The sponsor of the Economic Amnesty Bill (EAB) argues that it is justified because the current system is just not fit for purpose. For instance, sue a billionaire looter and his SAN can take the case on an interlocutory excursion to the Supreme court to decide a minor point. Ten years later when the actual case is ready to be heard, the witnesses are dead, the first judge retired and the loot exhausted in legal fees and other expenses.
Yet, the choice is not just between the broken status quo and the EAB. There is a third alternative, which actually addresses the underlying corruption problem: The Bribecode alternative. The Bribecode is a bill that proposes an anti-corruption system to the NASS for enactment. The two bills are very different in approach, philosophy, and social and economic impact. They are now compared side-by-side for your guidance.
|The Economic Amnesty Bill||The Bribecode|
|Full Name||The Voluntary Taxable Income Recovery and Amnesty Scheme Bill||The Corporate Corruption Bill
|Read Full Text||The Economic Amnesty Bill||The Bribecode|
|A Quick summary of the Bill.||A 3-year period will be announced during which Looters, Drug Dealers and other owners of unaccountable wealth can declare their loot, pay 37.5% to govt, and keep the rest, in return for immunity from investigation, trial, or any other Penalty whatsoever.||Whistle-blowers for serious corruption will get a percentage reward, A new penalty for serious corruption will liquidate convicted companies, with Total Assets Forfeiture for individuals convicts and any of Nigeria's 37 Attorneys General can prosecute serious corruption under the Bribecode.|
|The Philosophy behind the Law||Erase the penalty for serious corruption and make it easy for those with ill-gotten property to legitimise their assets. Remove both the risk and the odium from property crimes, to increase IGR and encourage the Nigerian economy.||Increase the penalty for serious corruption to a point that few people are willing to risk corrupt behavior. Reward the whistle-blowers, thereby monetizing information on corruption and improve the prosecution system such that all serious corruption is guaranteed a day in court.|
|Impact of the law on foreign investments.||The Bill's sponsor claims the bill will encourage looters to return their loot from abroad. But foreign countries are not bound by Nigeria weak institutions and corrupt laws. |
As the Ibori case has demonstrated, foreign countries will follow their own laws, rather than Nigerian laws. Looters that move under this law to bring back their loot will likely be targeted by foreign prosecutors.
Nigeria has reporting obligations under the Multinational Convention on Mutual Assistance in Tax Matters. That convention is in force and has so far been signed by 112 states, including Nigeria and all the OECD countries .
The blindfold clause in S.16 of this bill will not blind civilized countries where the looters or their partners are resident (see S.2e of the Bill) from investigating looters who move assets and funds under this bill. The ‘Economic Amnesty’ offered by this bill might therefore liberalize local looting without bringing the expected bonanza from loot domiciled abroad.
|Foreign companies that will likely leave Nigeria once the Bribecode comes into force should include
1) companies selling obsolete software and technology, and totally incompetent services, which could never get a contract unless they were offering the biggest kickbacks to decision makers; and
2) companies which are really not in business. Their ‘business’ being to take advance payments, share the loot with public officers and move on. They are responsible for many of the up to 20,000 abandoned contracts recently identified by a minister.
However, companies which do not have corruption in their ‘DNA’ will be attracted by a new public sector transparency and efficiency. Right now, companies that refuse to pay kickbacks are facing extinction in the Nigerian public sector. The Bribecode will change that around.
|Who does the bill apply to?||Drug dealers, money launderers, embezzlers, tax evaders, kidnappers for ransom, or any offenders against any section of the Penal or Criminal Code are the main beneficiaries of the bill.||All corrupt persons the subject of whose offence exceeds a threshold of [N1million] are the main targets of the bill.|
|How Transparent is the law?||This is a Gag Law. |
The bill forbids any inquiry or investigation of the person making a declaration. Amnesties are usually based on full disclosure, on truth and reconciliation, but government will have no idea where the money was stolen from and whether the scam or the leak is on-going.
|Information supplied under the Bribecode is disseminated to all the attorneys general. This democratization of information also encourages companies and agencies to practice more transparency in their affairs to better manage the existential risk of corruption under the Bribecode.|
|Is there a precedent for this? Has this been tried before?||The Federal Govt may have conceded some loot to Sani Abacha's successors into order to make collaborative recovery of the rest. |
But the evidence suggests that the 'recovered' loot has also been comprehensively relooted.
