Lagos – A Civil Society Organisation, ActionAid Nigeria, on Thursday commended President Muhammadu Buhari for signing the Executive Order 6 to check corruption, which he said would bolster the socioeconomic development of the country.
Mr Newton Otsemaye, Project Manager, Strengthening Citizens Resistance Against Prevalence of Corruption (SCRAP-C), gave the commendation in an interview on Thursday in Lagos.
SCRAP-C is a United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) project in Nigeria.
The programme is being implemented by three national Civil Society Organisations; ActionAid Nigeria, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) and Centre for Communication and Social Impact.
Otsemaye said corruption had hindered the efforts of both the government and private sector to drive economic growth, retarded development, aggravated inequality and poverty, among the citizens.
“Those against the Executive Order should know that it does not affect citizen’s human right, but improve the wellbeing of the citizens and the economy that had hitherto been affected by corrupt practices,” he said.
According to him, forfeiture or confiscation of proceeds of crime is an anti-corruption tool, in line with international best practice, recommended by the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), which Nigeria is a signatory to.
He said Non-Conviction Based Asset Forfeiture was a recommendation of UNCAC that provided a legal framework for fighting corruption and asset recovery.
NAN reports that the Non-conviction based asset forfeiture is a legal regime that provides for the seizure and forfeiture (recovery) of the proceeds of serious crime, including corruption, without the need for a criminal conviction.
“It is good because it does not allow people accused of stolen wealth to use the proceeds to fight back the government.
“Also, as soon as a suspected person gets information that his asset is about to be seized or being forfeited, it is possible they sell off the assets quickly, and this dissipates stolen assets.
“If the government confiscates the asset, it does not necessarily belong to the government; however, the accused can go to court and prove that the asset genuinely belongs to him.
“If he can convince the court on how he legitimately acquired the assets, then it will be released to him,” he said.
According to him, the burden of proof is taken away from the prosecuting agency, and also the excess cost spent on prosecuting corruption cases is taken off the government.
“If we are not spending money to fight corruption, that gives the country more money to do developmental projects in the areas of health, education, infrastructure, and also impact on citizens’ welfare,” he said.
He stressed that corruption must be reduced to the barest minimum, to become insignificant, and not disrupt the socio-economic development of the country.
Otsemaye said there should be a collective action and behavioural change against corruption, and that the fight should not be left to government alone, as corruption affects all citizens.
He noted that the Executive Order, if properly implemented would boost Nigeria’s image globally, reduce inefficiency and misappropriation of funds, and lead to more development.
However, the House of Representatives, on July 11, passed a motion calling for the suspension of Executive Order 6.
The motion, which was sponsored by Hon. Nicholas Ossai, and supported by 27 lawmakers, said the order appeared to hijack and usurp legislative and judicial powers.
President Muhammadu Buhari, on July 5, signed an Executive Order to improve his administration’s fight against corruption to bar persons accused of corruption from controlling or trading in assets acquired from corrupt act.
According to him, available records have shown that the aggregate value of funds allegedly stolen on which prosecution is being conducted is N595.40 billion.
He said the figure exceeded the N500 billion appropriated for Social Investment programmes in
the 2018 budget.
The President also said the fund was also higher than the highest appropriation of N344 billion, for the Ministry of Works for construction and rehabilitation of several roads, across the country in the budget. (NAN)