A bill that allows for the prosecution of Nigerians involved in criminal cases, not minding if they are outside or within the country, has been signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Buhari’s signing of Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill, 2019 into law, is an apparent next level step in the fight against graft in the country.
With the bill, offenders can now be tried and punished both at home and in countries where mutual support relationship with Nigeria exists.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, disclosed this in Abuja on Friday.
The new law further implies that offenders, who run away to foreign lands in order not to be prosecuted and stolen assets recovered from them, can be repatriated.
With the law, Nigeria also has as duty to reciprocate the gesture when it is needed to those countries in the prosecution of their own cases.
According to Enang, other countries could also make available information to Nigeria, which the Attorney General of the Federation could use to pursue such prosecutions.
Meanwhile, Enang said that the Act did not cover offences that were political in nature.
“It is intended to ensure that where there is a property that is subject of crime or there are crimes committed outside Nigeria or within Nigeria and the person leaves Nigeria; the provisions of the Act authorises the Attorney-General of the Federation, which is the designated authority in Nigeria, to pursue and use every means to prosecute the offence within and outside Nigeria.
“This Act does not apply to offences which are of political nature and it doesn’t apply to offences which relate to the military profession or offences which are not regarded as offences in the laws of Nigeria but which may be offence in the laws of other countries.
“It also enables us, Nigeria, to trace the proceeds of crime to restrain, constrain and in other matter, ensure that the proceeds of crime within or outside Nigeria is not disposed of on the basis of reciprocity.
“That is, the country that has the same obligations as Nigeria, we will give them assistance and they will give us the same assistance in their own countries.
“So, the fact that an offence was committed here and the person has left Nigeria, the laws of Nigeria will still pursue you; under this law, you will still be pursued and those countries you are, are obliged to give us assistance to bring you back; in getting evidence and in even getting witnesses in terms of jurisdiction to testify in those matters,” Enang said.
Noting that Nigeria is already in mutual assistance relationship with a number of countries he did not mention their names.
Enang added, “It is mutual legal assistance and those countries are designated.
“There are countries that we have that obligation with and already, there is the Interpol. The provisions of this law do not override the activities of the Interpol. If Interpol could do that, this is deepening; it is not just for arrest—trial, assistance in trial; assistance in evidence; assistance in arrest; assistance in even sending documents relating to it.”
He further hinted that pending bills passed by the 8th National Assembly up to the time it was still in session till June 6 “will still be forwarded to and assented by Mr. President as the Clerk to the National Assembly transmits them.”
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