Egmont Group: N’Assembly passes bill, separates NFIU from EFCC5 views
The National Assembly concluded work on the bill establishing the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit as an independent entity by endorsing the Conference Committee report of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
At the House of Representatives, members in plenary, simply adopted the recommendations of the report at a session presided over by the Deputy Speaker, Mr. Yussuff Lasun.
By that action and a similar adoption by the Senate, the NFIU bill stood passed.
A clean copy of the bill will now be sent to President Muhammadu Buhari for his assent before March 11.
The PUNCH had reported exclusively on Tuesday that the report would be passed on Tuesday.
March 11 is the date the Egmont Group, the global body of financial intelligence units, will make a final pronouncement on the fate of Nigeria as a member of the body.
Nigeria is currently on suspension from the group over the lack of autonomy for the NFIU.
A threat of permanent expulsion from the Egmont Group is hanging over Nigeria if by March 11, the NFIU has not been granted full financial and operational autonomy.
The most important component of the new bill is the separation of the NFIU from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, where it had existed and operated in the past 11 years.
By the provisions of the EFCC Act, the anti-graft agency more or less performs the functions of the NFIU and the latter does not enjoy autonomy.
Specifically, Section 2(c) of the EFCC Act provides that the commission (EFCC) “is the designated Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) in Nigeria, which is charged with the responsibility of coordinating the various institutions involved in the fight against any money laundering and enforcement of all laws dealing with economic and financial crimes in Nigeria.”
This provision was the bone of contention with the Egmont Group, as it said it did not allow the NFIU to operate as an independent entity.
The group had advised Nigeria to separate the EFCC and the NFIU by giving each their clear mandate.
It also advised that the NFIU could be domiciled in any government agency of choice, including the EFCC, so long as it operated as an independent entity.
The new law passed by the National Assembly on Tuesday resolved the issue by deleting the extant Section 2(c) of the EFCC Act and establishing the NFIU as an independent entity.
However, it will now be domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria in line with practices elsewhere, but will be an independent body not answerable to the CBN.
But, the Chairman, House Committee on Financial Crimes, Mr. Kayode Oladele, while praising the passage of the bill, expressed some reservations.
Oladele noted that though Nigeria now had an independent NFIU, he feared that it might be a “toothless bulldog” having no power to bite.
He argued that if the issue of domiciliation had been resolved in favour of the EFCC as earlier recommended by the House, the NFIU could have benefited from the “policing powers of the EFCC” to do its job.
“As it stands, the Executive will decide how it will work. The Director will be appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and the confirmation by the Senate,” Oladele added.
The conference report passed on Tuesday contained largely the recommendations of the House’ version of the NFIU bill except two.