The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, on Tuesday, sought a comprehensive review of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act to remove many lacuna in the law and strengthen the anti-graft war.
Malami said a total repeal and re-enactment of the Act was what the country needed as against the piecemeal amendments proposed to it by the House of Representatives.
The AGF gave his position as the House Committee on Financial Crimes lined up two major bills for public hearing at the National Assembly in Abuja.
The committee, which is chaired by a member of the All Progressives Congress from Ogun State, Mr. Kayode Oladele, presented “A Bill to Amend the Economic and Financial Crimes (Establishment) Act” and “A Bill to Amend the Money Laundering (Prohibition and Prevention) Act” for public hearing.
The EFCC bill had three other sub-sets, including a bill proposing to grant full autonomy to the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, currently domiciled under the EFCC.
But, the AGF, who was represented by an official of his office, Mr. Anthony Abba, told the committee that there were many amendments proposed to the EFCC Act.
Malami argued that the best approach was a comprehensive review of the Act by repealing the present law in order to come up with a harmonised bill that would address all the issues.
He suggested that a sub-committee comprising lawmakers, the EFCC, his office and other stakeholders should be set up to do a thorough review of the Act.
Abba stated, “Our position is that these amendments are so many. We are seeking a comprehensive review and a repeal.
“Let there be a sub-committee to sit and look at all the issues and we can have a comprehensive bill.”
The EFCC said it was in support of the AGF’s proposal for a harmonised, comprehensive bill.
However, the Secretary of the commission, Mr. Emmanuel Adegboyega, who represented the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, made a case for adequate funding of the anti-graft agency.
He noted that some of the amendments proposed adequate funding of the EFCC, which Adegboyega said was important if the agency must deliver on its core mandate.
The secretary stated, “We need a fraction of the money we recover to take care of our operations. If we can have five per cent of the N738.9bn that the EFCC has recovered for about two years, our work will definitely speed up.
“For example, our proposed headquarters project, we are still unable to complete it because of funding challenges.”
But, the Nigerian Law Reform Commission opposed the idea of giving some percentage of recovered loot to the EFCC.
Its representative, Prof. Jummai Awudi, argued that it would be “legally and morally wrong” for the commission to keep part of recovered money to itself.
The commission told lawmakers that the present arrangement of funding the EFCC by budgetary appropriation was in order and should be maintained.
The law commission also said the NFIU should be granted full autonomy and allowed to operate independent of the EFCC.
Earlier, Oladele had said that the House moved to amend the EFCC Act because lawmakers were in support of the anti-graft war of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
He stated, “Let me on behalf of the committee express our total support for the measures that are being taken by the Buhari administration to tackle corruption head-on.
“To this effect, the least we can pledge as the representatives of the marginalised citizens of this country is the total support of this committee to the EFCC and other law enforcement agencies involved in the fight against corruption.”
Oladele informed the session that there were other bills besides that of the EFCC, pending before the House, which he said would soon be passed.
They include the “Mutual Legal Assistance on Criminal Matters Bill”; “Proceeds of Crimes Bill”; “Nigerian Financial Intelligence Bill”; “Whistle Blowers’ Protection Bill”; and “Assets Management System Bill.”
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Governors Forum called for urgent resolution of the dispute that led to the suspension of the NFIU from the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units.
The NFIU had been suspended in July this year after the global body frowned at reported interferences in its operations by Nigerian officials.
Speaking at the hearing on the EFCC bill, the Director-General of the NGF, Mr. Ashishama Okauru, recalled that following the suspension, Nigeria was given up to January 2018 to resolve the issues raised by Egmont.
He noted that the key issue was the autonomy of the NFIU, which Okauru said could still be domiciled in the EFCC, but should be allowed to function independently.
The NGF DG added, “Time is really not on our side. There are many other consequences if Nigeria eventually loses its membership.
“We have till January to take the necessary actions, especially on the bills.”