Honourable Kayode Oladele is an international Humans Rights Lawyer and member of the House of Representatives, representing Imeko-Afon/Yewa North Federal Constituency of Ogun State in the House of Representatives. He is currently the Chairman of the House Committee on Financial Crimes, with oversight responsibility over the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).In this interesting interview Hon. Oladele speaks to The Metro lawyer on issues bordering on legislative participation in the fight against corruption, financial crimes, the whistleblowers law and law enforcement.
TML: What is your general assessment of legislative participation in the fight against corruption
HON. OLADELE: According to Professor Patrick Lumumba, Director-General, Kenyan Law School, in a paper presented at a workshop held in Abuja in 2016, entitled, ‘the role of legislature in the fight against corruption”, the first thing that we must do in the fight against corruption is that we must strengthen institutions. Institutions are at the very heart of the sustained fight against corruption. And therefore, what we must do is to create institutions that defy time. Those institutions must be institutions that are recognized by the law. If it is the EFCC it must be strengthened. He said that it is only institutions that defy time that will ensure that we succeed in the fight against corruption. The second thing that we must do, he said, is that the legislature must pass a set of laws which ensure that those who want to do things that are detrimental to the society are punished, and punished strictly in accordance with the law and they are not allowed to be unleashed to the unsuspecting public.
I cannot agree less with the learned Professor and it is in line with the maxim that law is an instrument of social change as well as the constitutional duty imposed on the National Assembly to make law for the good governance of the country that the House of Representatives, in order to strengthen the legal and normative framework underpinning the fight against corruption has made the fight against corruption one of its cardinal programs in its legislative agenda while the House has also introduced a number of bills aimed at building capacity of the anti-corruption agencies and strengthening the fight against corruption. The House appreciates the importance of financial intelligence in the fight against corruption and we are doing everything possible to put in place necessary measures that will accelerate the effective enactment of legal measures for combating corruption and financial crimes generally.
HON. OLADELE: The House Committee on Financial Crimes is one of the standing committees of the House of Representatives and it is saddled with oversight responsibilities over the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. The Committee Caries out oversight responsibilities over the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. The Committee also considers and approves the EFCC’s annual budget and receives the Commission’s audited annual reports while we also carry out both public and investigative hearings. Perhaps, one of the fundamental responsibilities of the Committee is working with the leadership of the House of Representatives and sometimes with Executive to generate the necessary political will to strengthen anti-corruption agencies and the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit. For instance, since its inauguration in 2015, the Committee has worked with its counterpart in the Senate and National Assembly leadership to increase the budget of the EFCC both for its operations and capital projects. We have mobilized funds to complete the EFCC head office building which was almost abandoned by the past administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan. We’ve also included provisions for life insurance policies for both the operational and administrative staff of the Commission in its budget due to their high-visibility presence and the nature of their work. In terms of legislative activities, the Committee has held public hearings on a number of anti-corruption bills including the Money Laundering Prohibition and Prevention Amendment bill as well as the EFCC Amendment Bills while we had held retreats to examine some bills including the Mutual Legal Assistance on Criminal Matters Bill and the Whistle blowers bill. We have also started a nationwide training workshop on fiscal reasonability for State and local government officials. I can go on and on, suffice it to say that the Committee has been very busy since its inauguration all in its bid to strengthen the war against corruption.
TML: Nigeria is currently serving a suspension from the EGMONT group arising from the non-establishment of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Agency (NFIA) as a unit standing autonomously. Following the accelerated passage of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Agency Bill, can we expect that the suspension will be lifted soon?
HON. OLADELE: Let me start by saying that contrary to speculation, Nigeria’s suspension from the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units has nothing to do with failure of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit to observe the international anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism and proliferation (AML/CFT) standards as Nigeria. The leadership of Nigeria in West Africa in this regard is not in doubt. Indeed, Nigeria mentored several other West African countries on AML/CFT regimes and has provided capacity for other ECOWAS countries. Rather, the problem with Nigeria has to do with the legal framework for its Financial Intelligence Unit. And I will tell you why. At the outset, Section 1 (2)( c) of the EFCC Act states that the EFCC shall be the designated Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit and Section 6(l) of the Act states that that the EFCC shall receive, analyze and disseminate suspicious transactions report. The issue that arises here is that: one, according to the Egmont Group, both Sections 1 (2)( c) and 6(l) of the EFCC Act do not appear to give operational autonomy to the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit in accordance with Recommendation 29 of the Financial Action Task Force which states that Countries should establish a financial intelligence unit (FIU) that serves as a national centre
for the receipt and analysis of: (a) suspicious transaction reports; and (b) other information relevant to money laundering, associated predicate offences and terrorist financing, and for the dissemination of the results of that analysis. That an FIU can be established as part of a bigger organization or domiciled in a bigger agency as long as it has both operational and financial autonomy and this they felt was missing in the EFCC Act. The Egmont Group had advised long time ago that we amend the EFCC Act to reposition the FIU through the legal framework but all attempts to do this in the past had been futile. This is the crux of the matter. What we have now done is to give legal framework to the NFIU by deleting the provisions of Sections 1 (2)( c) and 6(l) of the EFCC Act and establishing an autonomous FIU. The bill has passed both chambers and it should have been signed into law before the next Egmont Plenary in January, 2017 by which time we expect the suspension to be lifted.
