The Federal Government on Thursday tightened the noose on graft, as President Muhammadu Buhari ratified nine international agreements between Nigeria and other entities aimed at strengthening the administration’s anti-corruption war within and outside the country.
The signing ceremony for the execution of the Instruments of Ratification was held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Specifically, the agreement on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, will grant Nigeria the privilege of bringing back sentenced persons of Nigerian origin serving their terms in the United Arab Emirates to serve the same terms in Nigerian prisons and where applicable face investigations and prosecutions for the crimes inclusive of financial crimes that are committed in Nigeria before their apprehension in UAE.
Performing the ceremony witnessed by ambassadors of Switzerland, Chad, Niger, European Union (EU), United States of America and Britain among others, President Buhari said the move would help to block the illicit flow of funds out of Nigeria to other jurisdictions.
While noting that the ratification will improve Nigeria’s national and food security challenges, he said it will also add a fillip to the country’s economic and tax regimes as well as the well-being of the creative community.
The president directed all agencies of government with roles to play under the respective treaties to ensure they carry out their anticipated tasks in an effective and responsible manner in order to ensure that Nigeria reaps the full benefits of the agreements.
“It is my hope that these Instruments will reinvigorate the anti-corruption war and check the illicit flow of funds out of our country to other jurisdictions, improve national security, food security, boost our economy and tax regimes and improve the overall well-being of our creative community,” he said.
President Buhari described the agreement as a milestone in the government’s demonstration of sovereign capacity to fulfil its obligations and take important steps for the benefit of its economy, security and the anti-corruption war within and outside Nigeria.
He explained that the full implementation of the Agreements had been delayed due to the need by both sides to conclude their respective ratification processes.
“I am happy to note, therefore, that pursuant to a Memorandum presented to the Federal Executive Council by the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Council has approved the ratification of the said Agreements.
“With this sovereign act, which has been replicated in the United Arab Emirates by their responsible authorities, we are now in a position to utilize these Agreements fully to foster cooperation between our respective authorities particularly for the purpose of prosecuting the anti-corruption campaign of this Government,” he said.
The signed agreements were: Agreement on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters, Agreement on Mutual Legal Assistance in Civil and Commercial Matters, Agreement on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons and an Extradition Treaty.
Other Agreements include Charter for the Lake Chad Basin between Nigeria, Cameroun, Central African Republic, Libya, Niger and the Republic of Chad; African Tax Administration Forum Agreement on Mutual Assistance in Tax Matters and World Intellectual Property Organization Performances and Phonograms Treaty.
Agreements on the World Intellectual Property Organization Treaty on Audio-Visual Performances and the Marrakesh Treaty to facilitate access to published works for persons, who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise were also signed.
Earlier while shading light on the ratification, Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami explained that the agreement on a Criminal matter between Nigeria with the United Arab Emirates covers Legal Assistance in Criminal, Civil and Commercial Matters, and Extradition.
He said the agreement on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters “is to create a broad legal platform for cooperation between both countries in the administration of criminal law generally and other matter related to the investigation and prosecution of crimes and sharing of information and experience between authorities of notice countries.
“It is our expectation that this agreement will constitute a core component of our anti corruption strategy given the prominence of the United Arab Emirates as an investment destination for many Nigerians some of whom have unfortunately seen that country as a haven to invest illicitly acquired wealth.
On the Agreement on Mutual Legal Assistance in Civil and Commercial Matters, the AGF said “this agreement created a platform for assistance between both countries in civil and commercial matters which will, in essence, assist to institutionalize support for the Nigerian business community through commercial and civil protection and thus engender massive growth on both sides.
“This agreement has a strong potential to promote and commerce between both countries by strengthening the legal framework for the settlement of legal dispute and execution of court judgement in civil and commercial matters.
He noted that the agreement on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, will grant Nigeria the privilege of bringing back sentenced persons of Nigerian origin serving their terms in the United Arab Emirates to serve the same terms in Nigerian prisons and where applicable face investigations and prosecutions for the crimes inclusive of financial crimes that are committed in Nigeria before their apprehension in UAE.
He said the extradition Treaty will create a legal platform for either country to make requests for the extradition of fugitives from justice found in each other’s territories.
“It will, therefore, give us the necessary legal basis to request the extradition of Nigerians who may have absconded to UAE after committing crimes in our country thus ensuring that they face appropriate investigation and prosecution.
“It is important to recall that the federal administration prioritises the four agreements with the UAE upon the assumption of this government in the line of the strategic importance of UAE in relations to financial fraud from Nigeria.
“Recall, that Mr President personally led a delegation to the UAE in January 2016 during which the said agreements were signed on the 18th of January 2016.
Both countries agreed that there was a need because of the positive relations between them to encourage and boost each others’ commercial transactions in Nigeria and UAE through all legitimate channels.
“There is however concurrent imperative to discourage and mutually convert illicit financial dealings by criminal elements who are engaged in financial money laundering and other financial crimes.
Charter for the Lake Chad Basin between Nigeria, Cameroun, Central African Republic, Libya, Niger and the Republic of Chad.
The minister said the chatter is a political legal instrument for equitable water sharing, common investment and environmental management for the Lake Chad Basin.
“Our decision to ratify the agreement is in recognition for the need for the responsible management of Lake Chad Basin area which has historically supported one of the world richest ecosystems and provided employment for millions of people but is now being ravaged by the effect of climate change.
“A revitalized Lake Chad Basin will not only boost the security situation in the region but also demonstrate the commitment of the government in sustainable development goals on the management arrangement of the environment.
African Tax Administration Forum Agreement on Mutual Assistance in Tax Matters is designed to contribute to the efficacy of tax administration and improve public accountability.
“This is consistent with the vision of this government to significantly diversify our revenue resources away from oil by aggressively expanding the taxation rate through various strategies.
“It will also boost continental cooperation with our sister African countries and thus cultivate sources of tax revenues which were hitherto overlooked for greater mutual assistance in Nigeria and other countries,” he said.
Others are World Intellectual Property Organisation Performances and Phonograms Treaty, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Treaty on Audio-Visual Performances, and Marrakesh Treaty to facilitate access to published works for persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise.
These treaties, the instrument for ratifications of which were executed on Thursday, the Minister said will in various dimensions protect the rights of Nigerian performers, actors, singers and others in the visual environment on the one hand and producers of kinetic abstract art and music or sound set in relation to each other on the other hand.
“The decision to engage in these agreements is a bold step in recognition and importance which the present administration accords to the protection of intellectual property in the Nigerian jurisdiction.
“It is intended to protect the works of creative industry including Nollywood which has expanding components of our gross domestic products.
“Nigerian youths who have ventured into the creative sector can rest assured that the federal government will continue to support their aspirations and protect their source of livelihood through the vigorous protection of their intellectual property rights as these instruments are intended to approve that protection.
He said the government will continue explore all possible avenues for cooperation and collaborations with different segments of the international community in a manner that promotes national interests and global peace.