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EFCC rejects new Money Laundering Bill

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  • Nigeria loses about 350,000 to 400,000 hectares of land per year to deforestation – Report

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday rejected the new Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Bill 2016 because it may prejudice President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption agenda.

It said passing the bill into law now will affect Nigeria’s application for the membership of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

To the agency, the bill seeks to divest EFCC of powers to probe offences bordering on economic and financial crimes. Besides, said the agency, it will, if passed into law, give the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) some discretion which may be abused.

It also faulted plans to establish a Bureau for Money Laundering Control (BMLC) for a service which is already being rendered efficiently by the Special Control Unit against Money Laundering (SCUML).

The EFCC, which made its stand known in a position paper presented to the National Assembly, spotted 12 gaps which it believes could impede the government’s anti-corruption.

A copy of the report was yesterday presented to the House Committee on Economic and Financial Crimes in Abuja at a closed-door review session.

The paper said in part: “The bill appears complex and difficult to decipher as it is riddled with complex web of cross references.

“Clause 15(4) (c) is unconstitutional as it is retroactive because it is designed to subject persons to prosecution under this bill for offences committed before its enactment into law.

“Clauses 18(5), (6) and (7) are in conflict with Section 7(2) of the EFCC Act as they seek to divest EFCC of its powers to cause investigation into economic and financial crimes offences and, by extension, attempt to transfer the statutory powers of the EFCC to an unknown and non-existent agency—Proceeds of Crimes Recovery and Management Agency.

“Clause 14(2) of the bill provides that Financial Institutions (FIs) and Designated Non-Financial Businesses and Professions (DNFBPs) are competent but not compellable to give evidence in criminal proceedings arising from the report which they make under the bill.

“The effect is that there will be challenges in the successful prosecution of money laundering related offences.

“Moreover, this clause is contrary to the provisions of the Evidence Act as the issue of competency and compellability of witnesses are settled principles of a law under the Evidence Act and judicial authorities.”

The EFCC also faulted discretionary powers given to the Attorney-General of the Federation on reporting of money laundering cases and the amounts payable by offenders.

It said such powers may be abused if any AGF is not well-intentioned.

The paper added: “Considering the importance of reporting in an Anti-Money Laundering (AML) regime, it will be counter-productive to leave reporting obligations to the wide discretion of the Attorney-General.

“This is liable to abuse if the person occupying the office of the Attorney-General at any material time is not well-intentioned. He may adjust the regulations at will to serve or protect some interests. The same applies to making of cash payments under Clause 16 of the bill.

“Moreover, Clause 19 of the bill provides that: ‘The Attorney-General shall, by regulations made on the recommendations of the supervisory authorities set out the prescribed amounts and the specified particulars referred to in sections 16(2) and 17(1) and 18(1) of this Act’

“This will likely create uncertainties and challenges in the enforcement and compliance processes. It is also burdensome for the prosecution who will have to look at two or more documents in order to frame charges for money laundering.”

On the plan to establish Bureau for Money Laundering Control (BMLC), the EFCC said it is unnecessary because the same service is being rendered efficiently by the Special Control Unit against Money Laundering (SCUML).

Clauses 35 to 49 of the bill seek to establish an agency known as the Bureau for Money Laundering Control which will be a body corporate, with its own staff and advisory board that will be responsible for the supervision of designated non-financial businesses and professions in their compliance with the provisions of the bill and relevant regulations.

“The work that the agency is to do is already being done by SCUML (which the bill dissolves in Section 49). It has not been shown that SCUML has been ineffective to warrant it being dissolved and another agency set up to carry out its functions.

“Furthermore, making the BMLC a body corporate will expose it to unnecessary litigations by persons who do not want to comply with applicable regulations under the AML. By the nature of its operations, it should enjoy a substantial measure of anonymity under another body.

“In addition, setting up an agency as stated above will further proliferate government institutions when the government’s policy is to streamline or merge existing ones in order to cut cost.”

The EFCC told the National Assembly that the nation does not need the proposed Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Bill 2016.

The commission added: “It is against this backdrop that the commission is of the opinion that the proposed Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Bill 2016 is unnecessary; posits that whatever perceived gaps in the existing legislation(as amended) are not such that cannot be addressed by an amendment.

“In the light of our highlighted observations, it is apparent that the entire bill as constituted will likely prejudice the President’s fight against corruption as it will allow money laundering to thrive in Nigeria.