Also, Indonesia implemented an Amnesty Law in 2016, but it is strictly a tax amnesty with immunity granted only for tax crimes and penalties. The Nigerian proposal offers immunity against drugs, embezzlement, kidnapping and any other crimes and penalties in Nigeria's Penal or Criminal Codes. In any case, Indonesia's position on the Transparency International's rankings has more or less stayed the same, post Amnesty.
|Nigeria is already implementing a variant of the whistle-blower's rewards system that is recommended by the Bribecode. This policy yielded N74 billion in its first 4 months of operation.
Also, S.20 of the EFCC Establishment Act already empowers the court to forfeit assets implicated in the commission of a crime. This power was has been used in reported cases.
The Bribecode extends these successful measures into a system that will work effectively, irrespective of the party or clique in power.
|What is the Moral Impact on Society as a whole?||Once the bill comes into law, the message to everyone with treasury access in the public and private sectors is: |
1. Steal as much as possible as recklessly as possible,
2. Declare the theft, pay the tax, and get immunity.
3. Become a legal billionaire with businesses in the Private sector funded by loot.
This will make honest civil servants feel like fools, while transmitting dangerous values to the rest of society. Violent crimes such as kidnappings, hijackings and armed robbery might increase.
|The risk of liquidation and total assets forfeiture as well as the knowledge that corrupt person or company can have political connections in all thirty six states in Nigeria, and Abuja, will enforce new ethical behaviour in Nigeria.|
|What is the Impact on Public Servants and government contractors?||The Economic Amnesty Bill will increase the temptation on public officers to loot resources under their control, since the coming window can be used to regularise their crime without any consequence.|
Once again, contractors can simply abandon their contracts and declare their mobilization fees as loot, without consequence.
|The threat of financial ruin will keep public servants and the companies that contract with government scrupulously honest.
Even the standards of infrastructure delivery will improve because public servants will monitor contracts and enforce specifications better, since they have not received kickbacks.
|What is the general economic impact on society?||Enhanced tax income for budgeting purposes will be undermined by the underlying corruption in the system which is worsened by the temptations represented by the Amnesty law.||By tackling corruption head-on, the knock-on impact on society will be maximized across public and private sectors. Government budgets will be ring-fenced, public service will become more efficient and economic production unleashed.|
“It is estimated that every USD 100 million lost or recovered could fund first-line treatment for over 600,000 people with HIV/AIDS for a full year, or drugs for the treatment of malaria for between 50 and 100 million people, or 250,000 water connections for poor households, or full immunisations for 4 million children. Preventing corruption and recovering stolen assets are twin processes that can contribute to development.”
To focus on asset recovery without fixing corruption is self-defeating. Bribecode is the first step that will also restore transparency and confidence in our court system.
To oppose the Economic Amnesty Bill, find out your lawmakers here, and contact them with your views. You can adapt the following letter as required and mail out.
the 8th National Assembly,
The Federal Republic of Nigeria,
As a citizen of Nigeria and a member of your constituency, …………………. I hereby request your support in opposing the Economic Amnesty Bill (The Voluntary Taxable Income Recovery and Amnesty Scheme Bill) and in presenting, defending, and passing the Bribecode (The Corporate Corruption Bill) into law.
The most critical problem facing Nigeria is the bad governance that results from Grand Corruption. The Bribecode can make this history and lead our country to her full potential.
The Bribecode’s solution is to start at the source of the problem: the contract between the government and the companies. When the Bribecode comes into force, whistleblowers who bring information on corruption are not only protected, they are rewarded with a percentage of the proceeds of a successful prosecution. And if a company is convicted of serious corruption, it faces the penalty of Liquidation, with Total Assets Forfeiture for individual collaborators. Liquidation proceedings can be brought by any of the country’s 37 attorneys general. Details of the proposed bill can be found here: (www.bribecode.org).
This will help to end Grand Corruption by making the penalty for corruption unacceptable to company directors and shareholders and creating a private sector with zero tolerance for public sector corruption. The new anti-corruption culture will grow mostly by self-regulation from the private sector and impact the rest of society, especially the public sector. Within one budget year, we can expect to see real ‘transformation’ in society.
I look forward to your support in progressing this Bill through the National Assembly. Where I hold a current voter’s card, I will also be requesting for a S.69 Recall of my Legislators where they oppose the Bribecode and the public interest.