The Witness Protection Bill, 2021 (SB 261) has been read for the Second Time in the Senate and referred to the Committees on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters; and Anticorruption and Financial Crimes.
Leading the debate on the Bill at the plenary session of Tuesday, 25 January, the Sponsor, Sen. Suleiman Abdu Kwari (APC: Kaduna) informed lawmakers that the Bill seeks to provide a legal and institutional framework to protect witnesses and related persons in respect to disclosures made for public interest. In his submission, he explained that the Bill also provides for the support, management, and protection of witnesses which will be implemented by all public institutions with the powers to investigate and/or prosecute.
According to Sen. Kwari, the salient provisions contained in the Witness Protection and Management Bill are as follows:
- Part 1- Objective and Application: This Part specifies offences and laws to which the provisions of the bill can be applied. These include terrorism, money laundering (prevention and prohibition), economic and financial crimes, corrupt practices and other related offences, drugs and narcotics, etc.
- Part 2: Establishment of the Witness Protection and Management Program: This Part allows all public institutions having responsibility under the law to investigate and/or prosecute offences, to establish a witness protection and management program. It further provides for rights, duties, privileges and obligations of other bodies such as courts, lawyers, parents/guardians in relation to witness protection and management.
- Part 3: Witnesses Identity Protection: The provisions under this part, provide for the protection of witness identity either by obtaining a new identity or restoring a previous identity, which will be made by the agency to the Court.
- Part 4: Management of Witness Protection Program: This Part enjoins relevant agencies to designate a Witness Protection Office at their various branches to foster adoption, management, and implementation of the program as practicable as possible.
- Part 5: Witness Protection Fund: This Part establishes the Witness Protection Fund which is to be managed and controlled by the relevant agency. Such fund includes:
- monies to be appropriated by the National Assembly which shall amount to at least fifty percent of the total estimated expenditure of the Protection Fund;
- monies approved by the President for the Witness Protection Program;
- monies accruing from any fund or account established for the lodgment of proceeds of confiscation and forfeiture of asset;
- monies from a percentage of the total amount recovered by the Government as a direct result of information provided by a protected person; and
- subventions, grants, aid and donations from Federal or State Government, etc.
Sen. Kwari stated that the Bill, if passed into law, will certainly improve the efficiency of law enforcement agencies and strengthen Nigeria’s effort in the fight against corruption.
It is important to note that President Muhammadu Buhari in a letter, read on the floor of the Senate on Wednesday, 19 January 2022, by the President of the Senate, Sen. Ahmad Lawan, requested for the prompt passage of the Bill, following from some of the resolutions adopted at the Conference of States’ Parties to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption held in Egypt in 2021.