By Adedapo Adesanya
The federal government has launched a Central Database under the Asset Tracing, Recovery and Management Regulations (ARTM), 2019 and the Central Criminal Justice Information System (CCJIS) under the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) 2017 – 2011 to assist in the fight against corruption.
This was launched by the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, on Thursday in Abuja.
Mr Malami said the database will ensure uniformity of process, access and information feeding to deepen transparency and accountability in the management of recovered assets.
To ensure compliance, he said his office is developing legislation for the full implementation and operation of the CCJIS.
“We will work together to establish and re-enact transparency and accountability in governance and management of our resources which we have committed to do by way of strengthening International Cooperation of our membership of Open Government Partnership,” he said.
In his speech, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, represented by the Chairman, House Committee on Justice, Mrs Ugonna Ozurigbo, said the regulation on Asset Tracing, Recovery and proper management of proceeds of crime was signed on October 24, 2019, and took effect from November 1, 2019, replaced the proceeds of Crime Regulation of 2012.
The new regulation titled Asset Tracing, Recovery and Management Regulations 2019 empowers the AGF to take charge of the custody and management of all final forfeited assets, approval and appointment of asset managers and operating and maintaining a database for the records of all recovered assets within and outside Nigeria.
He said, the AGF’s office, under the new regulation, is also required to coordinate inter-agency investigations into recovery matters within and outside Nigeria from all law enforcement agencies whose law empowers them to undertake recoveries and maintaining a depository for all forfeiture orders issued by the Nigeria courts and courts outside Nigeria.
Asset Tracing, Recovery and Management, according to the Speaker, is a core value of good governance and its effective management will serve as a deterrent to would-be fraudulent minded individuals who may find themselves in public offices.
According to him, states resources must not be allowed to be stolen but if that happened by fraudulent individuals, efforts must be taken to trace the proceed, recover same and manage for the interest of the generality of the people.
“When the proceeds of crime are traced and recovered but again looted by government officials, I dare to say such act amounts to the crime of tertiary capacity and must be avoided.
“Assets not accounted for are assets lost; loss of assets undervalues the economic potential of a country and will negatively impact on the net worth of a country. Accordingly, Asset Tracing Recovery and Management is a panacea to rekindling of the value system of a nation,” the Speaker noted.
He disclosed that the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported that about $ 110 billion was being looted annually from the Nigerian treasury and that stolen money stashed in foreign accounts by corrupt Nigeria public office holders increased from $50 billion in 1999 to $170 billion in 2003.
While pointing out that the figure has increased over the years, he said it must not be allowed to continue.
Mr Gbajabiamila said asset tracing, recovery and management of central database will help in addressing asset repatriation to the country of origin through effective coordination of various anti-corruption bodies in the country.
The launch was witnessed by officials from government agencies including the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).
In his remark ICPC Chairman, Mr Bolaji Owasanoye said all anti-corruption agencies should be digitised and integrated for easy access.
This is coming a day after the FEC approved transmission of a bill titled Proceeds of Crime Recovery and Management Agency Bill, which will establish an agency that would see to proper documentation and management of recovered assets and thereby guarantee transparency and accountability.
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