The Scope of “in Rem” Forfeiture under Nigerian Law: Issues Arising

Fatima Waziri – Azi


Some criminals might be content to serve time in prison, if they know their assets will be available upon release, or
that their families may continue to enjoy the proceeds of crime and this is why in rem forfeiture of assets is an
important mechanism that can be used to prevent this from happening. Indeed it has, generally, been used as an
effective tool to counter organized crime, drug trafficking and certain other crimes in Italy since 1956 and in the
USA since 1970. In rem forfeiture removes the tools of the crime from circulation thereby depriving the wrongdoer,
his associates or family from benefiting from the proceeds of crime. Even though for now Nigeria does not have a
comprehensive framework for in rem forfeiture, it is however recognized under various Nigerian Laws. This paper
discusses in detail the legal framework of in rem forfeiture under Nigerian laws, the gaps as well as management of
seized or forfeited assets pending final forfeiture order. The paper posits that for any meaningful progress in the fight
against corruption and the recovery of proceeds of crime to be made, anti-corruption and law enforcement agencies
must continue to apply in rem forfeiture mechanism. The paper however emphasizes that civil forfeiture should
never be seen as an alternative or substitute for the institution of criminal proceedings when there is sufficient
evidence to support such proceedings and where such proceedings would otherwise be justified.

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