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Ozekhome, Magu’s lawyer clash over forfeited assets, anti-graft war

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By Eric Ikhilae, Abuja

Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mike Ozekhome, and a Senior Law lecturer, Wahab Shittu, have disagreed on Federal Government’s anti-corruption fight and its handling of recovered proceeds of crime, including forfeited assets.

Ozekhome accused the government of disregarding constitutional provisions on rights protection and being selective in its supposed fight against graft.

The lawyer argued that suspended acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, was experiencing the type of treatment he had subjected others to while claiming to be fighting corruption.

He also faulted the practice where anti-graft agencies were also involved in the management and disposal of forfeited assets.

Ozekhome suggested the creation of a separate agency for the management and disposal of seized assets.

Shittu, who is Magu’s lawyer at the retired Justice Ayo Salami-led Presidential Committee currently probing the EFCC, disagreed with Ozekhome and contended that Magu did no wrong.

The Law teacher stressed that nothing had been found against the erstwhile EFCC acting chairman.

He argued that rather than criticise the government’s anti-graft efforts, everyone should join hands with it to ensure an efficient and effective process that guarantees the interest of all.

“We should all come on board in designing an effective and efficient legal framework for the management and disposal of seized and confiscated assets in our country,” he added

Ozekhome and Shittu spoke in Abuja at the on-going third annual Criminal Law Conference of the Rule of Law Development Foundation (RLDF) with the theme: Judicial Updates and Legislative Developments on Economic Crimes and Forfeiture of Proceeds of Crime.

Shittu faulted the 22-man committee recently inaugurated by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abhubakar Malami, to dispose the assets forfeited to the Federal Government.

The Law teacher argued that it was inconsistent with constitutional and statutory provisions.

“Clearly, it’s the statutory responsibility of the EFCC under the EFCC (Establishment) Act 2004, a creation of the National Assembly, to carry out the actual disposal of all forfeited assets secured through valid final orders of court.

“For the avoidance of doubt, Section 31: (1) and subsections (2), (3), (4) and (5) on Final Disposal of Forfeited Property of the EFCC (Establishment), Act 2004, are very clear and unambiguous on how forfeited properties can be sold.

“What is left is to humbly request the Honourable AGF (Attorney General of the Federation) to either propose an Executive Bill to amend the EFCC Act 2004 before inaugurating the committee and instantly disband the Dayo Apata-led committee for being in contravention of the law.”

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