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CISLAC urges FG to make recovered assets’ database public to curb corruption

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Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), on Wednesday called on the Federal Government to make the recently established Database on Recovered asset and the Central Criminal Justice Information System public to curb corruption.

Executive Director CISLAC, Mr Auwal Rafsanjani, at a news conference on how Nigeria should prevent looting of funds and losing abroad, commended the government for establishing the system.

Rafsanjani said that the long overdue database, if made public, would curb secrecy that bred corruption and would contribute to the transparency in the recovery and management of stolen assets.

He said that Nigeria had continued to suffer continuous disappearing of illicit funds because public contracts, especially those in resource sector were shrouded in secrecy as officials who decided fate of the economy did so without accountability.

“Corruption thrives in secrecy; unless all government contracts, especially those concerning the oil sector are made public, we will continue to lose billions of dollars monthly due to corruption, incompetency and international scams.

“Nigerians lose billions of dollars abroad due to the lack of legal policy framework preventing corruption in public procurement, shocking lack of oversight of public funds and the general lack of law enforcement.

“While we commend the announcement of the Database on recovered asset and the Central criminal justice information system, I challenge the government to clarify if the database is publicly accessible to all stakeholders including ordinary citizens.

“There is need to clarify if the database includes domestically recovered assets where risks of management and re-looting have been far greater compared to international recoveries.’’

Rafsanjani said there was need to also clarify how the numerous agencies with the mandate to recover assets would comply in the continued absence of the Proceeds of Crime Bill.

He said that only those steps would ensure that all the agencies that recovered assets harmonised their procedures while regularly updating the data.

He said that the management of such assets should be entrusted to people with integrity to prevent public officials using the assets for their political objectives and personal enrichment.

He also said that Nigeria suffered from international scams and enormous wealth disappearing abroad, adding that a case in point was the Process and Industrial Development (P&ID) company founded by two Irishmen.

Rafsanjani said that the company signed a contract in 2010 with the Nigerian Ministry of Petroleum Resources.

According to him, in less than three years P&ID initiated international arbitration, alleging that Nigeria had not performed its obligations under the contract and sought for damage.

He said that in spite of red flags of corruption relating to the contract since 2010, successive Nigerian governments did not raise the issue of corruption in its defence in the international arbitration so it was concluded that Nigeria repudiated the contract.

He said that the international tribunal awarded P&ID 6.6 billion dollars in damages plus interest of seven per cent even though neither party had taken steps to perform its obligations under the contract.

Rafsanjani attributed such loses to Nigeria’s delay in raising its suspicion of corruption, Nigerian lawyers failure to file expert evidence on jurisdictional issues of Nigerian law, lack of knowledge of the technicalities among others.

He, therefore, urged the government to prevent such and other looting by having a clearer and more robust set of laws and processes around public procurement.

He said that the competency and professionalism of the Nigerian legal representation should be strengthened and the legal team representing the government should be able to demonstrate that contracts not concluded through proper processes were void.

He said that if Nigeria had argued corruption in the arbitration, the Nigerian taxpayers and citizens would not be faced with billions of damages.

Rafsanjani said that if no effective prevention was put in place to reduce illicit financial outflows which disappeared in places such as London, Dubai, British Virgin Islands and other tax havens Nigeria would continue to suffer.

He said that as in the past, many Nigerian politicians were flagged as prominent customers buying luxury houses, yachts and other luxuries for money stolen from citizens.

“This case once again shows that we recover only an insignificant fraction of assets while we continue losing billions.

“It must be noted that `enablers’ such as prominent international lawyers, banks, tax advisers and others are just as criminal as those that commit the stealing and have to be made accountable.” (NAN)

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