A new anti-corruption agency known as Proceeds of Crime Recovery and Management Agency (PCRMA) has emerged in Nigeria.
The Federal Executive Council (FEC), presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, gave approval to the formation of the agency yesterday, September 17, at a virtual session at the presidential villa, Abuja. A bill for the establishment of the agency is to be transmitted to the National Assembly.
Speaking to news men after the meeting, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, said that the agency is necessary to mange assets that constitute proceeds of crimes.
“The Federal Ministry of Justice presented to Council a memo today. The Council memo is about a Bill which will seeks the approval of the Council to transmit to the National Assembly for passage. It is 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, EFCC, and ICPC.
“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-head 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 overtime a kind of arrangement that is not uniform and consistent.”
According to him, the new law seeks to move the fight against corruption to the next level, adding: “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 assests that are recovered arising from crimes that are indeed vested in the federal government, you have a one-stop arrangenet where you can have an information. As it is for example, the Federal Ministry of Justice is only in a position to account and giving 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 federal government is not in a position to have a wholistic appreciation.
“So, by the bill that is now presented for the consideration of the council, we’ll have a law that establishes an agency, and secondly, an agency.
“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 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 a proceeds of crime easy through the sanctioning of non-conviction based forfeiture among others.”
The minister said that the new agency has nothing to do with his personal encounter with the suspended Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, saying that it had been long in planning.
“Let me take you through the history lane as far as the proceeds of crime bill is 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 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.“
On the controversy surrounding the new gazette he issued, which has been seen as an attempt to weaken the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), he said: “The first question has to do with rules of professional conduct with particular reference to a gazet in contention. My response is simple, that the matter is being interrogated and I will make statement at the appropriate time and I will say no more as far as that issue is concerned.”