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AGF, NASS clash over recovered loot

The Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami and the National Assembly are at loggerheads over the management of proceeds recovered by anti-graft agencies from those who looted the nation’s treasury.
The AGF said the recovered loots are deposited in a special account operated by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), but the lawmakers believe the fund “should be used to feed hungry Nigerians”, instead.
The Federal Government recently revealed that more agencies have joined the loot recovery drive. According to the AGF, the agencies include the Department of State Services (DSS), office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and the Nigeria Police Force (NPF).
Until recently, only the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the office of AGF were involved in the loot recovery drive.
Malami, who spoke, yesterday, in a programme monitored on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), however, failed to disclose a conservative figure already recovered by the federal government since May 29, 2015. “We’ve made some recoveries in the office of AGF. We have deposited the funds into a special account operated by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). The Police has made a sizeable recovery and deposits have been made into an account. The EFCC has made recoveries and same with DSS, ICPC, NSA, NAFDAC and others.
“These agencies are vested with certain powers to recover assets. You cannot get a conservative amount, exclusively, from the office of the AGF. I think the responsibility can be handled by the Ministry of Finance or office of the Auditor-General. There has been outright forfeiture and there are temporal forfeitures, too,” he said.  The AGF said what is lacking is a clear legal framework. He, however, said a committee is working on an anti-corruption strategy.
“As I speak, the framework has been circulated to agencies involved in anti-corruption war for review. We are working to ensure there is accountability and transparency in the management of recovered assets,” said Malami.
But Hon. Alhassan Doguwa, the Chief Whip in the House of Representatives, disagreed with the AGF. He said the current war against corruption is not built on the principles of the rule of law.
He said there is no legislation that currently backs the management of recovered assets or whistle blowing in the country. Doguwa recalled that in 2015, the National Assembly passed a bill on asset management, which was not signed into the law by the presidency.
He said it was wrong for the aforementioned agencies to keep proceeds from recovered loots, since there is no constitutional provision for that.
“The National Assembly is an institution; we’re in support of the fight against corruption. Democracy must be guided by rules. These rules come by way of legislation.
“If we must succeed in the fight against corruption, we need to set a holistic legal framework. I want to say, clearly, that we have to provide a legal framework. It has to come from the National Assembly. 
“I do not see any reason why these agencies should continue to keep these loots when there is hunger in Nigeria. This is wrong. There is even no law which supports these agencies to keep the funds. The funds should be used to feed Nigerians,” Doguwa said.
The lawmaker said the National Assembly has done its own part by passing a law to coordinate recovered loots.
“We passed a law, but the executive refused to assent to it. The blame should go to them. We are now faced with a fresh law because the executive refused to assent to the first one we sent to it. But we will give an expeditious passage to the new law. Doguwa, who confirmed that the National Assembly had received the Assets Recovery Management Bill, said there were other private bills on the same issue.
“We’re taking our time to harmonise everything in order not to pass a law that will be conflicting. We need a legal framework. What is lacking in the polity, in the fight against corruption, is not just the absence of an agency that coordinates the whole thing; the grand fight against corruption cannot be achieved by a strategy alone. It must be backed by a legislation.
“The whistle blowing bill is not even accommodated in our laws. If you want to blow a whistle, where do you go to? Is it the Police, DSS or the AGF’s office? We need time to go through all the submissions made by the executive,” Doguwa explained.

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