“In view of the above observed deficiencies inherent in the bill, we recommend as follows:

  • It is not advisable to pass the bill into law
  • The existing AML has no deficiencies that cannot conveniently be cured by an amendment.
  • In view of Nigeria’s current standing in the international community on the robustness of its AML/CFT regime, it will be counter-productive to pass this bill into law.
  • The bill is not timely as its passage will affect Nigeria’s standing in the next round of Mutual Evaluation
  • Passing of the bill into law at this time will affect Nigeria’s application for FATF membership since Nigeria’s acceptance is based on the current Anti-Money Laundering Law (AML).
  • Passage of the bill may subject Nigeria to an FATF International Cooperation Review Group process to determine if the law meets the FATF Standards, and if not Nigeria may be subjected to a complex ICRG compliance process.

In the meantime, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN says Nigeria loses about 350,000 to 400,000 hectares of land per year to deforestation. The organisation however noted that, while the recommended forest cover for every nation is 26 per cent, the reverse is the case for Nigeria, because the country’s forest cover is said to be less than six per cent.

This statistics is said to represent a real and present danger for the nation and all stakeholders in the public and private sectors who urge every Nigerian to work together to save our trees and the environment as a whole. Forest and wet lands depend on water sources but at the same time, the forest eco-systems sustain water quality and help mitigate the risks of water-related disasters. Speaking recently at this year’s International Day of the Forest and National Tree Planting Campaign in Abuja, the Minister of Environment Ms. Amina Mohammed, stated that forest covers one-third of the earth’s land mass, contributing significantly to reducing soil erosion and the risks of landslides and other natural disasters.

Amina said that Nigeria is not only one of the top 10 countries in the world with highest rates of deforestation but also the second highest in Africa, behind Sudan, stressing that over 1.6 billion people across the world depend majorly on forest resources for livelihood. She however, urged all Nigerians to join hands with government at all levels in its quest to preserve the nation’s forest resources. The significance of the day according to the Minister is to create awareness among people on why they should protect the nation’s forest cover for the survival of humanity and other living organisms.

On the significance of this year’s celebration, with the theme, ‘Forests and Water,’ Amina said: “This year’s celebration will raise awareness on how forests are key to the planet, supply of fresh water, which is essential to life and the multiple links within the forest and water sources. The Minister therefore called on various stakeholders to collaborate with government in its quest to institute sound forest management in the country.

Also speaking at the event, the Director General, Nigeria Conservation Foundation, Mr. Adeniyi Karunwi, lamented the state of forest in Nigeria, saying that most of the trees that would have provided the needed cover, have been felled all in the name of industrialisation.

Kariunwi said development and protection of the forest could co-exist with proper understanding of the significance of the forest to man. While calling on the Federal Government to declare emergency on the state of the nation’s forest, the DG also called for massive awareness campaigns with a view to making the people know its importance to the country.

Delivering her goodwill message at the event, the MTN Nigeria Executive Amina Oyagbola stressed that the importance of forests to the sustenance of mankind is an incontrovertible fact that should not be overlooked.

She explained that, across the world, millions of people depend on forests for their livelihood, and they provide shelter to over 80 per cent of animal and plant species. “In our part of the world, Nigeria is home of a rich variety of forests and wildlife. Regrettably, this source of national pride has been threatened in recent times by deforestation, the industrial and agricultural logging of wood among other factors.”.

Nation with additional report from Vanguard

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WAIVER CESSATION: Igbokwe urges NIMASA to evolve stronger collaboration with Ships owners

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…Stresses the need for timely disbursement of N44.6billion CVFF***

Highly revered Nigerian Maritime Lawyer, and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mike Igbokwe has urged the Nigeria Maritime Administration and safety Agency (NIMASA) to partner with ship owners and relevant association in the industry to evolving a more vibrant merchant shipping and cabotage trade regime.

Igbokwe gave the counsel during his paper presentation at the just concluded two-day stakeholders’ meeting on Cabotage waiver restrictions, organized by NIMASA.

“NIMASA and shipowners should develop merchant shipping including cabotage trade. A good start is to partner with the relevant associations in this field, such as the Nigeria Indigenous Shipowners Association (NISA), Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Oil Trade Group & Maritime Trade Group of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA).

“A cursory look at their vision, mission and objectives, show that they are willing to improve the maritime sector, not just for their members but for stakeholders in the maritime economy and the country”.

Adding that it is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a through briefing and regular consultation with ships owners, in other to have insight on the challenges facing the ship owners.

“It is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a thorough briefing and regular consultations with shipowners, to receive insight on the challenges they face, and how the Agency can assist in solving them and encouraging them to invest and participate in the maritime sector, for its development. 

