* Hon Oladele derailed process of legal framework – Sen Utazi
* No, Sen Utazi refused every attempt for reconciliatory meeting- Hon Oladele
* ‘NFIU should domicile in EFCC as new unit will hurt Nigeria’
As the EGMONT Group meets on March 12 to deliberate on many issues including its decision over the suspension of Nigeria, the Senate and the House of Representatives have expressed divergent views over measures to address concerns raised by EGMONT on the independence of the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU).
The Senate had passed a bill to create a new NFIU that is independent of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) while the new unit will be domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
But the House of Representatives came up with a different version, as the House stated that the EFCC Amendment Bill had addressed the issues raised by EGMONT Group.
The development indicates that the two chambers must hold a conference meeting to harmonies their differences.
Nigeria was suspended from the EGMONT Group which is a network of 152 member countries that share information relating to criminal intelligence and financial information.
Nigeria was suspended over failure to meet up with the conditions of the group, one of which is to make the NFIU an independent unit.
The Senate had on Thursday claimed that Nigeria’s anti-corruption fight may suffer a great setback as the nation risked being expelled from the global EGMONT Group.
This followed the adoption of a Point of Order (43) raised by Chairman, Senate Committee on Anti- Corruption and Financial Crimes, Senator Chukwuka Utazi, who was worried that the National Assembly has failed to come up with a conference report needed in granting independence to NFIU, a unit presently domiciled in the EFCC.
Senator Utazi also blamed the development on his counterpart, Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Financial Crimes, Hon Kayode Oladele, for allegedly derailing the process of having a legal framework that would guarantee independence of the unit.
Utazi said: “My counterpart in the House of Representatives has refused to make himself available so that the two arms can meet and come up with the conference report.
“So the bill becomes imperative because if the process of having a legal framework does not receive an accelerated consideration to help Nigeria avoid expulsion from the EGMONT Group, the Senate should not be held responsible’’.
But in a swift reaction, Oladele denied the allegation, saying that he never derailed the process.
Oladele told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that on the contrary, Utazi shoved off all his efforts for them to meet.
He said: “I have tried all my efforts to ensure that we meet but each time we try to meet, he will say he was busy.
“But just on Tuesday to be precise, we were both guests of honour at the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) and while we were discussing, I threw it to him and said why can’t we meet this week and he shoved it off.
“I repeated it and he didn’t answer me and I took it again that he was busy until about 10 pm on Wednesday, I received a text from him asking me to meet with him at 2 pm on Thursday.
“And I replied him that I have a previously slated meeting that he should please choose another time or date.
“Utazi fixed the date without consulting with me to fix a meeting date and time and expected me to abandon every other engagement that I had earlier scheduled on my calendar.
“Before this time, there was nothing from him suggesting a meeting”.
But Mr. Francis Usani, Director of NFIU, in a statement made available on Thursday, said establishing a new FIU locating it outside the EFCC would result to a situation that will aggravate the current situation which the NFIU is facing in the EGMONT Group.
He disclosed that the bill proposing the Amendment of the EFCC Act which has addressed the concerns of the EGMONT Group has been submitted to the EGM.