Bassey Inyang in Calabar

A civil society organisation, Media Initiative against Injustice, Violence and Corruption (MIIVOC), has warned that despite assenting to the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit Bill by President Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria is still at the risk of being sanctioned by the Egmont Group.

The Egmont Group is a global network of 152 Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs) created in 1995 to monitor international financial transactions towards ensuring that such monies are not used for illicit purposes such as terrorism, trade in illicit drugs, money laundering and other vices.

The Egmont Group had in July 2017 suspended Nigeria for her failure to comply with its rules, with additional threats of expelling the country from its midst, if she continues to flout its rules and regulations.

According to MIIVOC, to avoid possible sanctions, Nigeria must move from the passage of the NFIU law to the actual establishment of the body as quickly as possible, more so as it requires the inputs of the National Assembly.

MIIVOC Executive Director, Dr. Walter Duru, who gave the warning while addressing newsmen in Calabar, weekend however commended President Muhammadu Buhari for assenting to the Bill, even as he praised the National Assembly for passing same.

Speaking on what needed to be done urgently, Duru stressed that: “Assenting to the NFIU Bill is a good development but that is not enough. Sending the name of a fit and proper person as head of the Unit to the National Assembly for consideration requires extreme urgency. The National Assembly may be going on recess in the last week of July and the president needs to act fast in the interest of the country. Setting up of a befitting office, with all structures, staffing and paraphernalia must be done without delay. Having a law in place without effective implementation does not do the country any good.”

Speaking on the implication of the new law, Duru described the development as amounting to rekindling of hope for Nigeria’s escape from looming international sanctions, while strengthening the country’s anti-money laundering and counter financing of terrorism regime.

“The NFIU Act establishes a legal framework for a national centre that will be responsible for the receipt of information from financial institutions and designated non-financial institutions, analysis of the financial information for the purpose of turning the information into financial intelligence and dissemination of the financial intelligence to all law enforcement agencies and other competent persons. The Act ensures that the NFIU is not tied to any agency but will have adequate measures to build an independent financial intelligence system,” Duru said.

Duru urged the National Assembly to urgently pass the Proceeds of Crime, Mutual Assistance in criminal matters and Whistle Blowers/Witness Protection Bills, as well as an updated/amended version of the Money Laundering and Terrorism Prevention Acts, to brighten the country’s chances of escaping the hammer of the international community.

“Remember, Nigeria remains suspended from the Egmont Group of FIUs, meaning that the country has not been receiving external financial intelligence since July 2017 and this will remain in force until the suspension is lifted. The above steps are the surest way out of the country’s present difficult situation,” Duru said.