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Jacobs warns Buhari against signing EFCC amendment Act into law

Mr Rotimi Jacobs SAN

A senior EFCC prosecutor, Mr Rotimi  Jacobs SAN has warned President Muhammadu Buhari my not to sign the EFCC Amendment Act into law,  saying that the amendment is not in the best interest of fight against corruption that the President is known for.

“Should senators and House of Representatives members have their way, the Economic and Financial Crimes (Establishment Act) 2004 will be amended before the expiration of their tenure”, he said.

Jacobs said that in view of circumstances that characterise the emergence of the amendment, “I will appeal to Mr president not to sign the bill in the overriding interest of fight against corruption that this is known for.”

“I commend the president and the vice president in their quest to fight against corruption but I must state that the National Assembly have not given us the surport we demand from them. An attempt to improve the law should not tow a part of circumventing the administration of justice.

The whole provision of section 19, 20, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26 and 34 of EFCC Act that gives EFCC power to trace, forfeit, manage and confiscate were completely delected from the Act.

It means that you have deprive EFCC of their responsibility and power to trace, forfeit  confiscate and manage assets procured with proceed of an unlawful activities.

Section 34 which the outgoing National Assembly horribly deleted is the power to investigate any suspected asset, either account in banks or property for analysis on inflows and outflows vis a vis opening package for proper identity of who runs the account meaning that EFCC can no longer investigate suspected unlawful activities.

Mandate given to EFCC is to investigate economic and financial crimes and to do these they need information from banks because most of these crimes are done through accounts in banks and other financial institutions. The back bone of EFCC to do these is section 34 which they delete and want Mr president to sign.

“It’s only in this country that you see a governor who have been convicted sitting in the National assembly making laws, receiving salary and making laws to remove a sections that empowers government agencies such as section 34 of EFCC Act to fight corruption  approval of Mr president”.

In the interest of over 200 million Nigerian,  we are pleading with our president not to sign the bill.

Recall that barley at tail lent of the outgoing lawmakers are seeking to amend the law barely 13 days to the expiration of the Eighth National Assembly.

The amendment seeks to empower the President to appoint EFCC chairman from not below the rank of an Assistant Inspector-General (AIG) or equivalent in other security agencies.

If the amendment scales through, it will disqualify the Acting Chairman of EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu from being re-presented to the Ninth National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Magu is a Commissioner of Police.

The House had last last passed the EFCC Act Amendment Bill.

Another aspect of the bill makes it compulsory for the EFCC to obtain ex parte orders before seizing suspects’ assets.

The ex parte order clause will deny the EFCC the powers of invoking Interim Forfeiture Clause in its Act without recourse to the court.

However, there are fears that the National Assembly may be on a wild goose chase because it has a few legislative days left.

Besides, President Buhari may not give assent to the bill at the twilight of the Eighth Assembly.

The amendment bill has been in the works since 2015.

Our correspondent  learnt that in the last two weeks, there has been renewed agitation to hasten work on the EFCC bill’s amendment because the Senate has the legislative power to engage in concurrence in a day.

The passage followed the adoption of the report by the House Committee on Financial Crime.

Although there were amendments to the Act, the only controversial one was Section 2, which relates to the composition of the commission.

Before the amendment, Section 2 had read: “(1) The commission shall consist of the following members: (a) a chairman, who shall (i) be the Chief Executive and Financial Officer of the commission; (ii) be a serving or retired member of any government security or law enforcement agency not below the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police or equivalent; and (iii) possess not less than 15 years cognate experience.”

After the amendment, it reads, “(a) A Chairman, who shall (i) be a retired or serving member of any government security or law enforcement agency not below the rank of Assistant Inspector-General (AIG) of Police or an equivalent and possessing not less than 20 years cognate experience; (ii) a legal practitioner with at least 20 years post-call experience.”

The House also removed the Secretary of the EFCC from tenured offices in the leadership of the commission.

On the qualifications to be considered in the appointment of the EFCC Secretary, paragraph “e” was added to Section 8(1), which reads, “A person who is qualified to practise as a legal practitioner in Nigeria and has been so qualified for not less than 10 years.”

An amendment was also made to Section 27(4), making it compulsory for the EFCC to obtain ex-parte order from court before seizing suspected assets.

It’s an avenue for the patties suspected to have procure such property with the proceed of an unlawful activities to dispose off such asset.

Jacobs wonder how would the person who have the forehand knowledge of his arrest not run away before the police arrival. He said the same thing applied to assets suspected to have been procured through the proceed of an unlawful activities.

“If you put the owner of an assets on notice of the intention to commence proceeding against the property which he acquired through illegitimate means, this law allows such as dispose off such asset before proceeding can commence.

Is this the type of ammendment which have been agitating for to strengthen administration of  Criminal forfieture? Certainly no!!, Jacobs answer in affirmative.

This amendment is not in the best interest of the present administration of anti corruption crusade.

The spirit behind overnight passage of this bill and speed at which the outgoing national assembly is going about it is mischievous.

If president Mohamadu Buhari who the whole world knows as an outstanding discipline and incorruptible leader sign this bill to law, that will be the end of anti corruption crusade for this administration.

Infact the bill also allow the person to who the proceeding of forfieture might institute will be entitled to legal fees allowance, up keep allowance, dependants allowance from the assets sought to be forfeited.

Also, the House deleted Section 1(2) relating to the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, which has now been domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria as demanded by the EGMONT Group, from the EFCC Act.”

A ranking member of the House said: “We have had issues in the House with the EFCC Act Amendment Bill in the last four years. The amendment used to come up each time there was any political issue between the Executive and the National Assembly.

“Since we are completing our tenure in the next 13 days, some members just renewed interest in the bill and surprisingly we passed it.

“We learnt some senators have become interested in the bill to ensure concurrence before we leave office. The truth is that some NASS members do not want Magu and any bill that can remove him is supported.”

Another member of the House said: “We warned some of our members that this is a belated amendment. To show their desperation, they even raised a Conference Committee, headed by Edward Pwajok, to harmonise the positions of the Senate and the House.

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