WITH President Muhammadu Buhari’s appointment of Mr. Modibbo Hamman Tukur as the Acting Director General of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, NFIU, pursuant to Section 5(1) of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit Act 2018, Nigeria has finally complied with all requirements of the Egmont Group and secured her freedom from threats of expulsion.
The Egmont Group is an international consortium of 155 financial intelligence units which specialises on financial intelligence and expertise. Their main job is to monitor the flow of international finance to combat money laundering, terrorism financing and frauds. This group is so powerful and influential that if it decides to suspend or expel any nation’s financial unit, it will have serious implications in its financial system’s ability to operate international transactions.
Nigeria got into trouble with the Egmont Group when it inserted its Financial Intelligence Unit, NFIU, into the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, as a department answerable to the Commission’s Chairman. This seriously compromised its independence as required by Egmont regulation. The EFCC, especially under the current Acting Chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, abused privileged financial intelligence of the NFIU by frequently deploying it for media trials of suspects, thus compromising the course of justice.
After several warnings for the NFIU to be made independent fell on deaf ears (mainly because of the resistance of the EFCC and some vested interests) the Egmont Group suspended Nigeria in 2017 and threatened to expel the country. Realising the dire consequences that awaited the financial system should we be expelled, the National Assembly embarked on an expeditious enactment of the NFIU law which the President later signed.
After the NFIU was excised from the EFCC and domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, as required, Egmont sent a delegation to examine and certify all steps taken to assure its independence and subsequently lifted the suspension in September 2018.
With the appointment of the helmsman of the NFIU, we hope that the Unit will work hard to cover all lost grounds and strive to gain the full confidence of the Egmont Group. It is crucial for the NFIU to stay professionally focused and eschew the political shenanigans that blighted its past. The genuine integrity and international acceptability of our financial system is more important than the political interests of any regime.
It is a pity that we had to wait to be practically whipped into line to do a simple job that would promote the integrity of our financial system within the comity of nations. We should learn useful lessons from this experience and voluntarily comply in every endeavour to make Nigeria one of the best nations to do business with in the world.