A legislative framework for the establishment of Nigerian Assets Management Agency that will be responsible for management of all the seized and forfeited funds and assets recovered by various security agencies and courts on Wednesday scaled through second reading on the floor of the House of Representatives.
BusinessDay had in 2016 exclusively reported details of the bill sponsored by Jones Onyereri (PDP-Imo), which seeks to ensure proper coordination of all Federal Government owned assets whether existing or acquired through seizures, Court orders and forfeitures.
Some of the lawmakers who spoke in favour of the bill which was referred to the House Committee on Banking and Currency, include: Aliyu Pategi (APC-Kwara); Ossai Nicholas Ossai (PDP-Delta; Betty Apiafi; Toby Okechukwu and Uzoma Nkem-Abonta (PDP-Abia).
Onyereri who led the debate on the bill, explained section 4 of the bill deals specifically with “matters pertaining to legal proceedings against individuals, government agencies or bodies that sells, misappropriates, damages or destroys willfully any assets formally seized, forfeited, taken over or transferred to it under this bill.
“The section also stipulated certain penalties for violating the provisions of this bill, which includes either a fine or term of imprisonment,” the Imo lawmaker explained.
Some of the security and paramilitary agencies including Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC); Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences (ICPC); Nigeria Security Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC); Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA); Nigeria Police; Nigerian Ports Authority; National Aviation Authority as well as Nigerian Customs Service (NSC) are currently in possession of several impounded vehicles and funds worth several trillions of naira.
He argued that “inadequancy of current legal and regulatory framework for management of federal government assets in Nigeria,” necessitated the establishment of the agency, as there exist no amalgamated institution body charged with the management of seized and forfeited assets.
The proposed agency – National Asset Record and Management Centre (NARMC), when operational is expected to put to rest series of controversy trailing the utilisation of over N3.4 trillion seized by various security and anti-graft agencies within one year.
During the celebration of its one year anniversary, President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration confirmed the recovery of total cash amount N78,325,354,631.82, $185,119,584.61, £3,508,355.46 and €11, 250 between May 29, 2015 and May 25, 2016.
Also released were recoveries under interim forfeiture, which were a combination of cash and assets, during the same period: N126,563,481,095.43; $9,090,243,920.15; £2,484,447.55 and €303,399.17
while anticipated repatriation from foreign countries include: $321,316,726.1, £6,900,000 and €11,826.11.
The present administration earlier in the year confirmed recovery of 239 non-cash recoveries including farmlands, plots of land, uncompleted buildings, completed buildings, vehicles and maritime vessels, within one year.
In carrying out its operations, the agency is empowered to collaborate with Government bodies both within and outside Nigeria, identify and determine of the whereabouts of Federal Government property and assets located or situated in any part of the world
In a keynote address on ‘Assets Recovery in Nigeria: Experiences from the past,’ delivered recently, Nuhu Ribadu, EFCC former chairman denied allegations that he was part of those who allegedly re-looted
recovered assets, including N1 trillion and expressed surprise that it was a subject of Senate investigation.
The agency, according to Section 1c of the bill seen by BusinessDay is saddled with the responsibility of “managing the various Federal Government assets acquired within and outside the country through
seizure, forfeiture, take-over or transfer by security agencies empowered to do so.”
In discharging its functions, the agency is empowered to coordinate and enforce of all Federal Government assets management law and enforcement functions conferred on any person or authority; obtain the best achievable monetary returns on the said Federal Government assets or other acquired.
It is also expected to protect or enhance the long term viable economic value of those assets, the cost of acquiring and managing the assets, adoption of measures to identify, trace, freeze, confiscated
or seize proceeds derived from rental and sales activities of Federal Government assets related or the properties, the value of which corresponds to such proceeds.
To forestall abuse of office through acquisition or transfer of seized assets, section 12 provides that all members of the NARMC board, “shall before assumption of duty declare their assets in accordance with the Code of Conduct Act as well as their family members or any
company or firm in which they own such shareholding as may be prescribed.”
Section 22b(1) of the bill, however imposed the sum of N250,000 fine or five years imprisonment on any person who sells, disposes, misappropriates, damages, or destroys willfully any asset(s) formally seized, forfeited, taken over or transferred to it.
Section 22b(2) however provides that any government agency or body corporate is liable to a fine of N10 million fine in addition the Directors of the corporate body or principal officers of such agency shall each be liable to pay a fine of not less than N250,000 or five years imprisonment or both.
KEHINDE AKINTOLA, Abuja