……as GIABA, NFIU seek tougher legal, institutional framework
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Federal Government, on Wednesday, said it has commenced the profiling of all Non Governmental Organisations, NGOs, in the country, saying the sector has become a veritable channel to launder money and finance terrorism.
FG, which made the disclosure at the opening session of a three-day regional workshop organised by Inter-Governmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa, GIABA, said its action was based on a directive by the Financial Action Task Force, FATF.
The Director General of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, NIFU, Mr. Francis Usani, told newsmen that a comprehensive list of all NGOs in the country was forwarded to his office few days ago to enable his agency to among other things, ensure they are not terrorist organisation posing as legitimate entities.
“It is within international best practices, you cannot just allow NGOs to run around the streets of Nigeria uncoordinated or unmonitored,otherwise we will run into very serious problems.
“The profiling has started. Like I said, it is my office that is involved in the profiling. Few days ago I received a list of all the NGOs to profile and we have started the process”, the NFIU boss added.
He said: “There are case studies in Nigeria and in the West African sub region and globally too, were NPOs have been used as veritable tools to launder money and finance terrorism.
“On the strength of our understanding of this threat in Nigeria and as a fall out from the Nigerian National Risk Assessment, Nigeria has taken steps to address these issues, first by committing to profiling NPOs and sensitizing them on their obligations.
“This Regional Workshop could not have come at a better time than now when criminals are bent on exploiting the very institutions that have served in promoting our common welfare and prosperity.
“It is common knowledge that in today’s world the Non-Profit sector has gained indisputable reputation as a key promoter of sustainable development, a veritable partner with government in delivery of social services and most importantly as a precursor of social change.
“However, the enormous public trust the sector enjoys, its network of global operations. The exposure of its operation to high cash transactions; which is nonetheless necessary in order to meet the demands of its beneficiaries at crucial times has made this sector a target by terrorists and other criminals to facilitate their illicit activities”.
The NFIU boss stated that part of reasons why FG decided to profile NGOs was to ensure that they are not misused by terrorist organisations posing as legitimate entities.
As well as “to ensure they are not misused to exploit legitimate entities as conduits for terrorist financing, including for the purpose of escaping assets-freezing measures; and to conceal or obscure the clandestine diversion of funds intended for legitimate purposes to terrorist organizations”.
Meanwhile, in his opening remarks, the Director General of GIABA, Mr. Kimelabalou Aba, said the body had in 2017, highlighted numerous gaps in the implementation of robust Anti-Money Laundering/Counter-Terrorism Financing regime by NPOs, including weak structures and frameworks.
“Thus, it became necessary to organise this workshop to enhance the capacity of member states to address the identified gaps and improve their performance in relation to FAFT recommendation 8.
“Protecting the NPO sector from terrorist abuse is both a critical component of the global fight against terrorism and a necessary step to preserve the integrity of the NPO sector and donor community”, he added.