ANTI GRAFT WAR: CSO STAKEHOLDERS BACK POCA, MLA …INSIST ON FULL AUTONOMY FOR NFIC

ANTI GRAFT WAR:
CSO STAKEHOLDERS BACK POCA, MLA
…INSIST ON FULL AUTONOMY FOR NFIC
Destiny Ugorji
As efforts to strengthen Nigeria's legal framework against corruption gathers momentum, Civil Society Organisations in Nigeria have thrown their weight behind the Proceeds of Crime (POCA) and Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) Bills being considered by the present National Assembly.

In a 14-page Communique, issued after a Civil Society Roundtable organized by the Media Initiative against Injustice, Violence and Corruption-MIIVOC, in Abuja, the activists expressed confidence that the POCA and MLA bills are necessary legislations that will enhance the country's anti-graft war.

The Communique, signed by the Chairman, Okechukwu Nwanguma of Network on Police Reforms (NOPRIN) and Secretary, Debo Adeniran of the Coalition against Corrupt leaders (CACOL) reviewed the recently passed Nigeria Financial Intelligence Center-NFIC Bill and described it as a step in the right direction.

The activists reiterated their preference for a truly independent Nigeria Financial Intelligence Center-NFIC for Nigeria and warned that it will resist any attempt to hijack the NFIC about being created.

They commended the National Assembly for passing the NFIC Bill and urged it to make haste to pass the Proceeds of Crime and Mutual Legal Assistance Bills making steady progress at the National Assembly.

They also commended the President Jonathan-led government for his commitment to the passage of the Bills and urged the President to make haste to sign the NFIC Bill into law in the interest of the country's anti graft, anti-money laundering and counter terrorism war.

“Civil Society Stakeholders from all parts of Nigeria assembled at the Country's Capital, Abuja, to review the state of anti-corruption campaign in Nigeria. “

“Stakeholders commended the present National Assembly for the passage of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Center (NFIC) Bill and urged the lawmakers to hasten to pass other related and complimentary anti-corruption Bills- the Proceeds of Crime (POCA) and Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) Bills. Stakeholders however urged the President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to give speedy assent to the NFIC Bill, in order allow the Center take off immediately.”

“Stakeholders critically reviewed the recently-passed NFIC bill and reiterated that the bill is a step in the right direction in the anti-money laundering, anti-corruption and anti-terrorism campaign in Nigeria.”

“Stakeholders reiterated confidence in the administrative type-FIU, which Nigeria opted for and threw their weight behind its being domiciled at the Central Bank of Nigeria, as passed by the National Assembly.”

“Stakeholders, recognizing the importance of the POCA and MLA bills, but reiterated the need for the autonomy and independence of the NFIC and warned that any attempt to hijack the Center or to write regulations for it in order to constrain or hamstring its leadership, shall be resisted.”

“Stakeholders insist on having credible persons appointed into positions of leadership of the Center.”

“Stakeholders also insist that only tested, trusted, experienced and incorruptible persons should be appointed into the leadership of the NFIC.”

The stakeholders expressed dissatisfaction with the management of recovered stolen wealth and other proceeds of crime by anti corruption agencies and reiterated their commitment to ensuring that the country's recovered stolen wealth are rechanneled into the public treasury for public good rather than being re-looted by the looting cabal in the country.

Earlier in his remarks, Convener of the Roundtable and Executive Director, Media Initiative against Injustice, Violence and Corruption, Walter Duru urged Civil Society stakeholders to redouble their efforts in the war against corruption in Nigeria.

He described the NFIC, POCA and MLA Bills as necessary legislations that will enhance the country's anti-graft war.

He however warned against any attempt to hijack the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Center, even as he made a strong case for transparency in the selection of persons to manage the affairs of the Center.

He explained that the Roundtable was designed to review the state of anti-corruption campaign in Nigeria, pledging MIIVOC's readiness to make the consultative meeting regular.

