President Muhammadu Buhari has assented to the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act, 2019.
The Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly matters, Ita Enang, told State House Correspondents at the Presidential Villa that the purpose of the Act is to ensure countries Nigeria has relationship with will assist Nigeria by giving information and assistance in the prosecution of criminal matters occurring in Nigeria or by Nigerians outside the territory of Nigeria.
“It is intended to ensure that where there are property subject of crime or there are crimes committed outside Nigeria or within Nigeria and the person leaves Nigeria; the provisions of the Act authorizes the Attorney-General of the Federation which is the designated authority in Nigeria to pursue and use every means to prosecute the offence within and outside Nigeria.
“This Act does not apply to offences which are of political nature and it doesn’t apply to offences which relate to the military profession or offences which are not regarded as offences in the laws of Nigeria but which may be offence in the laws of other countries.
“It also enables us, Nigeria, to trace the proceeds of crime to restrain, constrain and in other matters, ensure that the proceed of crime within or outside Nigeria is not disposed of on the basis of reciprocity; that is, the country that has the same obligations as Nigeria, we will give them assistance and they will give us the same assistance in their own countries.
“So, the fact that an offence was committed here and the person has left Nigeria, the laws of Nigeria will still pursue you; under this law, you will still be pursued and those countries you are, are obliged to give us assistance to bring you back; in getting evidence and in even getting witnesses in terms of jurisdiction to testify in those matters.”
Asked if Nigeria has agreement with those countries already, the presidential aide said, “It is mutual legal assistance and those countries are designated. There are countries that we have that obligation with and already, there is the Interpol; the provisions of this law does not override the activities of the Interpol; if Interpol could do that, this is deepening; it is not just for arrest—trial, assistance in trail; assistance in evidence; assistance in arrest; assistance in even sending documents relating to it.”
On criticism that has trailed Buhari’s assent to bills passed by the 8th Assembly, Enang explained, “I want to say that Bills passed by the 8th Assembly up to the time it was still in session up to June 6 will still be forwarded to and assented by Mr President as the Clerk to the National Assembly transmits them.
“Only that Bills which Mr President withholds assents or Bills which Mr President considers that it is inappropriate to assent and takes a decision other than assent will not be communicated to the 9th Assembly because it is not that Assembly that passed it; 8th Assembly stands dissolved. It could only be made available through other diplomatic channels but no more communication to the Assembly except those assented to.”