine and that has taken away that burden of restricting our young people from accessing higher education. Beyond that, look at the ICPC and EFCC. These two bodies are very similar but you can see they are overburdened, overstretched and overwhelmed even with the two. So the concept of monopoly that ICAN runs with is futile, counterproductive and is no longer tenable in the 21st century. And If you watched the proceedings of the public hearing on Thursday (May 27), that is not the position from all stakeholders: EFCC, NFIU, NDIC, the Police. All of them were supporting the position of getting the Bill passed.
Let’s look at the nitty gritty of what this Bill seeks to achieve as different from the one passed last year but declined assent by Mr. President
This Bill has two major branches. One is the forensic component which is multidisciplinary. You have different components of forensics under that. The other layer is fraud examination which is also multidisciplinary/multisectoral. Here we are dealing with insurance fraud, capital market fraud, banking fraud and the entire ramifications of different manifestations of fraud. These two are now fused together. So we are not just talking forensics but also fraud examination. That’s one. Number two, we are establishing the Nigerian Forensic Academy which is going to be a Regional Academy that the entire Africa will benefit from. The other component is our support for Institutional strengthening and capacity building for our law enforcement agencies. No doubt, the EFCC, ICPC and Police are doing very well as of now. They can only get better with the Institute on board. What we are saying is this, if the Bill for this Institute becomes law, we will help train and retrain these agencies in scientific investigation and prosecution. The impact of that will be qualitative investigation, sound prosecution and then the conviction rates will go up. So that is a direct impact that will be seen in our law enforcement agencies as a clear outcome that you can’t contest. From the National Assembly point of view, our lawmakers need to be trained and retrained to understand the issues of oversights and of course that is very critical as this will enhance the capacity of the legislators.
Then the Judiciary, some of the challenges that our law enforcement agencies are having in court is that our judges, when it comes to forensic related issues and fraud, they have limitations. So this body will also help in building their capacity. So if you look at it, the judiciary, legislature and executive are all directly going to be beneficiaries of this, and It cut across all the tiers of government and arms of government.
There are insinuations that your institute is seeking to duplicate the functions of the anti-corruption agencies.
That is a huge misconception. The ICPC, EFCC, Nigerian Police, NDLEA, law enforcement agencies, anti-corruption agencies, etc., were established by the federal government, funded by the federal government and controlled by the federal government. Ours is a self-regulated and self-funded Institute that will train professionals that will practise forensics in all ramifications and fraud examination. We are complementary and not in competition with them. We train investigators and it stops at that.