As part of ongoing efforts to tackle corruption and strengthen the fight against terrorism, members of the House of Representatives Wednesday, convened a special session and passed five Executive Bills.
The lawmakers, in line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s appeal, amended existing Acts to bring them in tandem with international best practices.
The legislations include: ‘A Bill for an Act to Repeal the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011 and Terrorism (Prevention) (Amendment) Act, 2013, and Enact the Terrorism (Prohibition and Prevention) Bill, 2022; a Bill for an Act to Repeal the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) and Enact the Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Bill, 2022 to provide Comprehensive Legal and Institutional Framework for the Prevention and Prohibition of Money Laundering in Nigeria, Establish the Special Control Unit under the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and for Related Matters; a Bill for an Act to Provide Framework for the Support, Management and Protection of Witnesses who Provide Information, Evidence or any other Assistance to Law Enforcement Agencies during Inquiries, Investigations or Prosecution and for Related Matters.
Others are: A Bill for an Act to Repeal the Public Complaints Commission Act, Cap. P37, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and Enact the Public Complaints Commission Bill, 2022 for Establishment of the Public Complaints Commission with wide Powers to Inquire into Complaints by Members of Public concerning the Administrative actions of any Public Authority and Companies or their Officials and provide Legal Framework for making Public Interest and for Related Matters; and a Bill for an Act to Repeal the Public Complaints Commission Act, Cap. P37, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and Enact the Public Complaints Commission Bill, 2022 for Establishment of the Public Complaints Commission with wide Powers to Inquire into Complaints by Members of Public concerning the Administrative actions of any Public Authority and Companies or their Officials and provide Legal Frameworkfor making Public Interest.
The bills passage followed the expeditious consideration and adoption of all clauses as recommended during its Committee of the Whole presided by the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Idris Wase.
Presenting the bills reports, the House Chief Whip, Hon. Tahir Monguno, explained that the Anti-Terrorism Bill provides for an effective, unified and comprehensive legal, regulatory and institutional framework for the detection, prevention, prohibition, prosecution and punishment of acts of terrorism, terrorism financing, proliferation and financing of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in Nigeria.
According to him, all acts of terrorism are prohibited and anybody within or outside Nigeria who knowingly attempts any act of terrorism is liable on conviction to the punishment prescribed in this Bill.
For the money laundering act, Monguno said the provisions make it mandatory for banks and other financial institutions to report in writing to the Special Control Unit Against Money Laundering under the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) any single transaction or lodgment in excess of N5 million for an individual, and N10 million in the case of a corporate body.
According to the bill’s draft, “It provides in Section 11(3) that, any Financial Institution or Designated Non-Financial Business and Profession that contravenes the provisions of this section commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of not less than N250,000 and not more than N1 million for each day the contravention continues.”
Section 12 prohibits the opening of numbered or anonymous accounts in fictitious names and shell banks. It provides that any person or financial institution that contravenes the provisions of Section 12 subsections (1), (2) and (3) commits and offence and is liable to imprisonment of not less than two years and not more than five years in the case of an individual; and a fine of not less than N10 million but not more than N50 million for a financial institution, in addition to the prosecution of the principal officers of the body, and winding up and prohibition of its constitution or incorporation.
For the witness protection bill, he said the bill seeks to ensure effective and efficient administration of justice in criminal and related proceedings is not prejudiced by the unwillingness of witnesses to give evidence for fear of violence, serious injury, death or for such other reasons.
As stipulated in Clause 2(a–g) of the bill, the main objectives of this bill are to – establish legal and institutional framework to protect witnesses and related persons, with responsibilities for carrying out all administrative duties relating to witnesses and related persons, including providing temporary protection and related services; ensure that the relevant agency takes responsibility for entering into an agreement with the witness on behalf of the state.
The bill also seeks to regulate the procedure and determine the manner in which the provisions of the bill shall be carried out; designate places to be utilised as places of safety for the purposes of the Witness Protection Programme; and ensure effective use and nationwide supervision of witness protection officers of the relevant agency; ensure that adequate consideration is given to the rights of witnesses and harmonise existing laws and policies on witness protection and management.
As stipulated in Clause 29(a–j), the legislative framework shall apply to investigation and prosecution of offences relating to – terrorism, money laundering prevention and prohibition, economic and financial crimes, corrupt practices and other related offences, drugs and narcotics and their trafficking, trafficking in persons, criminal and penal code offences, customs and excise management, any legislation dealing with proceeds of crimes, confiscation and forfeiture of assets, and such other offences as may be contained in enactments enacted by the National Assembly and designated by Attorney – General by an order published in the Federal Gazette.
On the sources of money accruing into the Witness Protection Fund, clause 41(d) provides that: “A percentage of the total amount recovered by the government as a direct result of information provided by a protected person under this bill shall be a minimum of two per cent and not exceeding five per cent of the total amount recovered.”
On the ‘unauthorized access to a witness’, clause 53(i-vi) stipulates that: “A person who wilfully or negligently allows an unauthorized person to gain access to a witness; wilfully or negligently discloses, in contravention of any provisions of this bill; the identity of any protected person, information that a particular protected person is under protection, the place of safety or location where any person is under protection or has been relocated under this Act, any information which could lead to the identification of any such person or any such place of safety, any information which undermines or compromises or could undermine or compromise the integrity of a witness protection arrangement under this Act, or any information relating to the relocation or change of identity of a protected person; or contravenes a provision of this Act, not already specified, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of not less N1 million or imprisonment for a period of not less than two years or to both.”
Briefing journalists at the end of the session, the spokesman of the House, Hon. Ben Kalu, said that the bills will help Nigeria fight both terrorism and corruption.
“As you know also another problem we have is the issue of corruption and money laundry, which happens to be one of the elements of the pie used to affect corruption. The law needed a review. So today a Bill for an Act to repeal the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011 is amended to enact the Money Laundering Prevention and Prohibition Bill 2022 to provide comprehensive legal and institution framework for the prevention and prohibition of money laundering in Nigeria.
“It establishes a special control unit under the EFCC and for related matters was also one of the ones we looked at today. With it, the EFCC would be better equipped in handling issues concerning money laundering. This law which we handled today would fill up the gaps that had hitherto existed in the 2011 Act. It is a better law that we have put together.
“As you know, the Public Complaints Commission before now had not been in the right teeth to bite. They have been seen not to be so instrumental in nation building but what we created today has given them the impetus to do better than they have done before now. So we wait for a better performance from PCC because we have energized them the more.
“We have equipped them the more to go beyond the scope of what they are currently doing. There is another one that has to do with the confiscation of properties suspected to be from proceeds of crime. The EFCC again has been given more powers to that effect. This is to sanitize the space especially as it concerns corruption. This is to show Nigerians and the world that this government is committed to fighting corruption by laying this framework upon which we can build,” Kalu explained.
Culled from THISDAY