Last week, the House of Representatives suddenly announced a return to sit just on Wednesday, to attend to some critical bills, which included that of the terrorism financing prohibition, as well as money laundering prohibition bills. JOSHUA EGBODO reviews the issues involved
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A patriotic zeal on Reps’ part?
The House which went on break with the hope to resume from the Easter break on April 26, 2022 was to curiously postpone same indefinitely. While debates were on the decision, with many associating same to the ongoing political tempo in the country, as members scamper for funds to procure their respective party’s expression of interest and nomination forms, as well as battle to return, the House in another surprising move announced that it will reconvene last Wednesday to consider some President Muhammadu Buhari’s critical bills.
The House said the decision was its own role in the ongoing battle against corruption, money laundering and to strengthen the fight against terrorism, and bring all in tandem with international best practices.
The legislative interventions
As members of the House, though not a good number was in attendance, started the day with a closed door session.
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They were to later adopt the following legislative instruments, and fully passed same following suspension of certain relevant rules; “A Bill for an Act to Repeal the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011 and Terrorism (Prevention) (Amendment) Act, 2013, and Enact the Terrorism (Prohibition and Prevention) Bill, 2022.
“A Bill for an Act to Repeal the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) and Enact the Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Bill, 2022 to provide comprehensive legal and institutional framework for the prevention and prohibition of money laundering in Nigeria, establish the Special Control Unit under the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC); and for Related Matters, and A Bill for an Act to Provide Framework for the Support, Management and Protection of Witnesses Who Provide Information, Evidence or any other Assistance to Law Enforcement Agencies during Inquiries, Investigations or Prosecution; and for Related Matters”.
Also on the list that day was “A Bill for an Act to Repeal the Public Complaints Commission Act, Cap. P37, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and Enact the Public Complaints Commission Bill, 2022 for Establishment of the Public Complaints Commission with wider Powers to Inquire into Complaints by Members of Public concerning the Administrative actions of any Public Authority and Companies or their Officials and provide Legal Framework for making Public Interest; and for Related Matters”.
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In justifying the necessity of the bills, Chief Whip, Hon. Tahir Monguno who stood in for the Majority Leader, Alhassan Ado Doguwa, explained that the Anti-terrorism bill provides for an effective, unified and comprehensive legal, regulatory and institutional framework for the detection, prevention, prohibition, prosecution and punishment of acts of terrorism, terrorism financing, proliferation and financing of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the country.
Also on the Money Laundering Act amendment bill, he said the provisions makes it mandatory for banks and other financial institutions to report in writing to the Special Control Unit Against Money Laundering under the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, any single transaction or lodgment in excess of N5 million for an individual, and N10 million in the case of a corporate body. “It provides in Section 11(3) that any financial institution or designated non-financial business and profession that contravenes the provisions of this section commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of not less than N250,000 and not more than N1 million for each day the contravention continues”, he noted.
He explained that the bill further prohibits the opening of anonymous accounts, money in fictitious names and shell banks, as well, spelt out punishments for acts in contravention of the provisions.
He said the Witness Protection bill seeks to ensure effective and efficient administration of justice in criminal and related proceedings is not prejudiced by the unwillingness of witnesses to give evidence for fear of violence, serious injury, death or for such other reasons.
Briefing journalists at the end of the session, the spokesman of the House, Hon. Ben Kalu said the proposed legislation would help Nigeria fight both terrorism and corruption.
“As you know also another problem we have is the issue of corruption and money laundry happens to be one of the elements of the pie used to affect corruption. The law needed a review. So today a bill for an Act to repeal the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011 is amended to enact the Money laundering prevention and Prohibition Bill 2022 to provide comprehensive legal and institution framework for the prevention and prohibition of money laundering in Nigeria.
“It establishes a special control unit under the EFCC and for related matters was also one of the ones we looked at today. With it the EFCC would be better equipped in handling issues concerning money laundering. This law which we handled today would fill up the gaps that had hitherto existed in the 2011 Act. It is a better law that we have put together.
“As you know the Public Complaints Commission before now had not been in the right teeth to bite. They have been seen not to be so instrumental in nation building but what we created today has given them the impetus to do better than they have done before now. So we wait for a better performance from PCC because we have energised them the more.
“The EFCC again has been given more powers to that effect. This is to sanitise the space especially as it concerns corruption. This is to show Nigerians and the world that this government is committed to fighting corruption by laying this framework upon which we can build,” Kalu stated.
But why the late transmission?
As the House, and by extension the Senate were all set and winding down activities before the Easter break, at a point which also being expected and closely following was that of the Eid-el-Fitr, President Buhari transmitted the request seeking passage of the concerned bills.
In a letter dated April 12, 2022 conveying the bills and addressed to Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, the President explained that the request was pursuant to the provisions of Section 58(2) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, pointing out that the deficiencies in Nigeria’s Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism regime (AML/CFT), made it imperative for the passage of the bills being transmitted.
“During the recent Mutual Evaluation carried out by the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GABA) there were observed deficiencies in Nigeria’s Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism regime (AML/CFT). Following the evaluation, the Ministry of Justice and other relevant stakeholders reviewed the said deficiencies and drafted the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Bill, 2022 and Terrorism (Prevention) Bill, 2022″, he explained stating that there might be consequences if deadlines were not met promptly.
“Unless these deficiencies are addressed promptly by the National Assembly, in order to bring our legal regime in conformity with Financial Action Task Force, FATF recommendations, Nigeria will face the risk of a negative public statement blacklisting the country by FATF and this will lead to some negative consequences to our rapidly growing economy”, the President stated in the letter as reason presentation of the revised versions of the bills in question.
Pundits have, therefore, raised questions on why Mr President waited for such a close time to the parliament’s expected break to do the transmission, more that he personally pointed out the risk of not meeting the timeline as drawn out by international commitments the country had bought into.
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