President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption drive moved a notch higher yesterday. Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)’s agreement on recovery of assets and cash stashed away in UAE by Nigerians takes off next month.
Besides, the collaboration among heads of anti-corruption agencies in Commonwealth (Africa) countries will be stepped up as Nigeria hosts the 8th annual general meeting and conference for heads of anti-corruption agencies in Commonwealth Africa from today in Abuja.
Buhari is expected to open the conference, with the theme: “Partnering towards assets recovery and return”.
Yesterday in Abu Dhabi, officials of the UAE and Nigeria exchanged instruments of ratification on judicial agreements signed between both governments in 2016.
With yesterday’s exchange of instruments, the agreement will now take effect from June 13.
According to WAM Emirates news agency, the UAE and Nigeria signed the agreement regarding the apprehension of criminals, extraditing convicted persons, providing mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, as well as for legal and judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters.
The ceremony for exchanging the instruments of ratification took place between Ahmed Abdul Rahman Al Jarman, Assistant Minister for Human Rights and International Law at the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and Nigeria’s Ambassador to UAE Mohammed Dansanta Rimi, at the headquarters of the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
The UAE’s Director of the International Cooperation Department at the Ministry of Justice, Abdul Rahman Murad Al Balushi, witnessed the ceremony during which the June 13 take-off date was confirmed.
Nigeria on January 19, 2016, signed six agreements with the UAE following a state visit by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The pact includes Judicial Agreements on Extradition, Transfer of Sentenced Persons, Mutual Legal Assistance on Criminal Matters, and Mutual Legal Assistance on Criminal and Commercial Matters (the recovery and repatriation of stolen wealth).
The Federal Government had been collaborating with the UAE authorities on suspicious cash and assets allegedly owned by some Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs).
The agreements, which were signed by President Buhari are:
Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement.
Agreement on Trade Promotion and Protection
Judicial Agreements on Extradition
Transfer of Sentenced Persons
Mutual Legal Assistance on Criminal Matters
Mutual Legal Assistance on Criminal and Commercial Matters(recovery and repatriation of stolen wealth)
The Federal Government has been trying to attach some suspected assets allegedly owned by some Nigerians or traced to them in UAE.
The EFCC also has evidence of how some public office holders benefited from the London-Paris Club refund and how the cash was laundered in Dubai, UAE.
The financial intelligence sharing by the two countries has uncovered some cases involving ex-Minister of Petroleum Resources Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke and some of her business associates.
The assets allegedly identified with Diezani are marked as J5 Emirates Hills (30million Dirham) and E146 Emirates Hills valued at 44million Dirham.
Those allegedly traced to her assiociate Kola Aluko are: 4100 Le Reve Dubai Maria, Dubai; Unit 1402, PS 14th Floor located at Metro TECOM near Internet City Metro Station, Dubai; Unit 712, ES 7th Floor located at First Central, Off Sheikh Zayed, TECOM, Al-Barsha 3 Dubai and Unit 512, 5th Floor located at First Group Marina Hotels, Al-Seba Street, Plot 394-426, Dubai AE-AJ.
Sections 7 of 28 and 34 of the EFCC (Establishment Act) 2004 and Section 13(1) of the Federal High Court Act, 2004 mandate the agency to seize suspicious assets.
Section 7 says: “The commission has power to (a) cause any investigations to be conducted as to whether any person, corporate body or organization has committed any offence under this Act or other law relating to economic and financial crimes.
“(b) Cause investigations to be conducted into the properties of any person if it appears to the commission that the person’s lifestyle and extent of the properties are not justified by his source of income.”
Sections 28 and 34 of the EFCC (Establishment Act) 2004 and Section 13(1) of the Federal High Court Act, 2004 empower the anti-graft agency to invoke Interim Assets Forfeiture Clause.
“Section 28 of the EFCC Act reads: ‘Where a person is arrested for an offence under this Act, the Commission shall immediately trace and attach all the assets and properties of the person acquired as a result of such economic or financial crime and shall thereafter cause to be obtained an interim attachment order from the Court.’
Section 13 of the Federal High Court Act reads in part: “The Court may grant an injunction or appoint a receiver by an interlocutory order in all cases in which it appears to the Court to be just or convenient so to do.
(2) Any such order may be made either unconditionally or on such terms and conditions as the Court thinks just.”