The Senate has removed Buhari’s anti-graft bill that is a request for ‘coercive investigative measures’ and passed the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters between Nigeria and other Foreign States Bill.
The executive bill, which the government said is paramount to its anti-corruption crusade, seeks to eliminate territorial jurisdictional constraints in the prosecution of cross border crimes.
However in passing the proposal at Tuesday plenary, the Senate deleted Clause 39 of the anti-graft bill which proposed use of ‘coercive investigative measures’.
Passage of the bill comes weeks after the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), said President Muhammadu Buhari was not comfortable with the fact that the National Assembly was foot-dragging in passing executive bills that would assist his administration’s ongoing anti-corruption campaign.
This is the first anti-corruption executive bill, passed by the 8th Senate since its inauguration on June 9, 2015.
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Explaining the rationale for deleting Clause 39 of the anti-corruption bill at Tuesday plenary, Chairman Joint Committees on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters; Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes and Foreign Affairs, David Umaru (APC, Niger East) said retaining this could give rise to torture.
This, he said, is against the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
The deleted provision states that: “Where the Attorney-General receives a request from a foreign State for assistance in respect of a coercive investigative measure he may grant the request, if he is satisfied that the foreign State has jurisdiction over the criminal matter for which the request is sought.
“The Attorney-General may, in granting a request under subsection (1) of this section, require the conduct of a search; carrying out of a seizure; use of a device or investigative technique or procedure and performance of any other coercive act in Nigeria”.
The Senate passed the bill following the adoption of the report of its joint committees.
The bill is intended to effect the temporary transfer of persons in custody to assist in investigations or appear as witness, facilitate obtaining and preserving of computer data, and providing any other assistance that is not contrary to the law of the requesting state.
It seeks to facilitate the identification, tracing, freezing, restraining, recovery, forfeiture and confiscation of proceeds, property and other instrumentalities of crimes.
The bill is also designed to provide a legal framework that will strengthen the fight against corruption, terrorism, economic and financial crimes, money laundering and other related offences as well as facilitate the voluntary attendance of persons in the requesting state.
Umaru explained further that the scope of the bill has been widened from the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters in the Commonwealth (Enactment and Enforcement) Act 2004, to assume international dimensions in participation and laundering of the proceeds of crime.
“The globalisation and advancement in information and communication technology have made it imperative for a legislation of this nature to be put in place, in order to promote cooperation for the prosecution of cross border offenders and transnational organised crimes,” he noted.
Speaking after the passing of the bill, Senate President Bukola Saraki who presided over the session, said the passage of the bill will restore the confidence of foreign investors in doing business in Nigeria.