Special Assistant to the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice on Media and Public Relations, Umar Gwandu, made the disclosure while speaking to newsmen.
The Executive Order 008 as amended mandated the Attorney-General of the Federation to set up and implement a Voluntary Offshore Assets Regularisation Scheme otherwise referred to as `VOARS’.
Blueprint reports that in order for strengthening of its implementation mechanisms and structures, the Order went through various inputs by stakeholders and review in the legislative chamber.
“Consequently, the Amendment to the Executive Order 008 was signed on May 20 by President Buhari.’’
“VOARS gives all relevant persons and their intermediaries who have defaulted in declaration of their offshore assets the opportunity to voluntarily declare and regularise their offshore assets, subject to fulfilment of the terms and conditions stipulated in the Order and other subsequent regulations.”Gwandu said.
According to him, VOARS will work closely with the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) which has worldwide access to relevant financial information in order to ensure seamless exchange of information.
“The government hopes that relevant persons amongst Nigerians, their entities and intermediaries will seize the opportunity provided by VOARS to declare and regularise their offshore assets before it is too late.
“Relevant persons who voluntarily declare their offshore assets and pay the stipulated levy to the government will receive compliance certificates which allow them to use their residual assets freely without hindrance.
“The recoveries accruing to the government will be used for essential infrastructure development for the benefit of Nigerians’’ Gwandu noted further.
He nevertheless warned defaulters who may be tempted to continue the concealment of their offshore assets, saying the power enshrined in the Executive Order 008 as amended stipulated a penalty.
“It stipulates that `any domestic or foreign bank, asset manager or intermediary that cooperates with defaulters, enabling them to conceal offshore assets and obligations pertaining to them shall, upon discovery will be liable to pay to the federal government a penalty on the total of such offshore assets, in addition to other penalties provided for under the Nigerian law or laws of foreign countries from which Nigeria can benefit” he added.
But while reacting on the development, a notary public and assistant counsel International criminal court Hague the Nertherland, Oluwaleke Atolagbe described the presidential assent as a welcome development, saying it was long overdue.
He said, “With the amendment signed on 20th May, 2020, perhaps some persons who never wanted to take the opportunity provided by the scheme may now reconsider their stance seeing that the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) may now facilitate the tracing of their undeclared assets. Thus, such persons may be prosecuted under the necessary laws that might have been violated.
Atolagbe noted however that though an executive order on its own, it may not enjoy status of a full penal statute, saying it did not go through the expected legislative processes laws.
He then cautioned that any persons who refuse to take advantage of such Executive Order may be prosecuted under some other relevant laws that are in place.