HON. OLADELE: As you know, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is an inter-governmental body established in 1989 the objectives of which are to set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system. The FATF is therefore a “policy-making body” which works to generate the necessary political will to bring about national legislative and regulatory reforms in these areas. South Africa is the only country in Africa that currently enjoys the full membership of FATF even though in West Africa, we have a similar organization called the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA). GIABA is a specialized institution of ECOWAS that is responsible for strengthening the capacity of member states towards the prevention and control of money laundering and terrorist financing in the region. GIABA enjoys observer status with FATF and Nigeria currently attends FATF plenary meetings as part of GIABA delegation. OUR application to join the FATF was submitted to its Secretariat in 2014. While the consideration of our membership application is pending, Nigeria has been enjoined to enact some laws which are considered crucial to the successful consideration of our application. These laws include, Proceeds of Crime, Mutual legal Assistance on Criminal Matters and of course, good standing with the Egmont Group in addition to the successful conduct/implementation of the National Risk Assessment (NRA). As I stated earlier, passage of these bills in the National Assembly has reached an advanced stage and I have no doubt that should made a significant progress in the application process by next year.
HON. OLADELE: The NRA sets out the key money laundering and terrorist financing risks for Nigeria and the actions by Nigeria to address these risks. The current administration is very serious about the fight against corruption and terrorist financing; hence, necessary machinery was put in place upon inauguration to conduct the National Risk Assessment. The NRA has been signed by the Attorney-General of the Federation and was published this month.
TML: It has been said that the EFCC is not securing convictions. What is your take? In your opinion as a lawyer, has the ACJA done anything to help?
HON OLADELE: I must correct the erroneous impression being held that the number of convictions secured by the EFCC determines its efficiency or operational success. It is not the duty of the Commission to secure convictions of every suspect at all cost and by all means. The duty of EFCC is to present its case and available evidence before the court against an accused person. The conviction or verdict of guilt is left for the Court. As you know, no one can be a judge in his own case. The Commission cannot accuse a person of wrongdoing and be the prosecutor as well as the judge in the case at the same time. Furthermore, many defendants and opposing counsels often exploit every technicality in our laws to prolong the case indefinitely while hoping for changed political will on the part of government. The ACJA has helped in many ways. Of significant importance is the interlocutory appeals which reinforced section 40 of the EFCC Act. Of note also is right to speedy trial guaranteed by the Act.
HON OLADELE: Without doubt, the judiciary in recent times has been very active and supportive in the fight against corruption. Cases are now being heard expeditiously while priority has been giving to corruption ad related cases. Otherwise, you can’t talk of the fight against corruption without talking about the role of the judiciary. The Judiciary is one crucial factor in the fight against corruption. The role of the EFCC is to investigate and prosecute but you and I know that the bucks stop at the judiciary’s table because it is the Courts that determine the final outcomes of cases. Even if the EFCC does a thorough investigation and does its work very well in prosecution, if the trial Judge still feels that the case has not been proved beyond reasonable doubt, the court can acquit the accused. Therefore, for there to be an effective fight against corruption, there has to be a synergy between the EFCC and the judiciary. What I’m saying here is that despite the positive appraisal of the judiciary, we still have some challenges here and there which can cause a loss of confidence in the judiciary. For instance, several corruption cases have been lingering in various Courts for over a decade without going to trial and you will agree with me that justice delayed is justice denied. I must say though, that the Administration of Criminal Justice Act has done a lot to address this rather sad conundrum in the criminal justice system.
HON. OLADELE: The Whistle blowers policy is a good public policy to help government in the fight against corruption. The compensation is an incentive for people to come forward with relevant information and as such it is a welcome development. However, because it is not backed up by law, it is subject to abuse and discriminatory implementation. This is a major challenge that calls for a legal framework for the policy to achieve the desired results.