The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) yesterday raised concerns over the Proceeds of Crime Recovery and Management Agency Bill being promoted by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN).
The bill, when it becomes law, will legalise the establishment of the agency that will see to proper documentation and management of recovered assets, thereby guaranteeing transparency and accountability.
But SERAP, in an open letter sent to President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday, urged him to urgently instruct Malami to withdraw the bill to amend the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission [EFCC] Act, claiming that if passed and signed into law, it would severely undermine the commission’s independence, and render it a “toothless bulldog or toothless tiger.”
Similarly, the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption headed by Prof. Itse Sagay had reportedly raised concern to the effect that the move to amend the EFCC Act, 2004 would demolish the nation’s anti-corruption infrastructure and confer an enormous power of control of the anti-graft agency on the office of the attorney general of the federation.
In the letter signed by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP said: “The bill, which is apparently designed to undermine the independence, integrity, and freedom of action of anti-corruption agencies, ignores the seriousness of grand corruption and its impact on Nigerians’ human rights, the rule of law, principles of good governance, development, as well as the threat corruption poses to the country’s constitutional order.
“By pushing to turn the EFCC into a department in the Federal Ministry of Justice, and effectively bring it under the control of the attorney general, and to subject the appointment of the agency’s head to the approval of the Directorate of State Security (DSS), your government would seem to indicate that it is not interested in combating corruption and halting its putrefying effects.”
Consequently, SERAP urged President Buhari to instruct Malami to withdraw the proposed bill in the public interest, and to publicly commit to upholding the independence, integrity and effectiveness of anti-corruption agencies in the country, including the EFCC;
The group also urged the president to publicly uphold constitutional and international standards on the independence, integrity, and effectiveness of anti-corruption agencies, including the EFCC, and ensure that they are free from any undue influence.
SERAP wants the president to ensure that the heads of anti-corruption agencies are appointed through a process that ensures their apolitical stance, impartiality, neutrality, integrity, and competence.
The group contends that Nigeria’s constitutional and international legal obligations to respect, protect, promote and fulfill the human rights of everyone inevitably creates a duty on Buhari’s administration to establish independent and efficient anti-corruption mechanisms.
According to SERAP, the bill is entirely inconsistent and incompatible with the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended) and the country’s international anti-corruption obligations including under the UN Convention against Corruption and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party.