Senate considers bill on tough punishments for corrupt officials, terrorism

The Senate on Wednesday passed for second reading two bills seeking to facilitate swift prosecution of public officers involved in money laundering and terrorism financing in Nigeria.

The proposed legislation seeks to provide the needed framework for the prosecution of public servants with unexplained wealth.

The bills are Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Bill, 2021 and Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) (Repeal & Re-enactment) Bill, 2021.

They were sponsored by Senators Suleiman Umar (APC, Kwara North) and Suleiman Kwari (APC, Kaduna North).

Speaking on his bill, Umar explained that the legislation seeks to repeal the extant Act and enact the Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Act, 2021.

He said it would provide a more comprehensive legal and institutional framework for the prevention and prohibition of money laundering in Nigeria.

He said the bill took into consideration the changing patterns and manifestation of money laundering as an offence.

The lawmaker said it also included investment or funds transfer made or obtained fraudulently into legitimate businesses to make the illicit funds difficult to trace.

He added that the bill, when enacted, would provide the framework for the prosecution of public servants with unexplained wealth.

Umar said, “Many public servants who are entrusted with managing public funds for the benefit of the larger society are often accused of creating phantom companies.”

He noted that defects and inadequacies of previous legislations on money laundering led to a series of legislative reforms which culminated in the enactment of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011.

He said the bill sought to make provisions for a comprehensive and effective anti-money laundering legislation, taking into consideration the changing patterns and techniques now being employed by money launderers in today’s global village driven by technological advancement.

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Contributing, Senator Smart Adeyemi (APC, Kogi West), demanded the exposure of all politicians with foreign accounts.

Adeyemi said, “There is no doubt that billions of dollars and pounds have been syphoned abroad from our system to foreign nations especially by those who have held political office in times past.

“We must look at how we can enlarge the net of exposing and arresting those who have syphoned money out of this country.

“In essence, this bill must take into consideration public office holders and their families who have property abroad to give account of how they acquired those property.”

A former deputy president of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, criticised the bill sponsored by Kwari, which sought to establish the Bureau for Money Laundering Control to be domiciled in the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, being managed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

Ekweremadu said, “We need to be sure that we are not over designating, because some of the issues raised are the things that are within the powers of EFCC.

“So, if we go further to provide probably a chief executive for that special unit, then we are going to have problems between the executive chairman of EFCC and the unit under him.”

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Army, Ali Ndume (APC- Borno) said civil servants were the most corrupt contrary to popular opinion indicting elected politicians.

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