“NIMASA should see them as partners in progress because, if they do not invest in buying ships and registering them in Nigeria, there would be no Nigerian-owned ships in its Register and NIMASA would be unable to discharge its main objective.

The Maritime lawyer also urged NIMASA  to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF)that currently stands at about N44.6 billion.

“Lest it be forgotten, what is on the lips of almost every shipowner, is the need to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (the CVFF’), which was established by the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act, 2003. It was established to promote the development of indigenous ship acquisition capacity, by providing financial assistance to Nigerian citizens and shipping companies wholly owned by Nigerian operating in the domestic coastal shipping, to purchase and maintain vessels and build shipping capacity. 

“Research shows that this fund has grown to about N44.6billion; and that due to its non-disbursement, financial institutions have repossessed some vessels, resulting in a 43% reduction of the number of operational indigenous shipping companies in Nigeria, in the past few years. 

“Without beating around the bush, to promote indigenous maritime development, prompt action must be taken by NIMASA to commence the disbursement of this Fund to qualified shipowners pursuant to the extant Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (“CVFF”) Regulations.

Mike Igbokwe (SAN)

“Indeed, as part of its statutory functions, NIMASA is to enforce and administer the provisions of the Cabotage Act 2003 and develop and implement policies and programmes which will facilitate the growth of local capacity in ownership, manning and construction of ships and other maritime infrastructure. Disbursing the CVFF is one of the ways NIMASA can fulfill this mandate.

“To assist in this task, there must be collaboration between NIMASA, financial institutions, the Minister of Transportation, as contained in the CVFF Regulations that are yet to be implemented”, the legal guru highlighted further. 

He urged the agency to create the right environment for its stakeholders to build on and engender the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders.

“Lastly, which is the main reason why we are all here, cessation of ministerial waivers on some cabotage requirements, which I believe is worth applause in favour of NIMASA. 

“This is because it appears that the readiness to obtain/grant waivers had made some of the vessels and their owners engaged in cabotage trade, to become complacent and indifferent in quickly ensuring that they updated their capacities, so as not to require the waivers. 

“The cessation of waivers is a way of forcing the relevant stakeholders of the maritime sector, to find workable solutions within, for maritime development and fill the gaps in the local capacities in 100% Nigerian crewing, ship ownership, and ship building, that had necessitated the existence of the waivers since about 15 years ago, when the Cabotage Act came into being. 

“However, NIMASA must ensure that the right environment is provided for its stakeholders to build and possess the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders. Or better still, that they are solved within the next 5 years of its intention to stop granting waivers”, he further explained. 

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Breaking News: The Funeral Rites of Matriarch C. Ogbeifun is Live

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The Burial Ceremony of Engr. Greg Ogbeifun’s mother is live. Watch on the website: www.maritimefirstnewspaper.com and on Youtube: Maritimefirst Newspaper.

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Wind Farm Vessel Collision Leaves 15 Injured

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…As Valles Steamship Orders 112,000 dwt Tanker from South Korea***

A wind farm supply vessel and a cargo ship collided in the Baltic Sea on Tuesday leaving 15 injured.

The Cyprus-flagged 80-meter general cargo ship Raba collided with Denmark-flagged 31-meter wind farm supply vessel World Bora near Rügen Island, about three nautical miles off the coast of Hamburg. 

Many of those injured were service engineers on the wind farm vessel, and 10 were seriously hurt. 

They were headed to Iberdrola’s 350MW Wikinger wind farm. Nine of the people on board the World Bora were employees of Siemens Gamesa, two were employees of Iberdrola and four were crew.

The cause of the incident is not yet known, and no pollution has been reported.

After the collision, the two ships were able to proceed to Rügen under their own power, and the injured were then taken to hospital. 

Lifeboat crews from the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service tended to them prior to their transport to hospital via ambulance and helicopter.

“Iberdrola wishes to thank the rescue services for their diligence and professionalism,” the company said in a statement.

In the meantime, the Hong Kong-based shipowner Valles Steamship has ordered a new 112,000 dwt crude oil tanker from South Korea’s Sumitomo Heavy Industries Marine & Engineering.

Sumitomo is to deliver the Aframax to Valles Steamship by the end of 2020, according to data provided by Asiasis.

The newbuild Aframax will join seven other Aframaxes in Valles Steamship’s fleet. Other ships operated by the company include Panamax bulkers and medium and long range product tankers.

The company’s most-recently delivered unit is the 114,426 dwt Aframax tanker Seagalaxy. The naming and delivery of the tanker took place in February 2019, at Namura Shipbuilding’s yard in Japan.

Maritime Executive with additional report from World Maritime News

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