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Last week, the Federal Government after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) held virtually, announced a plan to create a separate agency to manage recovered looted public assets and proceeds of crimes committed by functionaries and any citizen. The bill titled “Proceeds of Crime Recovery and Management Agency Bill” is being sponsored by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) is expected to be transmitted to the National Assembly for necessary legislative action.

First of all, this initiative is commendable in the sense that Nigerians have continued to see incoherent records of public assets, totally lacking in transparency and proper accountability. As a matter of fact, the public space has been inundated with stories of relooting of already recovered assets!

The objective of this bill, according to Mr. Malami, is to address the current situation whereby recovered public loots are being handled by different government agencies without a central or properly coordinated, comprehensive information and management procedure. This is one of the problems that largely contributed to the friction between the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu and the AGF that eventually led to the former being suspended and his tenure currently under probe by a presidential panel.

Mr. Malami was quoted as saying that, “The bill is targeted and intended to have in place legal and institutional framework. The legal component of it is having a law while the institutional component of it is to have an agency that will be saddled with the responsibility of managing the assets that constitute proceeds of crime in Nigeria.

“What happens before now is that 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 (Department of State Services), the EFCC (The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) and the ICPC (Independent Corrupt Practices Commission).

“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 offhand the number of landed assets, immovable assets, the amount in cash that is recovered by the Federal Government by way of interim forfeiture or final forfeiture. So, it is indeed over time a kind of arrangement that is not uniform and consistent”, he stated.

Indeed, we agree with the AGF that this kind of agency is needed under the prevailing circumstance in order to deal with the situation painted above. It is observable that against persistent calls and requests by several media organisations and civil society organisations (CSOs), the Federal Government has been unable to tell Nigerians clear information on assets and funds recovered from corrupt Nigerians. But with this kind of proposed agency, the management problem will become a thing of the past.

For instance, there have been wild speculations about the so-called Abacha loot. What are the comprehensive details of the total amount recovered from the so-called Abacha and other suspects since 2015? An asset management agency should be in a good position to address this kind of question. The Executive and Legislature should therefore expedite action on the bill with a view to sanitising the anticorruption campaign with appropriate legal instrument.

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