Justice Minister urged to obey court order

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Abubakar Mallam
Abubakar Mallam

THE Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Mallam, has been urged to obey subsisting Court Order that scrapped the Asset Tracing and Management Regulations put in place by the minister.

The regulation was put in place in 2019 to checkmate anti-graft agencies in the management of recovered assets and proceeds of crime. However, few months ago, a Federal High Court declared the regulation null and void.

In a statement on Sunday, Nigeria’s leading anti-corruption group, Human and Environmental Development Agenda, HEDA Resource Centre, said the minister of justice has the legal obligation to scrap the regulation. It said the rule undermines optimum performance of key anti-corruption institutions, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses Commission, ICPC.

The statement signed by the group’s Chairman, Olanrewaju Suraju, asked the minister of justice to set aside the rule.

HEDA said recent judgement of a Federal High Court confirmed public fears that the regulation would not promote transparency in Nigeria. The learned Judge had said “In my view, these provisions are clear as to the powers of the applicant, the EFCC to commence this action. Consequently, I consider and hold that paragraph 5 of the assets tracing and management regulations 2019 are good for being inconsistent with Section 17 (1) of the advance fee fraud and other fraud related offences”.

The Judge said relying on the asset tracing recovery and management regulations 2019 was wrong. He submitted that the EFCC is a distinct office from that of the Attorney General of the Federation. This action is therefore predicated on a faulty pedestal.

“We make bold to state that these Regulation trespasses into the scope of powers vested in National Assembly and amounts to disregarding the supremacy of the Ground Norm. The powers as stated in the Commencement Clause of the Regulations cannot override the powers vested in the LEAs and ACAs being Acts of the National Assembly.

“Assets Tracing, Recovery and Management Regulations, 2019 is merely a duplicity of laws and adds no solution, harmony or progress, but further rigidity and dilemma to the implementation of the functions of the LEAs and the ACAs by prescribing sanctions for non-compliance as seen in Section 14 of the Assets Tracing, Recovery and Management Regulations, 2019,” HEDA said.

It is trite law that the Act of the National Assembly supersedes any regulation by the executive. HEDA had in December 2019 demanded for the immediate cancelation and nullification of the Asset Tracing, Recovery and Management Regulations, 2019 within 14 days.

It said though the objective is to prescribe procedures for all Law Enforcement Agencies, LEAs, and Anti-Corruption Agencies, ACAs, to ensure effective coordination of the investigation of illegally acquired assets and proceeds of crime, but that in the past one year the regulation has proved to be counterproductive.

Suraju said the order was to aid tracing and attachment of assets and proceeds of crime, the seizure and disposal of assets and proceeds of crime, and the recovery of stolen assets but that abundance evidence shows that the motive has been defeated through parochial political manipulations adding that the EFCC and ICPC have enough laws to deal with the issues raised in the new regulation.

Suraju said “We hold the stance with respect to the Asset Tracing, Recovery and Management Regulations 2019 that it is overbearing and outreaching and will most certainly result in clashes between the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and the powers reposed in the LEAs and the ACAs.” He observed that the National Assembly enacted laws for the smooth operation of the LEAs and ACAs and that the regulation put in place by the Ministry of Justice creates duplicity of functions and portends a great danger to the independence of the anti-corruption commissions.

He said the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Act 2004 and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission. ICPC, Act 2000 made for the proper procedures for the custody of interim and final forfeiture and the custody of the forfeited properties.

Nov 2, 2020 @ 10:52 GMT

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