Suspension from Egmont Group: Senate vows to separate Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit from EFCC

* Moves to stop Nigeria’s expulsion from Egmont Group

* Urges anti-corruption c’ttee to submit draft bill for independent NFIU
*Suspension, setback in fight against corruption— Saraki

The Senate was, yesterday, poised for another showdown with Acting Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, as it moved to pass a law to make the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, NFIU, independent of the commission, following the suspension of the country from the Egmont Group.

The Egmont Group is an informal network of national financial intelligence units, FIUs.

The Egmont Group had threatened that if Nigeria failed to comply with the group’s demands for a legal framework granting autonomy to the NFIU by January 2018, the country will be expelled from the global body which provides the backbone for monitoring international money laundering activities.

In the event of an expulsion, Nigeria will no longer be able to benefit from financial intelligence shared by the other 153-member countries, including the US and the UK, while the country’s ability to recover stolen funds abroad will also be hampered.

The Federal Government is currently seeking to recover funds laundered globally by politically exposed persons and their associates.

Another major dire consequence will be the blacklisting of Nigeria in international finance, and this could affect the issuance of Mastercard and Visa credit and debit cards by Nigerian banks.

It could also affect the international rating of Nigerian financial institutions, restricting their access to some big-ticket international transactions.

Nigeria’s admittance into the group in 2007 is considered to be one of the biggest achievements of the President Olusegun Obasanjo administration.

The membership ensured the removal of Nigerian banks from the blacklist of international finance.

In this regard, the Senate resolved to pass a law creating a substantive and autonomous Nigeria Financial intelligence Unit, NFlU, and make the unit legally and operationally autonomous with powers for the employment, reward, training, promotion and discipline of its workforce independently

It also resolved to empower the NFIU to, in line with international best practices, exchange and relate with all countries on issues affecting its mandate at the bilateral and multidateral levels.

The resolutions of the Senate were sequel to a motion by Senator Chukwuka Utazi (PDP, Enugu North), entitled: “Dire implications of the suspension of Nigeria from the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units.”

The Senate also urged the three line Ministries of justice, Finance and Interior to do all within their powers to ensure that Nigeria’s suspension was immediately reversed and ensure that all conditions specified by the Egmont Group were met to re-admit and improve Nigeria’s standing within the group, while increasing their levels of cooperation and coordination to ensure that Nigeria achieved membership of FATF.

WATCH ALSO: Senate passes bill pulling Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit out of EFCC in 24 hours

Suspension, setback in fight against corruption — Saraki

In his remarks, Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, said separating the NFIU from the EFCC would show that the Senate is serious about the anti-corruption war of the government.

He also described the suspension as a set back to the anti- corruption crusade of the government.

Saraki, who called on the Senate to begin the process of enacting the law, said: “Clearly, this suspension is a setback in our fight against corruption and, as such, we must move swiftly because we cannot afford to be cut off from the Egmont Group.

‘’We must move swiftly and ensure that this suspension is lifted and one of the things we need to do is to ensure that we pass this bill as soon as possible and give independence to NFIU.

“Other activities that must have led to this must be stopped. The committee on anti-corruption will carry out its oversight to ensure that the sooner we get the suspension lifted, the better for our image and the fight against corruption.”

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