👤 By Adenike Lucas and Danjuma Aliyu
The campaign to lift Nigeria’s suspension from a body of Financial Intelligence Units has yielded success.
In May 2017, DENISAURUS News authoritatively reported Nigeria’s suspension from the Egmont Group – a united body of 155 Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs) that “provides a platform for the secure exchange of expertise and financial intelligence to combat money laundering and terrorist financing (ML/TF).”
But instead of working to ensure Nigeria was given back the access to the group’s server, the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, where the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, NFIU was domiciled denied the suspension.
Ibrahim Mustafa Magu, who the Department of State Security Service, DSS described as a “perennial offender” claimed that “nothing was disconnected,” and the news was all in the imagination of Adenike Lucas, the editor of DENISAURUS News and “her paymasters.”
Yet this paper was resolved in its aim to ensure that the country was not badly affected from the lack of access and work was done to lift the suspension and prevent a possible expulsion.
As our report published on May 7, 2017, stated that the suspension was caused by Mr Magu.
A source at the EFCC said, the anti-graft boss was “exposing privileged information to those who should not be allowed access.”
Mr Magu, the source also said, “failed to comply with legal regime framework as required by the Egmont group.”
READ ALSO : Inside The Secret World Of Magu’s Corruption
In its 24th Plenary the Egmont Group also noted that the reason of the suspension as the deliberate leak of confidential information, by the EFCC leader.
It also made an accusation that there were divulging, and constant leakage of sensitive intelligence to the media contrary to the global best practices.
“The Heads of FIU made a decision, by consensus, to suspend the membership status of the NFIU, Nigeria, following repeated failures on the part of the FIU to address concerns regarding the protection of confidential information, specifically related to the status of suspicious transaction report (STR) details and information derived from international exchanges, as well as concerns on the legal basis and clarity of the NFIU’s independence from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).”
Even after causing the suspension, Mr Magu continued to be a hindrance to Abubakar Malami, the Attorney General of Federation and Minister of Justice who was to work with lawmakers in resolving the problem.
A spokesman to AGF, confirmed that Mr Magu was not complying with effort to lift the suspension.
“The EFCC is now in a state of paranoia, as it dreads the effort of the government to have an independent NFIU, which it has stood against stoically since 2006,” Comrade Salihu Othman Isah in a statement.
“As it presently stands, the NFIU staff are all deployed by the EFCC to serve in the interest of whoever is its current Chairman. This has to stop if it must conform to the new thinking and global best practice. Nigeria cannot be an island of its own. It cannot fight corruption in isolation.
“The threat of expulsion from the Egmont Group calls for a thorough review of the NFIU and the manner in which the EFCC leadership has manipulated and misused intelligence to the detriment of the fight against corruption and financial crime in Nigeria.
“To achieve the desired goal, NFIU needs to stand alone as an agency with full complements of power to recruit its staff and an annual budgetary allocation guaranteed for its operations.
“Its independence must be ascertained in the new law to set up Nigerian Financial Intelligence Agency (NFIA) to enable it carry out its mandate, which shall include responsibilities for receiving, requesting, analysing and disseminating financial intelligence reports on money laundering, terrorist financing and other relevant information to law enforcement, security and intelligence agencies, and other relevant authorities.”
This paper exclusively learned then that a member of the House of Representatives, Kayode Oladele was also working in connivance with the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to sabotage the NFIU Bill, a legal framework to make the intelligence units autonomy as required by Egmont.
Mr Oladele, at one time succeeded in fraudulently removing segments of the report, this paper noted.
Despite all the gimmicks from the honourable member for Yewa North and Imeko Afon Federal Constituency, Ogun State, the National Assembly were able to pass the NFIU bill. The legislation eventually received the Presidential assent on July 11, 2018.
The Nigerian Financial Intelligence Agency Bill, 2018, (SB.535) which was passed after both Chamber held a Conference Committee on Tuesday, solves that problem.
READ ALSO : ABRACADABRA : President Buhari Finally Signs Bill Giving NFIU Autonomy From MAGU’s EFCC
The NFIU, previously seen as a department within the EFCC will now run an autonomous operation at the Central Bank.
Having meet the requirement of the Egmont group, the suspension has been lifted. The news was confirmed at the group’s ongoing plenary in Australia.
Commenting on the suspension lift, Mrs Lucas commended the President of the Nigerian Senate, Bukola Saraki.
She said: “When the information of the suspension was first raised in May 2017, Mr Magu denied the report. His denial of the report, and continue sabotage almost lead to a total expulsion from access to the required server.
Mr Magu almost prevented the country from fixing the problem, as he never realised the need for independence for the NFIU. Thankfully, the Senate under the leadership of Senator Bukola Saraki, were resolved that the country was not going back to the dark ages, where Nigerian banks were blacklisted from international finance.
If the country was blacklisted, Visa and Mastercard credit and debit cards issued by Nigerian banks Nigerians would have found it difficult to use outside.
The expulsion from Egmont would have also affected the country’s chances of becoming a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).