The House of Representatives has passed for second reading a Bill that seeks to amend the Currency Conversion (Freezing Orders) Act Cap. C43, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 to give discretionary powers to the Judge of a High Court, to order forfeiture of assets of affected persons.
Leading a debate on the general principles of the bill, sponsor of the bill and Deputy Speaker of the House, Alh Idris Wase said the discretionary power previously granted to the President by the Principal Act will be replaced by that of a High Court Judge to bring it in line with the spirit of the Constitution as such powers can be abused by the President.
According to Wase, the provision for forfeiture in the Laws is geared towards ensuring that persons found guilty of offenses do not benefit from the proceeds of those offences, adding that the doctrine of forfeiture is regulated by several legal regime captured in various Laws such as The Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, Cap C15, among others.
He stressed that section 9 of the Currency Conversion (Freezing Orders) Act, which was first enacted in 1971 contains a provision which deals with the subject of forfeiture that vest the discretion to order forfeiture of movable and immovable properties on the President of the Federal Republic.
According to him, considering that the Constitution guarantees right to movable and immovable property as a Fundamental Right under Chapter IV, Section 44, a person cannot be deprived of such rights except in circumstances stipulated by the Constitution, stressing that Section 9 of the Principal Act runs afoul of the spirit of the Nigerian constitution.
The Deputy Speaker argued that the provision which vests in the President the power to order forfeiture of property (both movable or immovable) is not in line with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), hence the need for its amendment.