The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), a Civil Society Organisation (CSO) has urged the Federal Government to expedite action on recovering the country’s assets.
It urged the government to leverage on recovery management guidelines for transparency and accountability in the end-use of recovered assets.
In a statement, Executive Director of CISLAC, Mr Auwal Rafsanjani, in Abuja, said that the call became imperative in order for Nigerians to be aware of recovered loots and their usage.
Rafsanjani said that the recent Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR) in Washington, U.S, sealed the return of stolen assets worth 321 million dollars to Nigeria.
He said that the assets would be repatriated from the Swiss Government to Nigeria under the auspices of the World Bank.
“The anti-corruption summit in London in 2016 prompted the government to make two specific commitments in regards to asset recovery.
“The commitments are to strengthen the asset recovery legislation through the passing of the Proceeds of Crime Bill to provide for transparent management of returned assets and non-conviction-based approach to asset recovery.
“The second one is developing internationally endorsed guidelines for the transparent and accountable management of returned stolen assets.
“We are concerned that in spite of some progress, no significant breakthrough has been achieved on the two commitments,’’ he said.
Rafsanjani said that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) disclosed during the 7th Session of the Conference against Corruption (UNCAC) that it recovered 2.9 billion dollars between May, 2015 and Oct. 20, 2017.
He said that the sum represented about 12 per cent of the entire 2018 budget of the Federal Government.
He said that CISLAC had observed that there was little information and absence of clear guidelines on how the recovered assets were utilised for the benefit of citizens.
According to Rafsanjani, in spite of the undeniable progress on recovered assets domestically and internationally, management of recovered assets still operated under fractioned legislative framework and absent policy guidelines.
He said that the mandates of a number of anti-corruption agencies in regards to the asset recovery management overlapped.
“ It remains unclear which of the many anti-corruption institutions takes a lead in the coordination of asset recovery efforts.
“Crucial legislature with a potential to establish an acceptable asset recovery management framework such as the Proceeds of Crime Bill (2014) is stalled without explanation.
“The recent suspension of Nigeria from the elite EGMONT group of financial intelligence agencies is ample evidence of chaotic institutional structure in the anti-corruption domain beset by inexplicable inter-agency rivalry.’’
Rafsanjani said that there was lack of coordination of the anti-corruption effort among the various institutions.
He said that it was worrisome that there was no independent and comprehensive review of how many assets could be repatriated from all agencies with the power to seize assets.
He said that CISLAC demanded that clear guidelines were established on the use of recovered assets with priority given to the health and education sector.
This, according to the director, can be done through supplementary Appropriation Bill to the National Assembly.
He called for a policy framework to set up integrity trust fund to manage asset recovery proceeds with involvement of credible CSOs and honest Nigerians.
He added that the case of the recent 321 million dollars return should be used as a “worthy precedent’’.
Rafsanji said that international jurisdictions which harboured estimated five billion dollars of Nigeria’s stolen assets should engage the Nigerian Government without delay.
He advised that it should be done in a transparent manner so that proceeds of corruption could benefit, especially the 61 per cent of Nigerians living in abject poverty.
He said that there was no excusable reason for keeping Nigerian assets abroad and in secrecy.
The director urged that the breakdown of confiscated assets should be published by all mandated agencies without further delay to dispel public suspicion of “looting of looted assets’’.