Semi-au­ton­omy for NFIU

Daily Trust - - OPINION -

The Se­nate has com­menced the process of grant­ing au­ton­omy to the Nigeria Fi­nan­cial In­tel­li­gence Unit [NFIU] which is presently domi­ciled in the Eco­nomic and Fi­nan­cial Crimes Com­mis­sion [EFCC] with the pas­sage of the bill for Sec­ond Read­ing. The Se­nate ini­tia­tive is in re­sponse to the re­cent suspension of Nigeria from the EGMONT Group of fi­nan­cial in­tel­li­gence units, which serves as back­bone for mon­i­tor­ing in­ter­na­tional money laun­der­ing ac­tiv­i­ties. Chair­man of Se­nate Com­mit­tee on EFCC Se­na­tor Chuk­wuka Utazi had moved a mo­tion on “Dire Im­pli­ca­tions of the suspension of Nigeria from the EGMONT Group of Fi­nan­cial In­tel­li­gence Units.” The Se­nate then pledged its re­solve to do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to en­sure the re­ver­sal of Nigeria’s suspension from EGMONT Group.

Nigeria has up to De­cem­ber 2017 to ef­fect the statu­tory au­ton­omy for NFIU to avoid ex­pul­sion from the EGMONT Group. Such a de­vel­op­ment will ini­ti­ate the fil­ing of a no­tice against Nigeria to the United Na­tions Con­ven­tion Against Cor­rup­tion [UNCAA] Im­ple­men­ta­tion Re­view Group. This in turn will alert fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions of mem­ber na­tions of EGMONT Group to issue ad­vi­sories to treat all fi­nan­cial trans­ac­tions with Nigeria with sus­pi­cion, ex­tra care and dili­gence. The ad­vi­sories un­der con­sid­er­a­tion in­clude the Fi­nan­cial Crim­i­nal En­force­ment Net­work Ad­vi­sory and For­eign Assets and Cash Di­rec­tive. This means that all trans­ac­tions between Nigeria and its ma­jor trad­ing part­ners will be sub­jected to in­tense scru­tiny.

This coun­try’s suspension was as a re­sult of fail­ure by the Nige­rian gov­ern­ment to pro­vide the op­er­a­tional lat­i­tude for NFIU to work in ac­cor­dance with the rules of en­gage­ment as adopted by mem­bers of the EGMONT Group. Se­nate blamed At­tor­ney Gen­eral and Min­is­ter of Jus­tice Abubakar Malami, Min­is­ter of In­te­rior Gen­eral Ab­dur­rah­man Dam­bazau and EFCC’s Act­ing Chair­man Ibrahim Magu for this sit­u­a­tion. The sit­u­a­tion is com­pounded by EFCC and the Bud­get Of­fice’s fail­ure to pro­vide separate bud­getary sub-heads for NFIU in the 2017 bud­get so that it can op­er­ate op­ti­mally.

It is sad that this sit­u­a­tion should arise when fight­ing cor­rup­tion is one of the main agenda pil­lars of the Buhari Ad­min­is­tra­tion. NFIU which is one of the main tools avail­able for fight­ing cor­rup­tion has been tech­ni­cally ham­pered in the dis­charge of its du­ties, which has even at­tracted the at­ten­tion of in­ter­na­tional in­sti­tu­tions. Given its role in the coun­try’s fight against money laun­der­ing NFIU should oc­cupy a prom­i­nent po­si­tion in the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s anti cor­rup­tion war. It also rep­re­sents the coun­try in the global anti-cor­rup­tion net­work. For in­stance, it is by virtue of NFIU’s links with the EGMONT Group that the re­cent dis­clo­sures with re­spect to the theft and di­ver­sion of hu­mon­gous amounts of Nigeria’s pub­lic funds to off­shore havens by cor­rupt gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials were achieved.

The po­tency of NFIU in the on­go­ing anti cor­rup­tion fight es­pe­cially in the coun­try’s pub­lic ser­vice is made greater by its abil­ity to track di­ver­sion of pay­ments for gov­ern­ment con­tracts by pub­lic of­fi­cers to pri­vate ac­counts from where such is si­phoned into per­sonal ac­counts. It is be­lieved that as much as 60% of pub­lic sec­tor con­tract awards are chan­nelled to in­ter­ests that are mere fronts for des­ig­nated insider pub­lic of­fi­cials while the monies end up in their pri­vate bank ac­counts. Since the Fi­nan­cial Action Task Force [FATF] High Level Mis­sion is sched­uled to visit this coun­try in Novem­ber to ap­praise our pre­pared­ness, it is timely for Se­nate to act on this mat­ter.

What EGMONT Group is ask­ing for is ‘fi­nan­cial au­ton­omy’ for NFIU with a fixed term for the per­son head­ing it. As at now, the head is just an­other staff of EFCC. Se­nate is how­ever talk­ing about full au­ton­omy and cre­at­ing a new agency. This is not nec­es­sary be­cause fi­nan­cial in­tel­li­gence is a core source of in­for­ma­tion for EFCC op­er­a­tions and EFCC should not be un­der­mined by com­pletely re­mov­ing NFIU from its purview. In pass­ing this bill, Se­nate should amend the EFCC Act to re­flect how NFIU should re­late with EFCC in the light of the prob­lems it has faced and the com­plaints by the EGMONT Group.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Nigeria

© PressReader. All rights reserved.