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Giving Legislative Impetus to Nigeria’s War Against Corruption

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Udora Orizu writes that Chairman of the Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes, Senator Suleiman Abdu Kwari, representing Kaduna North in the National Assembly has performed by far better than many are willing to give him credit for

Senator Suleiman Abdu Kwari is clearly one of the unsung heroes of the 9th Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. As Chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes, the Senator who represents Kaduna North in the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly, has most efficiently been coordinating the Legislative Anti-Corruption Strategy of the National Assembly and by extension enhancing the performances of the nation’s anti-corruption agencies.

On Senator Abdu Kwari’s able watch, huge anti-corruption legislative milestones have been recorded by the Senate in the last two and half years. These include: The bills on Witness Protection and Management, Money Laundering, Forfeited Asset Management Authority as well as the Whistle Blower or Public Interest Disclosure, which are all receiving expedited legislative attention.

Spurred on by the unobtrusively legislative activism of Senator Kwari, the country has since established the Nigerian Chapter of the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC) and through this body, the nation has commenced the review of the National Anti Corruption Strategy (NACS). Senator Suleiman Abdu Kwari is currently leading the processes of unbundling the Code of Conduct Bureau from the Code of Conduct Tribunal and others, in the on-going process of the alteration of the 1999 Constitution (as amended)

Also, under Senator Abdu Kwari’s Committee’s oversight, the nation’s anti-corruption agencies are being boosted and bolstered as the Senate and the National Assembly at large, is redefining the required framework to make the war against corruption in Nigeria much more robust and sustainable. Senator Kwari is in fact leading efforts to make the anti-corruption agencies as independent and assertive as possible, even while being accountable. To this end, the Senator has either sponsored or coordinated a number of bills seeking to amend the enabling legislations for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), The Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC) as well as the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) to grant these bodies requisite independence and funding in the discharge their mandates.

Through Senator Suleiman Abdu Kwari, the Administration of Criminal Justice Monitoring Committee (ACJMC) sponsored the Money Laundering (Prohibition and Prevention) Bill (MLB) in the all-important bid to take the fight against corruption, money laundering and terrorism financing to the next level with robust provisions expected to cure series of identifiable drafting defects in the extant legal regime in Nigeria. Led by Senator Kwari, the ACJMC and other criminal justice stakeholders reviewed the draft MLB in harmony with relevant laws and resolved that the extant Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Act (MLA), 2012 (as amended) should be repealed and re-enacted considering that the bill had gone through series of amendments in an attempt to meet international obligations.

By the estimation of critical stakeholder, the extant MLA hardly meets international standards, given that there is still high level of corruption and financial crimes in Nigeria due to identifiable lacuna in the Act. Nigeria is now addressing the deficiencies in the Anti-Money Laundering and Combating of Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) legal regime. It is the view of Senator Abdu Kwari that relevant stakeholders must keep striving to cure these deficiencies. In meeting Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recommendation and ensuring a hitch free admission into the membership of the FATF, the MLB will provide for an effective and comprehensive legal and institutional framework for the prevention, prohibition, detection, prosecution and punishment of money laundering and other related offences in Nigeria.

Essentially the MLB seeks to repeal the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) and to make adequate provisions to prohibit the laundering of proceed of criminal activities, expand the scope of money laundering offences, provide protection for employees of various institutions, bodies and professions who may discover money laundering, enhance customer due diligence, provide appropriate penalties and expand the scope of supervisory bodies while recognising the role of certain self-regulatory organisations to address the challenges faced in the implementation of a comprehensive anti-money laundering and terrorism financing regime in Nigeria.

The bill is proposing to repeal the extant law since the law could not meet FATF recommendation and further amendments will only worsen the problem. Upon the proposed repeal bill providing for an effective and comprehensive legal and operational framework for the prevention, prohibition, detection, prosecution and punishment of money laundering and terrorism-financing on one hand, it will further resolve the institutional issue of Special Control Unit against Money Laundering (SCUML) under the Federal Ministry of Trade and currently being managed by EFCC. It is pertinent to state that SCUML is not a creation of statute and unknown to Nigeria’s laws; a situation which has continued to hamper its functionality.

While the MLB on one hand seeks to introduce certain supervisory and enforcement measures including imposition of administrative penalties by supervisory authorities on financial institutions, designated non-financial business and profession, for breach of any requirement imposed by law, it will on the other hand, establish Bureau for Money Laundering Control which is to be domiciled in the NFIU instead of it being managed by EFCC. In this vein, the MLB would compliment the functions of the NFIU (as established by the NFIU Act) as the centre for financial intelligence in Nigeria.

Relatedly, the Proceed of Crimes (Recovery & Management) Agency Bill (POCA Bill), that Senator Abdu Kwari is championing, is generally regarded as the most important amongst the legal frameworks proposed to combat corruption and foster good governance in Nigeria.

The POCA Bill had gone through series of attempts as it struggles to come to light – the first of which was in 2007 when the Executive arm of the Federal Government of Nigeria failed to present the draft bill to the National Assembly.

There was further attempt in 2011 to present same bill with certain significant modifications but it did not succeed in getting the approval of the Federal Executive Council (FEC). In 2018, the National Assembly took the bold step to pass the bill but it could not receive the blessing of the FEC. Invariably, it did not get the requisite Presidential Assent.

