The House of Representatives are making moves to increase the punishment for financial crimes from 2 to 20 years as the lawmakers consider the current punishment prescribed by the act as too lenient.
There are currently four consolidated bills before the House seeking to further empower the EFCC to fight crime as well as insulate the commission from interference by the Presidency and enhance its financial autonomy.
Punch Newspaper reports that one of the bills was sponsored by Cross River State, Bassey Ewa.
One of the new subsections added to the EFCC bill read: “All convicted persons shall serve an imprisonment of a term not less than 20 years and have their ill-gotten property, accounts or investment confiscated by the government.”
The new amendment also proposed that plea bargaining or return of the full amount stolen does not exclude the offender from penalty, while any company found guilty of financial crimes will be prohibited from operating in Nigeria for 50 years.
It read: “Where the accused person, upon investigation, accepts to refund the total amount standing in his/her name and willing to plea bargain, he or she shall be convicted for not less than two years.
“Any company found guilty of offences under this Act, both its assets and finances shall be frozen and the company blacklisted from doing business in Nigeria for 50 years.”
Another significant amendment to the EFCC act is the removal of the power to appoint the EFCC chairman from the President as is currently the case.
In the new amendment, members of the public, through a petition to the National Assembly, are empowered to make the appointments.
Also the amendment stated that “Petitions against the Chairman or any of the members of the EFCC emanating from the public or the private sector shall be submitted to the National Assembly.
“If upon investigation and found culpable, a simple majority vote of members of the National Assembly is required in considering the fate of the chairman or any of the affected member.”
The resolution will then be forwarded to the President, who shall within 30 days, either accept the resolution or reject it.
The National Assembly according to the amendment can override the President’s veto with a “two-thirds majority vote” of senators and members of the House of Representatives.
To make the EFCC financially autonomous, the House proposes in Section 35 of the Act that the commission should retain “0.1 per cent” of recovered looted funds, “0.1 per cent” of its Internally-Generated Revenue, while another “0.1 per cent” of contracts awarded by the Federal Government is to be credited to the account of the commission.
Explaining why he sought to increase the punishment for financial crimes, Ewa said: “If you are 40 years old and you know that you will be 60 years by the time you are out of jail, you will have some fear in you and think about your children.
“But to say two years is to encourage stealing the more because people say after all, it is only two years.”
The bills have already passed second reading.