Money Laundering Act: Anti-graft Agency urges Media to enlighten Nigerians
Salihu Ali, Abuja
Nigeria’s Anti-graft Agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has called on the media to enlighten and continuously educate the citizens on the 2022 Money Laundering Prevention and Prohibition Act
The Commission also emphasized the need for the media to be familiar with the new Money Laundering Act
The Chairman of the EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa stated this in Lagos, while declaring open a one-day workshop on Financial Crimes Reporting organised by the EFCC for Journalists.
Speaking through the Lagos Zonal Commander of EFCC, Ahmed Ghali, Bawa said, “There are certain provisions of this new law that I believe will affect you directly or indirectly. One is the secrecy of financial transactions.”
He noted that the new law criminalizes the operation of numbered accounts and also mandates financial institutions to ascertain the beneficial owners of accounts before opening such accounts.
“There is a more robust requirement for due diligence and reporting obligation by financial institutions and non-financial business and professions to the Special Control Unit Against Money Laundering, SCUML.”
The EFCC Chairman, who described as remarkable the roles of the media in projecting the work of the Commission in the past 19 years, also sought greater collaboration and better information sharing between the media and the Commission.
“You are able to mine rich veins of information from a range of sources and this is an invaluable resource that will help us to do our job better where it is shared.
“Many of you have played commendable roles in bringing the efforts of the Commission at combating corruption and economic and financial crimes to the front burner and improving public consciousness about the ills of financial crimes. We can only ask for more support, while also urging you to do your work with the utmost sense of responsibility.”
Bawa used the forum to announce the progress being recorded by the Commission in the area of conviction, saying, “ The Commission secured 2,701 convictions as of October 7, 2022, in addition to recovering assets running into billions of Naira.”
He said the Commission was not resting on its oars in spite of the conviction record secured so far within the year.
“We believe that more needs to be done to deter citizens from getting involved in financial crimes and discouraging the theft of public resources. We believe that some of these crimes could be prevented if the members of the public have the right information. It is for this reason we are intensifying our public enlightenment engagements which, in a few weeks’ time, will witness the formal launch of the EFCC Radio.”
The EFCC Chairman, who also joined the programme virtually, restated the determination of the Commission to tackle financial crimes in the nation’s electoral process.
He said the recent arraignment of persons arrested for inducing voters during the Osun governorship election should send a message to those bent on corrupting the electoral process that the consequences would be dire.
Speaking on “Peculiarities, Trends, Typologies and Challenges of Cybercrimes Enforcement in Nigeria,” the Head of Counter-Terrorism, General Investigation Section, CTGI, EFCC Headquarters, Abuja, Mustapha Afeez, advised individuals and organizations to be more cautious, particularly in the face of the increasing sophistication of cybercriminals across the world.
In his paper titled “Best Practices In Financial Crimes Reporting: A View From the Inside,” Dele Oyewale, Assistant Director, Media & Publicity Unit, EFCC, lamented what he described as “Un-reporting, under-reporting of financial crimes and non-follow up of existing financial crime cases in court.”
Mr. Oyewale, who noted that economic and financial crimes across the world were evolving with worrying dynamics, called on the media to “Attune itself to the rising strides and trends of criminality.”
The EFCC applauded the move by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to redesign and reissue higher denominations of the nation’s currency, the naira.
At a press briefing Wednesday, the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele announced that the apex bank had obtained the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari to resign and issue new N200, N500 and N1000 notes that shall come into circulation by the 15th of December, 2022.
Responding to the development in a press statement through head of Media Mr Wilson Uwujaren, the Executive Chairman of the EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa described the move by the apex bank as “A well-considered and timely response” to the challenges of currency management which has negatively impacted the country’s monetary policy and security imperatives.
“The EFCC, the CBN and some other regulators in the financial sector have worked closely in the recent past to determine how best to stabilize the country’s monetary policy environment. It is heart-warming that the CBN has demonstrated courage in taking this bold decision which I believe will bring sanity to the currency management situation in Nigeria.”
He called on operators in the Nigerian financial services sector, especially deposit money banks and bureau de change operators to work within the guidelines provided by the Central Bank of Nigeria to ensure seamless withdrawal of the old currency.
Bawa however warned that EFCC will monitor the process to ensure that unscrupulous players and currency speculators and their cohorts among the BDCs do not undermine the exercise.
He also charged banks to be alive to their reporting obligations and not assist unscrupulous customers in laundering suspected proceeds of crimes through their system.
Money Laundering Act
The EFCC boss further pointed out that the objectives which the CBN seeks to achieve with the redesign and reissue of the higher denomination Naira notes, were in tandem with the objectives of the Money Laundering Prevention Prohibition Act 2022, which criminalizes the conduct of cash transactions above a certain threshold.
According to Section 2 (1) of the Money Laundering Act 2022 “No person or body corporate shall, except in a transaction through a financial institution, make or accept cash payment of a sum exceeding— (a) N5,000,000 or its equivalent, in the case of an individual, or (b) N10,000,000 or its equivalent, in the case of a body corporate.”
Optimistic that the new currency measure would further boost Nigerians’ embrace of banking culture and encourage the acceptance of cashless transactions, the EFCC Chairman recalled that the Commission had recently taken operational action against currency hoarders in major commercial cities of Nigeria.
“It is therefore pertinent to issue this stern warning to Bureau de Change operators to be wary of currency hoarders who would attempt to seize this opportunity to offload the currencies they had illegally stashed away.”
He noted that currency hoarders readily made their hoard available to criminal enterprise, the EFCC boss further stated that the Commission will spare no effort to bring to book any financial services operator who runs afoul of extant laws and regulations.