President Muhammadu Buhari is soon to sign the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill which will bring collaborative efforts in criminal matters between Nigeria and other foreign states.
The Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Financial Crimes, Hon. Kayode Oladele, made the disclosure during in an interactive session with reporters yesterday.
The executive bill, which was presented to the National Assembly in 2016, was forwarded to the President for assent on Tuesday, May 21, 2019.
Oladele further stated that even though the bill was an executive bill, the National Assembly consulted very widely with relevant stakeholders to critically evaluate the provisions of the bill after which the National Assembly conducted a public hearing in order to collate the views of members of the general public before passing it.
It could be recalled that the Chairman of the Senate Joint Committee on Judiciary, Human and Legal Matters; Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes; and Foreign Affairs, Sen. David Umaru (APC: Niger), presented the Joint Committee Report to the Senate before the bill was passed by the Senate on May 30, 2017.
According to him, the bill sought to, among other things, facilitate voluntary attendance of persons in the requesting state; effect temporary transfer of persons in custody to assist in investigations or appear as a witness.
The bill also seeks to “identify, trace, freeze, restrain, recover, forfeit and confiscate proceeds, property and other instrumentalities of crime; obtain and preserve computer data; and render assistance not contrary to the law of the requesting state.”
One of the highlights of the bill is the removal of territorial jurisdictional constraints to the fight against corruption across the borders.
”The globalization 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 organized crimes,” Umaru said.
He also mentioned that the Senate had taken cognizance of the fact that there was no specific legislation in place to address the broad spectrum of criminal matters that require mutual assistance or international cooperation.
According to Hon. Oladele, the anti-corruption bill received support from critical stakeholders before it was unanimously passed by the National Assembly.
He said: “During the conduct of the public hearing, various stakeholders unanimously supported the passage of the bill by the National Assembly and this is because they all agreed that the new law would, inter alia, assist Nigeria in the repatriation of looted funds and other proceeds of crime stashed away in foreign countries.