- Â Senate câ€™ttee concerned over paltry N800m allotted to unit in 2018 budget
Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
As part of the requirements to avert the expulsion of Nigeria from the Egmont Group, the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) will from January 1, 2018, become a self-accounting institution, independent of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The acting chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, confirmed this Wednesday when he appeared before the Senate Committee on Anti-corruption and Financial Crimes, where he confirmed that the unit, a department of the EFCC, has been granted self-accounting status.
Last July, Nigeria was suspended from the Egmont Group, a body comprising financial intelligence units from 155 countries that provides a platform for the secure exchange of expertise and financial intelligence to combat money laundering and terrorism financing.
Nigeriaâ€™s suspension stemmed from concerns raised by the Egmont Group over the non-independent status of the NFIU.
The group warned that Nigeria could face expulsion if the country failed to make the NFIU autonomous.
Magu told the committee that the self-accounting status of the NFIU granted by the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF) and the Budget Office would start from January 1, 2018.
â€œThey were operationally autonomous actually, but now they would be on their own. They have an accounts department that would now manage their finances, independent of the EFCC. But they still remain with us in principle,â€ Magu said.
The committee chairman, Senator Chukwuka Utazi, however, noted that the N800 million allocated to the NFIU in the 2018 budget was a far cry from what was required for its take-off.
He noted that the amount might not even be sufficient for foreign travels of its personnel, which would be a common feature of the agency.
Utazi urged Magu to provide all necessary support to the NFIU to fully take off and remain autonomous.
â€œIf the impression is to let Nigerians think that you are letting them go and that is not the reality, it does not help anyone. N800 million is not going to work.
â€œThey have to go with all necessary prerequisites, so their budget has to be done properly.
â€œIf there are people that will be seconded from the EFCC to the NFIU, the foundation must be done now, so that the world can take us seriously. We are working against the expulsion by January,â€ Utazi said.
He directed the EFCC to submit adequate documentation on the NFIU workforce and other requirements pertaining to its autonomy.
The director of the NFIU, Mr. Francis Usani, who was also present, said the unit, in its budget proposal to the AGF, had asked for N2.9 billion.
Usani also confirmed that the unit had been granted its self-accounting status.
â€œOn 15th of September 2017, we got our financial code from the Accountant General of the Federation that we have financial autonomy,â€ he said.
The committee thereafter retreated into a closed-door session to grill Magu over the arrest of the Chairman of Innoson Motors, Mr. Innocent Chukwuma.
Magu, emerging from the meeting room about 30 minutes later, confirmed to journalists that Chukwuma was arrested by the anti-graft agency.
He, however, declined to make further comments, saying that the commission would release a statement on the matter.