Gaming Operators Task NFIU on Streamlining Reporting Procedure
Nseobong Okon-Ekong reports that a recent meeting between the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit and operators in the gaming industry to discuss anti-money laundering and terrorism financing has brought to the fore a need to align expectations from various agencies of government regulating the sector
In a recent exclusive interview with GAMING WEEK, Yomi Oketope, President of the Casino Owners and Gaming Machine Operators Association of Nigeria, asserted that the gaming industry in Nigeria was the most regulated, referring to the litany of processes required by various government agencies, which operators must comply with.
Given that the gaming industry is prone to money laundering and terrorism financing, the Association of Nigerian Bookmakers (ANB), Nigeria Licensed Lottery Operators Forum and Casino Owners partnered with the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), the central national agency responsible for the receipt of disclosures from reporting organisations, the analysis of these disclosures and the production of intelligence for dissemination to competent authorities at a training session where the NFIU explained why operators in the gaming industry must disclose certain information about its operations.
Commending the organisers, Ajibola Lawal of Gaming Systems Limited said, “We have been able to learn a lot of things. There are issues that were misconstrued. This training is going to help us. It is going to help us in training our staff. We have a Compliance Officer. The training must be continuous. If possible, once in a year. Inadvertently we used to engage officers from SCMUL of the EFCC for training. The truth is that ignorance is not an excuse in law. It has also provided an opportunity for meeting with colleagues.”
According to Maha Otu, Director BetWinner Nigeria, information that the NFIU officials disclosed was previously unknown to them, stating, “It has given us what we are supposed to be doing and what agencies of government we should be dealing with. It was a well-needed training. Our Accountant is here. When we go back, we have to look at it, look at the slides so that everyone can be on the same page.”
The NFIU team who engaged the operators in one marathon session, from morning till late afternoon, at Protea Hotel in the Central Business District, Alausa-Ikeja, Lagos, comprised of Biola Shotunde, Peace Onwuka, Robert Bagobiri and Layi Adewole. They told the operators that reporting suspicious transactions and/or activities does not mean that the transaction is a crime but that the NFIU needed every information it can use because such information may transform into intelligence disseminated to government security services. It warned the operators against the adverse consequences of failure to report.
If found wanting, the operators will likely receive heavy sanctions while explaining the reasons behind setting up Government Office Anti-Money Laundering, known as GoAML. Operators risk a fine of N5 million for individuals and N10 million for corporate bodies for failure to report a suspicious transaction and/or activity. Section 7 of the Money Laundering Prevention and Prohibition Act (MLPPA) prescribes N1 million every day the offence is committed. It even specifies a period of incarceration for a Compliance Officer of an operating business that is in default of the law.
Agreeing that the training was long overdue, Ms. Gbemisola Oduwole, Company Secretary of Wazobet described it as one in a series of training with regulators in the industry.
She said, “Their law is new, and we, the operators need to know what their expectations are in order for us to comply. From what I can see, it is very tedious because we have to report to two agencies of government on almost the same thing. Government can streamline these processes for Anti-Money Laundering. Too many agencies of government are trailing us for every bit of our operations, but we have to comply.”
Ekeneme of Ike R&S Lotto expressed this sentiment. He pleaded with the NFIU to adjust some of its requirements to avoid being too burdensome on the operators. However, he admitted that the training was good in that the operators now know that there are compliance requirements to be filed with NFIU concerning transactions suspected of being money laundering transactions or terrorism financing. Driving home the importance of the AML Compliance training, Bimpe Akingba, Executive Secretary of the ANB, reiterated the need for transparency and being on the right side of the law.
“We have nothing to hide. That is why it is incumbent on us to facilitate this training so that our members can carry on their business without hindrance,” said Akingba.
To Adewale Akande, Chief Compliance Officer of Bet9Ja, the training was interesting to the extent that other operators are now learning their responsibilities and obligations to NFIU, noting that the “major problem we have is that the big operators comply, but the smaller ones are not, and we are in the same industry, so it tends to give everyone a bad name.”
Atere Abimbola of Premier Lotto reviewed the impact of the learning in terms of how it will improve productivity on the job.
The NFIU officials warned they would not accept low-quality Suspicious Transaction Reports (STR). They explained why it was important for operators to send quality reports to the NFIU going forward. Every attendee at the training was required to visit the NFIU portal to fill out certain forms