The bill which had gone through different backlash from different Institutions of Government is now before the 9th Assembly, in fact at its concluding stage of legislative process after getting FEC approval.

The legislation was initially proposed to be separated into two bills, namely; Proceeds of Crime (Civil Forfeiture and Management) Bill, 2019 and Criminal Confiscation and Forfeiture of Proceeds of Crime Bill, 2019. However, upon the review by ACJMC in conjunction with Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs), FEC and other stakeholders, the initial proposed bills for non-conviction based and criminal confiscation were fused together to form a single bill in the way and manner the FEC has now approved it.

Before this proposition, proceeds of crime investigation and prosecution were scattered all over, and mostly in the hands of different and multiple Law Enforcement Agencies (LEA). Now, this bill seeks to establish a one-stop-shop arrangement by which all assets recovered arising from crimes are indeed vested in the Federal Government to engender transparency and accountability within the LEAs on one hand while building and enduring a sustainable foundation to combat corruption, money laundering and illicit movement of assets on the other hand.

The bill provides for legal and institutional frameworks to advance the combat of corruption in Nigeria to the next stage. It proposes to set robust standard procedure for LEAs such as Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices (and other related offences) Commission (ICPC), National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), etc. and the Police including Courts having criminal jurisdiction especially with respect to corruption matters while the latter postulates that the bill will establish an agency for its implementation.

In other words, the bill provides legal and institutional framework for the recovery and management of proceeds of crimes or benefits derived from unlawful activities, harmonizes and consolidates existing legislative provisions on the recovery of proceeds of crimes in Nigeria whereas establishing the Proceeds of Crimes (Recovery and Management) Agency (the Agency) for its implementation. Essentially, the bill empowers both the Agency and LEAs to administer the provisions of the bill while the Agency ensures conformity with the recovery and management functions.

The bill further makes provisions for the restraint, seizure, confiscation and forfeiture of properties derived from unlawful activities and any instrumentalities used or intended to be used in the commission of unlawful activities. Thus, the bill is reviewed to create a synergy and sustainable cohesion between the Agency, LEAs and relevant bodies in the bid to prevent friction, especially in the aspect of seizure, forfeiture and confiscation of proceeds of unlawful activities. On the other hand, the Agency will ensure conformity with the recovery and management functions as empowered by the bill.

Senator Kwari is offering quality representation to Constituents.
Having served in several facets of public administration in Kaduna State – Local Government Chairman, Deputy Chief of Staff to the State Governor, Member, House of Representatives, Commissioner for Finance and now Senator representing Kaduna North, Senator Seleiman Abdu Kwari has firm grasps of the issues in Kaduna State and the vision/mission of His Excellency, Mallam Nasir El Rufa’I, the Governor of Kaduna State. To this end, Senator Kwari has been offering the good people of Kaduna State quality representation in the National Assembly. His impact in his constituency and Kaduna State at large include in Education; Healthcare; Accessing potable water; Rural/Urban Road Network; Social Investment Schemes; Empowering Persons with Disability and wider economic development of his constituents and the State, at large

Senator Suleiman Abdu Kwari is not at all fazed by the challenges at the National Assembly. Indeed, he is all too poised and trained for these challenges. He is a Fellow, Chartered Institute of Administration and until his election into the Senate, the Commissioner of Finance, Kaduna State. He also served as a Federal Commissioner (Finance and Administration), Securities & Exchange Commission and Member of the House of Representatives (4th Assembly).

He was born on the 12th day of June 1962 in Sabon Gari Local Government Area of Kaduna State. He started his education at Army Primary School, Zaria and thereafter proceeded to the highly prestigious Commonwealth College of Commerce, Jos from 1975 to 1980 for his secondary education. He obtained a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in 1984 and also successfully completed his Masters Degree programme in Business Administration at the same University in 1998.

Driven by the zeal to give more to his community, he contested and won the 1991 Local Government Chairmanship Election to emerge as the first Executive Chairman of Sabon Gari Local Government Council. Following the successful completion of his tenure, he was appointed Assistant General Manager (Administration) at the Nigeria Reinsurance Corporation between 1995 and 2000. In recognition of his outstanding contribution to Kaduna State, he was appointed the Deputy Chief of Staff to the Governor in 2003.

Until his appointment in 2015 as the Commissioner of Finance, Kaduna State, he had since 2010, worked as a Financial and Administrative Consultant at Samsyleem Consult Ltd, Abuja.

Suleiman Abdu Kwari is also a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Economists of Nigeria (FICEN) and a Member of the Nigeria Institute of Management (MNIM) as well as a holder of a Professional Practicing License from the Chartered Institute of Administration.

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Spurred on by the unobtrusively legislative activism of Senator Kwari, the country has since established the Nigerian Chapter of the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC) and through this body, the nation has commenced the review of the National Anti Corruption Strategy (NACS). Senator Suleiman Abdu Kwari is currently leading the processes of unbundling the Code of Conduct Bureau from the Code of Conduct Tribunal and others, in the on-going process of the alteration of the 1999 Constitution (as amended)

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