A bill in the House of Representatives seeking to severely punish Nigerians who steal public funds is receiving support, with an anti-corruption group recommending that those who steal a billion naira and above be punished even further with life imprisonment.
President Muhammadu Buhari, who came to power in 2015 warning that if Nigeria does not kill corruption, corruption would kill Nigeria, met with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, on Monday.
Mr. Buhari has been fighting corruption tooth and nail but trials take years and accused criminals often exploit the weakness of the law to buy themselves time and freedom.
The proposed amendment is seeking to make things hard for those who steal and easy for those who investigate those who loot public money.
The Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, CACOL, in a statement on Monday sent to THE SIMON ATEBA NEWS welcomed and commended the steps being taken by the Nigerian House of Representatives (HOR) on four consolidated bills seeking to strengthen the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, as the fight against corruption surges on.
Mr. Debo Adeniran, who spoke on behalf of the Centre said, “It is indeed impressive to see to the HOR taking practical steps to disencumber the fight against corruption. We had always called for amendments to some of our laws which apparently are not restrictive enough to deter or debar people from engaging in corrupt practices.”
“Some of these laws actually pamper corrupt tendencies and encumber the progress of the anti-corruption drive leading to corruption criminals wriggling through the labyrinths of the judicial and enforcement systems to evade justice willfully.”
The bills before the House are seeking to strengthen the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, in combating economic and financial crimes.
They also seek to shield the agency from undue interference by the Presidency and for its financial autonomy.
Part of what is expected to from the amendments is that convicts of corruption crimes shall serve an imprisonment of a term not less than 20 years amd have their loots, accounts or investment forfeited to the government.
Mr. Adeniran who is the Chairman of CACOL said:
“At this period when the Senate has become a house of tragic comedy based on the pro-corruption character of the leadership and a large chunk of the membership of the Upper Chamber, it is indeed refreshing to see the HOR attempting to focus on matters worthy of attention than inanities.”
“We call for expeditious actions towards the enactment of the bills into law. We add that President Muhammadu Buhari must ensure that stolen funds so far recovered by the government are not looted back by the incurably corrupt elements that are clearly still lurking around in very powerful positions in the present government.”
“CACOL had consistently called for life imprisonment for convicts that stole any amount above 1 billion naira, and that such big thieves should be made to work diligently for their own upkeep while in prison via whatever skills they possessed previously or has been able to learn behind the bars. For us, 20 years maximum imprisonment is not enough, particularly for those corrupt elements who remained recalcitrant and impenitent during trials, those that consciously made the country to expend undue energy, resources and time before their conviction.”
“They should be used as objects to educate the young, the youth and all when they go on excursion to the prisons. Seeing former corrupt leaders in such situation will certainly serve to deter the potentially corrupt. And assets traced to such convicts should be deemed to be proceeds of corruption and confiscated by the Nigerian state,”
Mr. Adeniran commended the war against corruption thus far but added that recovered funds should not be stolen; rather they should be channelled back to the original projects or purposes for which they were meant.
“In cases where the original projects have been fixed, such funds should be put in Treasury Single Account (TSA) and used for other important needs of the nation. It would a double tragedy if recovered funds/loots end-up getting re-looted. The processes involved in the recovery must be made transparent and accountable.”
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