President Muhammadu Buhari has urged the National Assembly to speedily consider and pass the Proceeds of Crimes Bill pending before it.
He made the call on Tuesday, when he received the report of the three-man Presidential committee set up to audit recovered funds.
According to the President, the provisions of the bill are crucial to effectively recovering and managing the stolen assets of the country.
President Buhari said “Once the Bill is passed and assented, many of the challenges facing our asset recovery and management practice will be adequately taken care of as the Bill addresses most of the challenges facing effective asset recovery and management in Nigeria.
“However, a key tool that will revolutionise our asset recovery and management architecture is the Proceeds of Crimes Bill which is currently awaiting passage by the National Assembly.
“I therefore encourage the National Assembly to take necessary steps to pass the Bill.”
On the committee, Buhari said: “As a result of gaps identified in the asset recovery process and in order to foster greater accountability and transparency; when I inaugurated the Committee in November 2017, I emphasised the resolve of this administration to pursue a strong anti-corruption policy and to trace and recover stolen assets using all legal and diplomatic resources at our disposal.
“I also directed the agencies involved to submit detailed reports of all their recovered assets by March 2017. I must say that today’s event which symbolizes the successful completion of the onerous task given to this committee is another milestone in the fight against corruption; a project that is very crucial to our developing democratic governance.”
The Nigerian leader said corruption constitutes a threat to the well-being, national security, and economy of Nigeria.
“I have made it clear that this government will not allow the wanton diversion and embezzlement of public funds into private pockets. Thus, we intend to continue taking all necessary measures to deprive looters of public assets of the fruits of their crimes.
“It is in keeping with the Anti-corruption Policy of this Government, and in line with global best practices that this Committee was set-up to review our asset recovery and management practices in order to evolve a proper management, transparency and accountability culture in the management of recovered assets.
“Given our history of impunity, much of Nigeria’s wealth has historically been squandered or stolen; leaving us with inadequate infrastructure for our growing population and economy. Asset Recovery is thus one of the essential tools for fighting corruption and we must therefore take issues of managing such recovered assets very seriously,” he said.
The President said that the proceeds of the recovered assets would be utilized optimally to address the economic and social problems in the country.
According to him, loopholes for stealing public funds must be blocked.
He said the findings and recommendations of the Committee would be carefully examined and given due consideration with a view to implementing the recommendations.
“Our asset recovery and management system will in future be transparently, effectively and efficiently managed, and we will set-out a fresh template of public accountability in the country.” he said.
President Buhari assured that his administration would remain committed to its promises.
“Until Nigeria triumphs over the evil of corruption, attain a prosperous economic status and surmounts all her security challenges.” he said
The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami gave the breakdown and total amount of assets recovered within the period under consideration.
He said “N3.8 million, $378 million US dollars 27,800 pounds was equally recovered from public officials. In summary the recovered funds by the three-man committee is N769 billion cash within the period under review.” he said.
Malami disclosed that the Government recovered N13.8 billion from tax evaders in May 2018, and that within the same period, government paid N439.2 million to about 14 whistle blowers who gave specific information on tax evasion.
The Chairman of the Committee, Olufemi Lijadu thanked the President for the opportunity to serve the country.
Mr Lijadu said he hoped that the report would assist the government’s efforts to ensure that recovered assets are accounted for and managed in an accurate, transparent and logical manner.