Showing posts with label asset. Show all posts
Showing posts with label asset. Show all posts

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Nigeria: Where Are the Seized Assets?

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission should account for, and dispose of seized assets
The House of Representatives last week directed its Committee on Drugs, Narcotics and Financial Crimes to initiate a probe of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) with a view to accounting for all the assets the commission has seized from suspects it investigated since its inception in 2004.

The decision of the House followed a motion sponsored by Hon. Toby Okechukwu and 15 others who expressed the need for proper management of the seized assets. Okechukwu told the House that the EFCC had between 2004 and 2010 confiscated over 200 mansions through 46 forfeiture by court orders. The seized items include landed property, business concerns, billions of Naira in bank accounts, shares in blue chip companies, exotic vehicles, fuel stations, hotels, warehouses, shopping malls, schools, bakeries, estates, telecommunication companies, and radio stations, in and outside Nigeria.

The House move is indeed a welcome development in view of the unusual secrecy that has enveloped seized assets of accused and convicted persons in custody of the EFCC from its inception to date. In the United States of America where "confiscation" or "forfeiture" of assets was first adopted as part of the government's war against drug barons, property and bank accounts of suspected narcotics lords can be frozen or seized without a court judgment. All that was required is a "reasonable ground" to prove that the assets in question are indeed traceable to the drug baron. In fact this method of fighting crime has become popular in many countries including Britain, Italy and South Africa.

That explains why when the EFCC adopted the asset seizure at its inception about a decade ago it was hailed as one sure way of fighting sleaze. Consequently the commission has over the years seized countless number of real estate property, vehicles as well as physical cash. Unfortunately in typical Nigeria fashion, after the initial public show, nothing more is heard of the confiscated assets.

Whether under its pioneer Chairman Mallam Nuhu Ribadu or his successor, Mrs. Farida Waziri, the EFCC is known to have seized huge amount of assets from politicians, drug barons, bank chief executives and other suspects and convicts over the years. But the commission has so far failed to account for the whereabouts of these confiscated assets. And as presently alleged on the floor of the House, over $170 million proceeds from seized assets was allegedly transferred to an unidentified account, while 200 mansions, countless landed properties and exotic cars were left to rot away or vandalised. According to House Speaker Aminu Tambuwal "these landed property, monies, and business concerns were estimated to be worth in excess of two trillion Naira."

It is therefore only proper that the EFCC should be held to account for the properties it had confiscated from all the people it had investigated from its inception to date. There is also the urgent need to locate the whereabouts of the $170 million allegedly transferred to an unnamed account after it had been traced to the office of the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF).

Unfortunately, the two individuals who at one time or the other headed the anti-corruption agency failed to honour the House Committee's invitation to appear before it and help with the search for the confiscated assets. While we consider that to be rather unfortunate, the House should not despair in its determined efforts to ensure that the seized assets were accounted for by the EFCC.

Such assets were meant to be auctioned in a transparent bid and the proceeds deposited with the Central Bank or the money returned to the government agency or private organisation from where it was looted. For an organisation set up to fight corruption, EFCC should be transparent in its dealings