Below is a full text of the Communique:
A COMMUNIQUE ISSUED AT THE END OF A TWO-DAY CIVIL SOCIETY STAKEHOLDERS' ROUNDTABLE ON ANTI-CORRUPTION LEGISLATIONS IN NIGERIA ORGANISED BY MEDIA INITIATIVE AGAINST INJUSTICE, VIOLENCE AND CORRUPTION (MIIVOC) HELD AT THE BOLTON WHITE HOTEL, ABUJA, ON 20 - 21 OCTOBER, 2014.

Civil Society Stakeholders from all parts of Nigeria assembled at the Country's Capital, Abuja, to review the state of anti-corruption campaign in Nigeria.

Stakeholders deliberated extensively on critical issues of national importance and made proposals on the way forward. Stakeholders further tried to give direction to civil society activists in Nigeria, by setting the agenda for effective third Sector engagement aimed at bringing about meaningful development in Nigeria by entrenching transparency in the system.

At the end of deliberations, participants arrived at the following:

1. Stakeholders commended the present National Assembly for the passage of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Center (NFIC) Bill and urged the lawmakers to hasten to pass other related and complimentary anti-corruption Bills- the Proceeds of Crime (POCA) and Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) Bills. Stakeholders however urged the President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to give speedy assent to the NFIC Bill, in order allow the Center take off immediately.

2. Stakeholders critically reviewed the recently-passed NFIC bill and reiterated that the bill is a step in the right direction in the anti-money laundering, anti-corruption and anti-terrorism campaign in Nigeria.

3. Stakeholders reiterated confidence in the administrative type-FIU, which Nigeria opted for and threw their weight behind its being domiciled at the Central Bank of Nigeria, as passed by the National Assembly.

4. Stakeholders, recognizing the importance of the POCA and MLA bills, but reiterated the need for the autonomy and independence of the NFIC and warned that any attempt to hijack the Center or to write regulations for it in order to constrain or hamstring its leadership, shall be resisted.

5. Stakeholders insist on having credible persons appointed into positions of leadership of the Center.

6. Stakeholders also insist that only tested, trusted, experienced and incorruptible persons should be appointed into the leadership of the NFIC.

7. Participants also strongly recommend that, in order to guarantee the independence and efficiency of the centre, the appointment of the DG should follow a transparent and democratic procedure. The procedure must allow for public input including through public hearings. The DG should enjoy security of tenure and should only be removed on the grounds of specified offences under the law.

8. Stakeholders called for advertising of the office of the DG of the Centre so that people who believe that they are qualified can apply, screened and shortlisted for consideration by the president.

9. The composition of the leadership must be drawn from qualified and credible individuals, and shall include civil society representatives.

10. Stakeholders reiterate their commitment to regular consultations in the effort to address the country's major challenges, especially, the menaces of corruption and terrorism.

11. Stakeholders expressed dissatisfaction with the management of recovered stolen wealth and other proceeds of crime by anti corruption agencies, particularly, the EFCC, ICPC, NDLEA and the Nigeria Police.

12. Stakeholders unanimously endorsed the Proceeds of Crime (POCA) and Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) Bills and urged the National Assembly to fast-track the legislative process of passing them. Part of the highlights of the meeting was a review of the bills and making of key observations that could make them better, in readiness for Public Hearings on them.

13. Stakeholders expressed dissatisfaction with the use of the repatriated funds from Switzerland and other countries, and called for transparency in the process of repatriation and use of stolen funds both within and outside Nigeria.

14. Stakeholders reviewed civil society campaign on Nigeria's stolen wealth and reiterated their commitment to ensuring that the country's recovered stolen wealth are rechanneled into the public treasury for public good rather than being re-looted by the looting cabal in the country.

Signed:
1. Okechukwu Nwanguma (NOPRIN); Chairman, Communiqué Drafting Committee

2. Debo Adeniran (CACOL); Secretary, Communiqué Drafting Communiqué

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