Nigeria may stand the risk of being expelled from the Egmont Group if necessary steps are not taken by Nigeria to adhere to the requests of Egmont Group.
These were the words of head of the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), Mr Francis Usani.
Speaking during a media parley organised by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in Abuja on Wednesday, Useni explained that what the Egmont Group asking Nigeria to do is to amend certain sections of the EFCC Act to give the NFIU exclusivity and not the creation of an independent body.
The Egmont Group had in July suspended Nigeria as a result of the alleged lacked of independence in the workings of the NFIU as the unit was domiciled in the EFCC. The group, therefore, asked Nigeria to amend its law establishing the NFIU to make it independent or risked expulsion by January 2018.
But Usani said that the NFIU bill passed by the Senate in July was fraught with “issues”.
He also disclosed that he was not allowed to make contributions to the process, saying that when he approached the Senate on it, he was told that “the train has passed”.
According to Useni, the NFIU was already operating independently.
He said, “The Senate told me whatever I am to contribute to that bill, it has been passed as the train has passed the station.
“Nigeria stands the risk of being expelled by the Egmont Group because you can’t have two FIUs. The EFCC does not oppose the operational independence of the FIU.
“If you look at the NFIU bill there are so many issues with it. For example, there is nowhere an FIU has a board of directors or can sue and be sued.
“If Nigeria fails to comply with the group’s demands for a legal framework granting autonomy to the NFIU, 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 United States and the United Kingdom 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.