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The Aberration Called Economic Amnesty Bill: a Memo to Senator Akume – By Gurgur Japheth 

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I elect to write to my Senator in Zone ‘B’ of Benue State on the above subject. I do not support Corruption Amnesty or Amnesty of Amnesia.

According to report I listened to on various platforms and this morning, Radio Nigeria “Phone – in Program”, Looters of Nigerian treasury may get “full and complete amnesty” based on a proposed law currently being considered by the House of Representatives.

The proposed law seeks to give the looters leeway to escape any form of probe, inquiry or prosecution after fulfilling certain conditions.

Besides, such looters shall not be compelled by any authority to disclose the source of their looted funds. The scheme is to last for three years, but it could be extended at the instance of the Federal Government, the bill provides.

The proposed law is titled: ‘A Bill for an Act to establish a scheme to harness untaxed money for investment purposes and to assure any declarant regarding inquiries and proceedings under Nigerian laws and for other matters connected therewith.’

The bill was introduced and read for the first time on June 14 on the floor of the House. It now awaits second reading where it would be debated.

Sponsor of the bill, Linus Okorie (PDP, Ebonyi), said the bill “seeks to allow all Nigerians and residents, who have any money or assets outside the system or have acquired such money or assets illegally (looted or any variant of the cliche) to come forward, within a set time frame, to declare same, pay tax/surcharge and compulsorily invest the funds in any sector of the Nigerian economy; and be granted full amnesty from inquiry or prosecution.”

Analogy

In 2015, the Benue State Government conceptualized an Amnesty Programme for Kidnappers, Armed Robbers, Killers of innocent people in Benue with the aim of reducing crime in the State. Unfortunately, instead of the criminals pleading for clemency, it turned out that the State was the one begging murderers to accept Amnesty which indeed, betrayed the true meaning of Amnesty. For example, the Deputy Governor who came to the venue of the programme for the opening ceremony of Orientation for Amnesty Beneficiaries was chased away by the criminals which clearly showed they were not repentant but maybe just drafted for reasons still under research. What the Amnesty Programme ended up doing in my opinion was to give legitimacy to what is clearly illegitimate. Crime against Nigeria and Nigerians by making heroes out villains and sumptuously rewarding crime.

I therefore agree 100% with SERAP – acronym for Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project that the proposed law, promoted by Mr Linus Okorie (PDP Ebonyi), expected that suspected looters of the public treasury would enjoy full and complete amnesty; not face any probe, inquiry or prosecution; and ‘shall not be compelled to disclose the source of their looted  funds’ as long as they invest their wealth in  Nigeria.

The amnesty bill for suspected looters unquestionably conflicts with Nigeria’s  obligations under the UN Convention Against Corruption to establish territorial criminal  jurisdiction over corrupt acts, prosecute offenders, and apply prescribed sanctions  through fair trial.

Conclusion 

While equally adopting the submission by Falana that “The bill is immoral, dangerous, discriminatory, illegal and unconstitutional. It is patently inconsistent with Section 15(5) of the constitution which has imposed a duty on the Nigerian state to abolish corrupt practices.

“It is discriminatory as it is designed to shield looters of our commonwealth alone from prosecution contrary to the letter and spirit of Section 42 of the Constitution. It is dangerous as it is meant to legitimise official corruption and impunity in the country”, let me request Distinguished Senator Akume to use the experience of the Amnesty Programme in Benue which was granted to Gana from Gbishe as elucidated above and reject this bill completely when it arrives the floor of the Red Chambers.

We do not want Heroes made out of Condemned Recalcitrant Criminals. Let’s learn from our mistakes. Except, the bill is meant to serve senile purpose.

Inset: Gana & Members of Drafting Committee of Amnesty Communique 

Gurgur Japheth MP is from Gboko, Benue North West.

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