STORIES By Emmanuel Elebeke
Facts have emerged on why the international watchdog and standard bearer on Financial Intelligence Units’ compliance with anti-money laundering and terrorism, the Egmont Group of FIUs withdrew Nigeria’s FIU access to the Egmont Secured Web. It said it is due to its lack of commitment to fight money laundering and terrorism.
According to the group, “Nigeria shall remain excommunicated until its commitments to the international community on the fight against money laundering and terrorism financing are met, including the specific issues related to the autonomy of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit.”
It blamed the country for deceiving the international community by claiming that the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit was independent only to betray itself a month after being delisted from the Financial Action Task Force list of high risk countries.
Commenting on the development, a top official of the NFIU who spoke on condition of anonymity explains: “The Egmont Secured Web (ESW) is a portal built for exchange of information and to enhance international cooperation on money laundering and terrorism financing between the 139 registered member-countries that meet their standard.
Barely one month after the Financial Action Task Force delisted Nigeria from its list of high risk countries following the commitment of the Federal Government to strengthening the legal framework against money laundering and terrorism, as well as assurances of a truly independent FIU, the group was shocked to read reports of a clamp down on the NFIU.
While the international community was trying to investigate the report, they read reports from the EFCC denying that there was no such siege, but claiming that the NFIU is a Unit under it and that it was merely restructuring and redeployed the Acting Director to another Unit. This is a clear lack of understanding of EGMONT and FATF principles on independence of FIUs globally.
They also do not understand the international standard on the operations of FIUs. I am afraid; more sanctions may be underway. Those of us that understand the implications of this development are really disturbed, but we cannot help the situation.”
The release from the EFCC made available to our Correspondent reads thus: “The EFCC does not need mobile policemen to occupy its own premises nor does it require a riot squad to redeploy its own staff,” Mr. Uwujaren, EFCC spokesman said. “The redeployment is therefore, part of the re-tooling and re -alignment process by the management of the Commission…”
Adding his voice, a financial expert, Kingsley Babalola described the situation as sad, even as he questioned the rational behind the recent interference with the operations of the NFIU.
According to him, “withdrawal of NFIU’s access to the Egmont Secured Web simply means blindfolding Nigeria from all developments and situations in the international scene, as long as terrorism financing, money laundering and other high profile international crimes are concerned.
The timing is even more worrisome. At this critical time when Nigeria is passing through terrible security challenges is not good news at all. This development is extremely dangerous. Everything humanly possible must be done by the government to reverse this before the country’s membershipis permanently withdrawn in Egmont and FATF..”