Nigerian Senate seeks autonomy for financial intelligence unit

Edwin Akwueh, Abuja

Nigeria's Senate

The Nigerian Senate has resolved to pass a law creating a substantive and autonomous Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), and make the unit legally and operationally autonomous from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC.

Senate’s resolution followed a motion sponsored by Senator Chukwuka Utazi at Wednesday’s plenary on the dire implications of the suspension of Nigeria from the EGMOHT Group of Financial Intelligence Units.

In a five point resolution, the Senate noted that the move has become necessary to empower the NFIU to exchange and relate with all countries on issues affecting its mandate at bilateral and multi lateral levels, in line with international best practices.

It also urged the three line Ministries of justice, finance, and interior to ensure that Nigeria’s suspension is immediately reversed, and that Nigeria meets all the conditions specified by the EGMOT Group for re-admittance and improvement of Nigeria’s standing within the Group.

Consequently, Senate urged the Executive branch of the government to include in any supplementary budget estimate that may be presented to the National Assembly before the end of 2017, a separate budget for the NFIU in view of the need to lift the suspension of Nigeria as soon as possible.

The Senate therefore mandated its committee on anti corruption to produce a Bill in the next one month that will lead to the enactment of a law to create the NFIU as an autonomous Agency.

In his remarks, Senate President Dr. Bukola Saraki while commending his colleagues for the initiative noted that Nigeria must prove her status as a Nation committed to the war against financial crimes and other forms of corruption.

“We must move swiftly to ensure the lifting of the suspension, and the earlier we get this done, the better for Nigeria,” the Senate President admonished.

It would be recalled that at the July 2017 meeting of the EGMOT Group held in China, Nigeria was suspended till January 2018, with a threat of an expulsion if the country does not meet the standards of the Group with regards to its operations.

One of the immediate effects of Nigeria’s suspension from the Group is that the EGMOT secure web (ESW), is currently shut down against Nigeria. The implication is that Nigeria can no longer exchange sensitive information with other member countries for the purposes of investigation and regulatory responsibilities as they affect local and international investigations.

The EGMOT Group is a network of national financial intelligence units, and it is the highest inter-governmental Association of intelligence agencies in the world, with about 152 member countries or state parties sitting regularly for the purposes of sharing criminal intelligence and financial information.

They also engage on issues bordering on money laundering, terrorism financing, proliferation of arms, corruption, financial crimes, economic crimes and similar offences geared towards the support of local and international investigation, prosecutions, and asset recovery.

Nigerian agencies that benefit from the activities of the EGMOT Group include, the Central Bank of Nigeria, Customs Service, ICPC,  EFCC, Immigration Service, FIRS, and the SEC.