Wednesday, July 19, 2017 11:49 pm
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Wednesday inaugurated a committee to reposition the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), following its suspension from the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units.
The Spokesman of the commission, Mr Wilson Uwujaren, who disclosed this in a statement, said the commission’s Acting Chairman, Mr Ibrahim Magu, performed the inauguration ceremony in Abuja.
Media reports had said that the suspension of the NFIU, an arm of the EFCC, was due to Nigeria’s failure to provide a legal framework to make the unit independent.
According to reports, the group is also worried by the constant leaking of sensitive intelligence to the Nigerian media, contrary to global best practices the country signed up for.
Nigeria was said to have been given till January 2018 to grant autonomy to the NFIU or risk expulsion from the Egmont Group, which would cut the country off the international financial intelligence loop.
The Egmont Group is a global body of 154 financial intelligence units (FIUs) which serves as a platform for members to share expertise and financial intelligence to combat international money laundering and terrorist financing.
The NFIU is charged with tackling money laundering and monitoring financial flows, a task made easy by its membership of the Egmont Group.
The inauguration of the EFCC committee came hours after the Senate resolved to pass a legislation that would make the unit independent of the EFCC.
Uwujaren said the committee is charged with making recommendations with respect to the funding of the NFIU operations and developing career path for its staff.
It is also mandated to develop protocol for the protection of information and confidentiality, specifically as regards the status of STR information and information deriving from international exchange.
According to him, the committee’s mandate also include developing procedure for processing of information held by the NFIU either deriving from STR or from international exchange for legitimate purposes.
Magu was said to have charged the committee to take a holistic look at the mandate and operations of the NFIU to enable it to evolve proposals to reposition the agency for greater efficiency.
Magu noted that membership of the Egmont Group is critical to Nigeria’s effort to tackle money laundering, and monitor financial flows within and outside the country.
He, therefore, urged the committee to, among others, address the concern of the Egmont Group by providing the necessary frameworks needed to coordinate the process of amending section 1(2)(c) of the EFCC Act, to expressly reflect NFIU as an autonomous unit under the commission.
According to him, this is to provide the legal basis or clarity on its operational independence from the EFCC.
The EFCC spokesman said the committee has as its Chairman, Dr Abdullahi Shehu, a former Director-General of the Inter-Governmental Action Against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA).
Members of the committee were drawn from law enforcement, financial and regulatory agencies, including the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) and the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Responding, Shehu expressed delight at the opportunity given to them to serve the country.
“We see this as a call to service and we assure you that we will ensure that we carry out this task judiciously in order to reposition the NFIU, and ensure that it is autonomous, as this will further strengthen the anti-corruption fight”, he said. (NAN)