•To prosecute offenders within, outside Nigeria
President Muhammadu Buhari, after initial hesitation has finally signed the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill, 2019 into law.
The Bill which was passed by the 8th National Assembly is to ensure the prosecution of offenders in criminal cases whether they are within the country or outside the country.
But the President could not sign the bill due to alleged disapproval by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other vested interests.
Such offenders will be prosecuted and punished both at home and in countries where mutual assistance relationship with Nigeria exists.
By implication, the new law essentially covers repatriation of persons running away from justice back home for prosecution and recovery of stolen assets.
According to the Punch report, Nigeria is also expected to reciprocate the gesture whenever necessary to those countries in the prosecution of their own cases.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, who made the disclosure in Abuja on Friday, explained that other countries could also provide information to Nigeria, which could be used by the Attorney-General of the Federation to pursue such prosecutions.
Enang, who spoke with State House correspondents, however, clarified that the Act did not cover offences that were political in nature.
He gave details, “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 added that Nigeria already had mutual assistance relationship with a number of countries, though he didn’t give names.
He spoke further, “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.”
The presidential aide spoke on pending bills passed by the 8th National Assembly, saying that the President would look into them, as long as he did not previously withhold his assent to them.
“I want to say that bills passed by the 8th Assembly up to the time it was still in session up to the June 6, will still be forwarded to and assented by Mr President as the Clerk to the National Assembly transmits them.