FEARS of the imminent risk of Nigeria being expelled from the Egmont Group, a global network of 152 Financial Intelligence Units (FUIs), set Federal Government officials scurrying to prevent what could spell disaster for our financial system.
The Presidency and the National Assembly abdicated their duty of ensuring the independence of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, NFIU, which was put under the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
In July 2017, the Egmont Group lost patience with Nigeria and suspended our NFIU because of the EFCC’s habit of leaking sensitive financial intelligence to the media even before charging suspects to court. The EFCC also refused to cooperate in efforts to grant the NFIU independence.
Nigeria was required to amend the laws to either make the NFIU a separate corporate body or transfer it to the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, the global practice.
The Presidency had set up an ad-hoc committee headed by Senator Chukwuka Utazi, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption, to reposition the NFIU and ensure it is not expelled from the Egmont Group. It was to turn in its report in August 2017, but nothing came of it.
Unfortunately, the Egmont Group has been meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina since Friday March 2 and the meeting ends today, Wednesday March 7, 2018.
Reports have it that our possible expulsion is on the cards.
Nigeria’s expulsion will spell doom for our international financial transactions, especially as credit card holders will experience problems transacting business because such transactions can no longer be verified and confirmed through the global FIU.
The situation will be worsened by the recent drop in our Corruption Perception Index, CPI, conducted by Transparency International, TI, our subsisting image as a country widely associated with advance fee fraud and the activities of Islamist insurgents in the North who receive illicit funds through suspicious networks.
The scale of an expulsion backlash could throw our banking system into chaos and the economy might even drop back to recession. Nigeria will once again become an international financial pariah as we experienced during the General Sani Abacha years.
If the Egmont Group hammer falls on Nigeria, the anti-corruption crusade of the President Muhammadu Buhari regime would be dealt another blow, the second within three weeks following the TI downgrade of our standing in the CPI.
We had called for an end to the circus shows which the anti-graft agencies stage in the media which most of the time end up a waste of time and money in the courts. But no one listened.
As we wait for the Egmont Group’s verdict we can only hope for the best.