BudgIT Foundation and The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Transparency International in Nigeria; two leading non-governmental organizations in the advocacy for openness, accountability and transparency in Nigeria have called for a comprehensive legal framework for the recovery, coordination, monitoring and utilization of looted assets in Nigeria.
The absence of a proper legislative framework for monitoring and managing recovered assets from proceeds of crime has created room for looting and mismanagement of recovered assets. The failure to enact the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA), which would serve as a crucial legislative framework for management of recovered assets would undoubtedly create further complications.
In recent years, Nigeria has received major foreign returns from looted assets including $311 million Sani Abacha loot from USA & the Bailiwick of Jersey returned in 2020; $322 million of Abacha loot from Switzerland returned in 2018; and $ 233 million Abacha loot from Lichtenstein returned between 2013-2014.
However, it is difficult to ascertain Nigeria’s progress and level of success on utilization of these recovered assets due to lack of transparency.
With respect to funds recovered domestically, the issues are numerous including lack of public audits and a central register or database for all recovered assets, among others.
While events surrounding the suspension of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ag. Chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, are unfolding – reactions from his lawyer points to the fact that if there had been an existing central database for recovered assets in their different phases of forfeiture; be it interim or final forfeiture, some of the allegations against him would have been proven or debunked.
Deputy Manager at BudgIT, Tolutope Agunloye noted that the delay in passing the POCA which the Nigerian government committed to in 2016 greatly undermines asset recovery in Nigeria.
“If passed, the law would provide a legal and institutional framework for the confiscation, forfeiture, recovery and management of assets or proceeds gained in unlawful activities,” he added
The Executive Director of CISLAC, Auwal Ibrahim Rafsanjani also expressed his disappointment over the current existing process – where different institutions like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practice and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Code of Conduct Bureau, Nigeria Custom Service, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency and other institutions recover asset without any central database thereby increasing the lack of Transparency.
He further highlighted that the need for a legislative framework in the management, utilization, evaluation and monitoring recovered assets cannot be overemphasized.
The establishment of a database that has the details of recovered assets, persons they were recovered from, and how the assets recovered are being utilized; together with the enactment of the POCA, will not only aid the management of recovered assets, it will also foster transparency and accountability of recovered assets thereby clipping the wings of impropriety and discretionary handling of looted funds.