Who manages the forfeited assets and repatriated funds in Nigeria?

Abiola Afolabi

The Economic & Financial Crimes Commission is a government law enforcement agency set up to investigate all economic and financial crimes such as money laundering, counterfeiting, computer credit card fraud, contract scam, and forgery of financial instruments, etc.

It was established in 2003 to do the above functions and to effectively coordinate the domestic efforts of the global fight against money laundering and terrorist financing. Over the years, the EFCC has successfully addressed, prosecuted and convicted a number of high-profile corrupt individuals involved in financial corruption, albeit the successful cases are not as eminent as the lost ones.

However, in successful cases the question remains, who manages the forfeited assets and recovered funds from the charged individuals? The lack of openness around retrieved funds increases opacity and Citizens are forced to ask questions. They want the Government to track the funds amassed from these looters and then apply a sense of transparency and accountability to boost trust in the System.

Of the 2013 data above, there are at least thirteen cases of forfeited funds or assets to the Federal Government, with the highest being a sum of $140,000 recovered from Mr. Fatai Apamapa Adesina convicted of money laundering. See the complete list of the record here EFCC Convictions_2013

In some cases, the punishment handed down by the courts does not match the crime committed or the amount stolen. A few examples from the data above will suffice.

In two separate cases of obtaining by false pretense, Messrs Nathaniel Abu and Maigari Bello Ibrahim were convicted and sentenced to 6 months and 9 years jail term respectively. Curiously the judge gave them an option of N20,000 and N75,000 respectively. These cases raise question about the EFCC’s ability to carry out their function in an effective way that serves as deterrent to potential offenders, but more importantly, the quality of our laws and the judges who hand out these rulings. Also, there is no mention of what was obtained by false pretense, what was recovered or forfeited, to whom it was given to and what has happened to this recovery.

Over the years, corrupt Nigerian leaders are fond of laundering money and keeping the stash in foreign banks. The World Bank’s expenditure report on the $500 million looted assets stolen by Sani Abacha, which was repatriated in 2005, shows the weakness of Nigerian public financial system and lack of audit made it almost impossible to track the funds.

As the fight against corruption enters a new phase, it is imperative for the Government to be seen to be transparent with funds recovered from the fight. Setting up an effective control to manage repatriated funds so it is not lost in the system will strengthen government institutions that are involved in the process. With a new government in place, there is no better time to set up an asset recovery body to utilize recovered funds for developmental programs. With viable instruments to guide retrieved stolen assets, the duties of the body can help restore Nigeria’s tainted image in the world.