…Egmont to decide Nigeria’s fate on March 11
By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor
Despite the fear being expressed by some individuals and groups that the Egmont Group may soon axe Nigeria from its fold as a result of locating its Financial Intelligence Unit within the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Federal Government appears to be weighing options on the best way to go in order not to play into the hands of the international financial watchdog agency.
The federal government is of the opinion that it is better to leave the NFIU within the EFCC and make it more independent and secure rather than establishing a new agency that may not be accepted by the Egmont Group.
Already, the March 11, 2018 deadline for Nigeria to make amends and report back to the agency is only a week away from either being expelled or risking prolonged suspension from the group.
But as the deadline draws nearer, an official of the federal government explained to Vanguard last night that it was incorrect to say that Egmont suspended Nigeria because its NFIU was located within EFCC.
“The truth is that Egmont group only raised some concerns about some concerns in relation to EGMONT Group’s principles and guidelines and all that is needed for Nigeria to do in this situation is to address the issues strictly as observed and incorporate the items as indicated as deficient in the EFCC Act, by way of the passage of the EFCC Amendment bill and report to the agency,” a federal government official pointed out on Thursday.
“I can tell you that if this is done and rightly so, the suspension by Egmont Group will automatically be lifted at the same plenary without recourse to any other issue.
“Bu if Nigeria chooses to tow the line otherwise not suggested by the EGMONT Group and decides to create a new FIU, as being proposed in the NFIA bill and relocates the FIU to the Central Bank or any other entity, the EGMONT Group will consider this as a fundamental change in the structure of the FIU, the resultant effect will be an automatic expulsion, which will further subject Nigeria to the process of reapplication for membership, under the revised EGMONT Group membership procedure adopted in 2014.
“Recall that it took the NFIU a period of two years to conclude its original membership application with the current requirements for membership as cumbersome as there are now, for Nigeria to regain membership, it will take an estimated period of three years.
“In my humble opinion, 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.
“The bill proposing the amendment of the EFCC Act which has addressed the concerns of the EGMONT Group has been submitted to the EGMONT Group Membership Support and Compliance Working Group and it has made its observations and advised that some provisions contained in the EFCC Amendment bill be made clearer.
“It will therefore be preposterous to submit to the EGMONG Group an entirely different law for consideration, as against what is already before them. Any attempt to do this will not only ridicule Nigeria before the international community, but Nigeria will be viewed as a very unserious, insincere and irresponsive country.
“The Germany experience should guide our decision. The German FIU was expelled from the Egmont Group in January 2017 on the grounds that there was a fundamental change in its structure by relocating the FIU from the German Police to the Customs.