International fund recoveries not governed by local laws, Malami clarifies

International recovery of funds is governed by ‘conflict of laws principles and not local legislation in view of multiple sovereignties involved, Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has said.

In a statement by his Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations, Dr. Umar Gwandu, yesterday, the minister asserted that the recoveries were governed by international conventions, negotiations, and agreements of parties. It is never a straightjacket application of local legislation, he said.

He noted: “Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission Act has nothing specific on funds recovered from indicted public officials. It merely mentions accruals and disbursement of revenue from the federation account. So, other relevant laws appropriately deal with the question of recovery of stolen funds from indicted public officials.

“It is, therefore, misleading to give the impression that such recoveries and usage of stolen funds and stashed abroad are provided for by the RMAFC Act.”

Malami said one could not situate rights and entitlements on looted funds and recovered assets with a myopic understating of concepts of the application of local legislations.

He stated that looted funds could only be applied within the context of mutual understanding and negotiation of international and multifaceted jurisdictional and territorial legislative issues.

According to him, the recovery and subsequent deployment of stolen assets are subject to agreements between affected countries, thereby bringing the conflict of laws into contemplation.

The repatriated funds, he said, are based on cooperation and mutual agreements, especially the United Nations Convention against Corruption and Implementation of the Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR) Principles on the Repatriation of Stolen Assets. The African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Protocols on recovery of illicit funds are equally relevant when it comes to the role of Nigeria in relation to its other partners.

He said: “As a member of the committee of nations and a respectable international partner, Nigeria must always strive to fulfil its international commitments in the repatriation and use of stolen funds and assets.

“For example, the Federal Government of Nigeria has entered into numerous agreements such as the one with the United States and the Island of Jersey in 2020. Where the agreements assume an international character, the specifics often dictate the trajectory of recovery, sharing, transfer, and implementation.

“However, some elements misunderstood the issue of international recoveries and locally-generated funds in relation to money belonging to the Federal Government that are locally generated.”

He added: “It is not to be confused with stolen funds and assets domiciled in foreign jurisdictions whose recovery and subsequent repatriation are based on international legal arrangements between Nigeria and the foreign custodians of these funds.

“It needs to be further noted that even recoveries of local assets are in most cases regulated by the applicable legislation and judicial pronouncements associated with these legislations and not RMAFC Act exclusively. One can cite, for the purpose of clarity, recoveries are done by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices, and other related offences Commission (ICPC).”

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