Nigerian economy doing better than projected — Finance Minister
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru – Abuja
The Federal Executive Council, FEC, on Wednesday, approved the establishment of a new anti-corruption agency with the name, ‘Proceeds of Crime Recovery and Management Agency’.
Already, the council has approved transmission of a bill, titled, “Proceeds of Crime Recovery and Management Agency Bill,” to the National Assembly.
The bill intends to have in place a legal and institutional framework of having a law and an agency that will be saddled with the responsibility of managing the assets that constitute the proceeds of crime in Nigeria.
The Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami disclosed this while briefing State House correspondents at the end of the FEC virtual meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He explained that once the bill becomes law and the agency is established, it would see to proper documentation and management of such recovered assets and thereby guarantee transparency and accountability.
He said that he presented a memo for the establishment of the new anti-graft agency to the council at the meeting.
Malami explained that the agency was necessary to manage assets that constitute the proceeds of crimes, stressing that previous proceeds of crime were scattered in different and multiple agencies.
He said, “The Federal Ministry of Justice presented to Council a memo today (Wednesday). The memo is about a Bill which seeks the approval of the Council to transmit to the National Assembly for passage. It is the Proceeds of Crime Recovery and management Agency Bill.
“It is in essence a bill that is targeted and intended to have in place a legal and institutional framework. The legal component of it is having a law. And the institutional component of it is to have an agency that will be saddled with the responsibility of managing the assets that constitute the proceeds of crime in Nigeria.
“What happens before now is the proceeds of crime are scattered all over, and mostly in the hands of different and multiple agencies of government inclusive of the police, the DSS (Department of State Service), EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission), and ICPC (Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission).
“So, with that kind of arrangement which is ad-hoc, there is no agency of government that is saddled with the responsibility of data generation, an agency that can give you off-hand the number of landed assets, number of immovable assets, the amount in cash that are recovered by the federal government by way of interim forfeiture overweigh of a final forfeiture.
“So, it is indeed over time a kind of arrangement that is not uniform and consistent.”
“If you have a budget item for recovered assets, this agency will now be in a position to provide information to the federal ministry of finance, budget and National Planning on-demand as to what amount is there available for budget purposes, thereby establishing the desired transparency, the desired accountability which has not been available before now.
He further explained that the new law seeks to move the fight against corruption to the next level.
According to him, “Next level of transparency, next level of accountability, in essence, will have in place an agency of government that is exclusively responsible for anything proceeds of crime.
“A one-stop-shop arrangement by which all the assets that are recovered arising from crimes that are indeed vested in the federal government, you have a one-stop arrangement where you can have information.
“As it is for example the federal ministry of Justice is only in a position to account and giving a comprehensive account of what recoveries were made by the ministry.
“But any recovery made by the police, DSS, the ministry of justice is not in a position to know. So, for the purpose of decision making and policy, the FG is not in a position to have a holistic appreciation.
“So, by the bill that is now presented for the consideration of the council, we’ll have (1) a law that establishes an agency, (2) an agency. And for your information, even for the purpose of planning what we will have at the end of the day if this bill is passed into law, is we’ll have an agency that will be responsible.
“And as you rightly know, Mr. President has sanctioned ever since he came on board, that there should be a budget line, a budget item for recovered assets.
“So, if you have a budget item for recovered assets, this agency will now be in a position to provide information to the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning on-demand as to what amount is available for budget purposes, thereby establishing the desired transparency, the desired accountability which has not been available before now.
“So, it is about a memo that seeks to establish a legal framework, that seeks to establish an institutional framework, that seeks to further take the fight against corruption to the next level by way of establishing transparency, accountability and making the possibility of forfeiture proceeds of crime easy through the sanctioning of non-conviction based forfeiture among others.”
Asked if the bill was a fall out of the experience with the EFCC with particular reference to the management of assets, Malami said: “Let me take you through the history lane as far as the proceeds of crime bill are concerned. There was an attempt some time back in 2007 to present to the FEC, it was unsuccessful, the bill was not passed.
“There was further attempt in 2011 to present the same bill with some material amendments, and then it did not succeed in getting the blessings of FEC. And there was a further attempt in 2019 to present the Bill and it wasn’t as well successful but it eventually succeeded today.
“So, perhaps to now tie it to a particular institution or particular development of 2020, I think is unfounded taking into consideration the historical antecedents relating to the bill.”
Also, briefing, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Dr. Zainab Ahmed, said from the report released by the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, the Nigerian economy was doing better than expected.
The Minister said measures were being put in place to stabilize the economy and ensure that it continues to run despite the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
She said: “We presented a memo to the council in respect of the second-quarter GDP report, earlier released by the National Bureau of Statistics on the 24th of August.
“Why the memo is so dated is because there was a retreat last week and we couldn’t get scheduled as well. Still, for us, the information is important and topical.
“The GDP report shows that the economy went into negative growth of -6.10% in the second quarter but that the aggregate performance for half the year 2020 is -2.1%. This performance of -6.10% is a good performance in the sense that it is better than what we have projected second-quarter performance to be at -7.2%.
“This performance also is a good performance because it outperformed the projections that had been done by the Brentwood institutions. But it also outperformed very developed economies of the world and also economies that are comparable to us.
“We also reported to council that even though out of the 46 sectors of the economy, 30 of these sectors showed negative growth, but there were still some sectors that were growing on the positive territory.
“These sectors include agriculture as well as financial services and the ICT services. This is actually showing that even during the COVID era, there were still some sectors that stood firm and indeed were growing.
“The inflation was also reported to be moving up gradually, capital importation did not dry up despite the lockdowns and the difficulties all countries experienced. But this is reflected by the significant decline in capital importation into the country.
“Exchange rate has moved up from $326 at the beginning of the quarter to $367. Again this is reflecting some of the policies that the government had to take to ensure that the economy remains in a stable condition.
“In addition to the roll-out of the Economic Sustainability Plan, which had seen us starting to implement major public works across the country, to ensure that people are employed or kept in jobs, this ESP improve support for small businesses including payroll support so that people are not finding themselves unemployed or small businesses are not closing down.
“Other interventions included intervention funds for small, medium enterprises to be able to borrow, intervention funds for the health sector, intervention funds for infrastructure.
“All of these are designed to ensure continuous economic activities help to stabilize the economy. We are lucky that these things were rolled out early reducing the impact of the negative growth.”