In a move to strengthen the fight against corruption, the Federal Government (FG) of Nigeria has authorised the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to freeze any bank account suspected of being used for financial crimes.
The anti-graft agency revealed this through its spokesperson, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, who disclosed that some commentators have described the freezing of bank accounts of suspects being currently investigated as vindictive.
He explained that freezing of accounts suspected of being used for financial crimes was a mandatory investigative step backed by law.
He added that Section 34 (1) of the EFCC Act 2004 empowers the Commission to freeze any account suspected of being used for financial crimes.
Quoting the Act, Uwujaren said: “the Chairman of the Commission or any officer authorized by him may, if satisfied that the money in the account of a person is made through the commission of an offence under this Act or any enactment specified under Section 6(2) (a)-(f) of this Act, apply to the Court ex-parte for power to issue or instruct a bank examiner or such other appropriate authority to freeze the account.”
He added that similar provision in the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2012 (as amended), also empowers the EFCC Chairman or his representatives to place a stop order on any account or transaction suspected to be involved in any crime.
He said the intention of these provisions is to ensure that the Commission safeguards suspected proceeds of crime pending the completion of its investigation.
Uwujaren said it is without prejudice to the social standing of the holder of such accounts or whether they are individual, corporate or government accounts.
“Freezing orders are incidental to investigation and doing otherwise will jeopardise the prospects of recovering stolen assets,” he said.