Determined to stem the tide of corruption by public office holders, the Senate yesterday passed a Bill, seeking to strengthen anti-money laundering law in the country, through its second reading.

The senators, who lamented the unnecessary display of opulence in the midst of abject poverty, traced the development to the absence of strict anti-money laundering enactment.

As contributions to the debate commenced, the controversial marriage of Senator Ahmad Sani Yerima to the Egyptian minor surfaced again with the lawmakers attributing the action of the former Zamfara State governor to the lose nature of the existing anti-money laundering law.

The senators wondered how it would have been possible for a senator to pay as much as $100,000 as dowry for a minor if not for an ineffective anti-money laundering that had made it possible for a few to amass wealth to the detriment of poverty stricken people.

Leading the debate on the Bill, Senate Leader, Teslim Folarin, said the new Bill, when passed into law, would effectively 'prohibit the laundering of the proceeds of a crime or an illegal act.'

He said the Bill has become inevitable because of 'the inherent deficiencies and weaknesses in the existing law. There are ambiguities in the definition of money laundering and non designation of the 20 serious offences recognized by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).'

Folarin said the proposed law 'makes provisions for appropriate penalties and expands the scope of supervisory and regulatory authorities so as to address the challenges faced in the implementation of the anti-money laundering regime in Nigeria.'

The Bill, which was sponsored to repeal the anti-money laundering act of 2004, would help in the anti-corruption fight more than ever, according to Senator Folarin, because the old law does not provide for adequate punishment for money launderers, saying 'sanctions provided were not proportionate and dissuasive enough to serve as a disincentive to criminal conducts (financial crimes).

'There is, therefore, the need for these penalties to be reviewed to discourage the commission of financial crimes,' he submitted. In his debate, Senator Smart Adeyemi (Kogi) accused the banks of being guilty in the festering money laundering activities in the country because they open secret account for these officials.

Comically he said: 'This is why some people can afford to pay N15 million as dowry for a minor, because they have more than enough, if there is effective anti-money laundering, that can't happen.' Senator Ahmed Makarfi also made allusion to the fact that the lose anti-money laundering law gave room for the payment of such a huge dowry in a modern society.