The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) has proposed to the National Assembly for an expansion of its options of courts to prosecute corruption cases to include Federal High Courts.
A statement issued by the spokesperson for the Commission, Mrs Rasheedat Okoduwa, and obtained by Channels Television on Friday said the proposal was contained in a memorandum presented to the House of Representatives Committee on Anti-Corruption.
Acting Chairman of ICPC, Mr Abdullahi Bako, made the presentation during a public hearing organised on a bill to amend the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.
Mr Bako said the amendment became necessary given the fact that the Commission was restricted by its extant law to prosecute cases only in State High courts, a development he said was hampering its prosecutorial effectiveness as high-profile defendants often wield substantial influence within a state.
In the memorandum, the ICPC also made other proposals for amendment such as limiting its board membership to seven persons as against 13 that currently obtains, returning recovered proceeds of corruption to their original sources whether Federal, State, Local government or private persons, and retaining a percentage of its recoveries to help fund the commission among others.
Earlier in his opening remarks, the Committee Chairman, Honourable Akinloye Babajide, said the amendment of the Act was being done to enhance and strengthen the commission’s efficiency and effectiveness.
He added that the importance of the public hearing, as a forum for the public, was to seek various inputs to make a good law towards the overall fight against corruption.
Representatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other relevant agencies also attended the forum where they made presentations in support of the proposed amendments.
An official from the EFCC’s legal and prosecution department, Mr Jonson Ojogbane, said it was international best practice for a law enforcement agency to retain a fraction of its recovered proceeds of crime.
For the Legal Director of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), Mrs Ifeoma Ewosa, recovered proceeds of corruption should not just be returned to their original owners but there should be a time-frame (such as 30 days) for such return to be carried out and also sanctions should be stipulated for non-compliance.
However, one of the representatives of the Nigerian Law Reforms Commission, Mr Jerry Ezeobi, objected to the amendment proposal for ICPC to retain a part of its recoveries.
According to him, it would make the commission deviate from its mandate of fighting corruption to seeking benefits it would gain from recoveries.
Other stakeholders at the gathering included representatives of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, military service chiefs, Code of Conduct Bureau, Nigeria Customs Service, and Nigerian Law School among others.