The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) have thrown their weight behind the federal government’s proposal to enact a law which carries 10 years of imprisonment for anyone convicted of stealing pension funds.
Both organisations also called for the political will to ensure enforcement.
The lawyers lent their support to the proposed law in separate interviews with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos.
LEADERSHIP gathered that the proposal was contained in a bill forwarded by President Goodluck Jonathan to the National Assembly on Wednesday.
Part of the bill reads: “Any Pension Fund Administrator or Pension Fund Custodian or person or body who misappropriates or diverts pension funds will be liable on conviction to a fine of an amount equal to three times the amount misappropriated or diverted, or to a term of not less than 10 years or both the fine and imprisonment.”
NBA Chairman, Ikeja branch, Onyekachi Ubani, said the step taken by the government was commendable.
“One must commend the proactive step that is being taken now to enact a law that specifically targets pension thieves”.
He, however, urged the government to demonstrate the political will to bring such offenders to justice. “We have many laws in our law books to deal with cases of corruption but there must be political will to prosecute anybody caught committing this crime to a logical conclusion,” he said.
A former chairman of NBA, Ikeja branch, Adebamigbe Omole, advocated that stiffer punishment should be extended to all forms of corrupt and fraudulent practices.
He said: “This should not only be for pension thieves, but for anybody involved in corruption and embezzlement. The punishment must be severe, because their crime is against the well-being of the society.”