Concerned Nigerians and civil society organisations have called on President Muhammadu Buhari and the leadership of National Assembly to prioritize the enactment and implementation of relevant anti-corruption legislations, particularly before the National and awaiting presidential assent.
The five bills are: Proceed of Crime bill, 2017; Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters bill, 2016; Money Laundering (Prevention & Prohibition) bill, 2017; Public Interest Disclosure & Witness
Protection Bill, 2017 and Whistle Blowers Protection bill, 2016.
BusinessDay checks reveal that the Mutual Legal Assistance is an Executive bill which has been passed by the National Assembly but is awaiting President Buhari’s assent.
The stakeholders allege that President Buhari’s refusal to assent to the harmonised Proceed of Crime bill which was passed and transmitted by the National Assembly on assumption of office in 2015, constitute a major setback to the ongoing fight against corruption.
While giving update on the status of various anti-graft bills before the House, Kayode Oladele, Chairman, House Committee on Financial Crimes assured that the House will fast-track the passage of the bills before the end of 8th session of the National Assembly in June, 2019.
“I can tell you that section 14 of the Nigerian constitution is very clear on this, that the security and welfare of Nigerians shall be the primary responsibility of the government. So when talking about security and welfare, we cannot talk about both when we have corruption in place, because corruption is antithetic to the movement.
Definitely what you are doing is something that is very clear to everybody within and outside the government.
“I can also assure you that the five bills that you are talking about are receiving attention. You want us to pass these bills? Let me start with the Process of Crime bill. I will tell you the Proceed of Crime bill was introduced in the House of Reps by me so I sponsored it, and I worked with all the civil society organisations on this matter and also the Attorney General of the Federation before I sponsored the bill.
“I can tell you today authoritatively that the Process of Crime bill has been passed by the National Assembly. It has passed third reading, and we (House) don’t have anything to do with it again. We have sent it to the Senate for concurrence. Even though we have sent to the Senate, the Senate has passed it through the second reading and it’s before the Committee of Whole House.
“But because of urgency, because we have passed it, the Senate will have to concur leaving the Committee of the Whole House activities aside now. So it is awaiting concurrence by the Senate, and ones this is done, it would be sent and transmitted to the President for his assent. You all know that it is in place of Process of Crime bill that we have the Executive order.
“Once that is done definitely the Executive Order would be taken care of, because some people have been asking me questions on that, but as it were today, Process of Crime bill has been passed by the House, sent to the Senate for concurrence and that concurrence bill, will come as soon as before long so that the President can assent to it before the end of this 8th Assembly.
“On the issue of the Whistle Blowers bill, again the Whistle Blowers bill is a bill that I sponsored in the House of Reps, and I did not just sponsor it, we worked together. We had a stakeholders’ forum where we all agreed on the bill. I introduced the bill and it has passed second reading before the Committee on Financial Crimes and for public hearing.
“I can also assure you that; that would be done as soon as possible. I can also assure you that in one of our meetings that, this is a bill that is very important and dear to our heart. And we know that in order to get the legal breaking work to the issue of Whistle Blowers public policy, we need to passage law so as to give it legal backing and I would like to make it clear that we are working on that one too.
“The Mutual Legal Assistance is an Executive bill and has been passed by both the Senate and House of Representative and we have passed to the President for assent. So it is not as if it is just in the cooler without any action.
“The Money Laundering bill is receiving attention in my Committee and we have had a public hearing on it. Very soon the report of the public hearing would be presented to the Committee of the Whole house for consideration.
So we believe that these bills are receiving attention and are going to be passed and I know before the end of 8th assembly, the President would have to assent to some of these bills.
“I cannot say all, it depends on how it happens, because two of these bills are gone and we have three who are currently receiving very serious attention.
“We are seriously looking at it because we have a connection between the public interest disclosure and the Whistle Blowers bill. So we are trying to see how we can marry the two together and make it a single law. We are going to do this as soon as possible,” Oladele (APC-Ogun) assured.
On his part, Segun Odugbemi, who spoke on behalf of coalition of civil society organisations (CSOs) on Whistle Blowers, harped on the need for Executive and Legislative arms of government to prioritize the passage of the five bills in the national interest.
“we are here to demand from honorable members of both senate and House of Representatives, the immediate passage into laws the Whistle Blower Protection and other anti-corruption bills currently on the floor of the Green and Red Chambers.
“Most unequivocally, we are asking that the 8th Assembly should ensure that it does not round-off its sitting without the passage into law all spending anti-corruption bills.
“We believe that this call would not have come at a better time than now, when the constitutional four-year lifespan of the 8th National Assembly is gradually coming to an end. You know as well as we do that corruption is an enemy to socio-political and economic development of any country.
“Corruption reduces public revenue with direct consequences to healthcare delivery, education and other social infrastructure. Corruption does not only serve to fuel the flame of terrorism, it most
dangerously retards the wheel of peaceful co-existence among citizens.
“Giving the endemic nature of cankerworm, nations all over the world are more than before taking additional precautions against this modern-day decimator. This iw why the sign song of many Nigerians is the echoes on the need to tackle the menace of public and private corruption by any legal means,” he stressed.