Economy

May 15, 2024

It’s not our call to ban or direct foreign missions’ financing — EFCC

EFCC

EFCC

By Miftaudeen Raji

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC said it is not the place of the agency to ban or direct foreign missions on how they should handle their finances.

The Acting Director of Public Affairs for the EFCC, Wilson Uwujaren stated this in an interview with Arise Television.

This comes after the advisory by EFCC to the ministry of foreign affairs stating that all transactions at foreign missions should be conducted in naira.

Uwujaren said, “I don’t think it’s the place of the EFCC to ban or direct foreign missions in the manner or way they handle their finances. 

“We recognise as a commission that foreign missions as representatives of their home countries enjoy certain diplomatic privileges by international law and the commission, it’s not our place to want to interfere with some of the privileges that they enjoy under international law. 

“It is not within the remit of the EFCC to either ban or direct foreign missions in the manner or way they handle their finances.”

The director, however, said there were concerns about certain practices observed in the handling of consular services by foreign missions, particularly the invoicing in dollars and determining exchange rates with Nigerians and foreign nationals. 

According to the EFCC, such practices conflict with existing laws and regulations in Nigeria, and compelled the EFCC to notify the missions of such practices through the ministry of foreign affairs.

Uwujaren said, “What actually happened is that the commission overtime observed that a number of the foreign missions by the manner and way they handle their consular services, a number of them have engaged third parties to carry out consular services on their behalf and those third parties have been invoicing in dollars. 

“Some even went to the rigorous extent of determining the exchange rate of the naira in the course of their transactions with Nigerians and foreign nationals based in Nigeria. And we thought that practice conflicts with extant laws and regulations in Nigeria and we felt compelled to bring this practice to the knowledge of the missions through the ministry of foreign affairs.”

Uwujaren added that the EFCC never wrote any letter to any foreign mission, but issued an advisory to the ministry of foreign affairs.

“As a point of clarification, the EFCC never wrote any letter to any foreign mission in Nigeria. The advisory that we issued was to the ministry of foreign affairs. And what we did was essentially to bring this practice which we believe conflicts with section 20 subsection 1 of the Central Bank of Nigeria Act. 

“That section of the CBN Act actually makes the naira the only legal tender in Nigeria, which presupposes that that is the only acceptable currency for doing business within the borders of our country.

“So if any entity is conducting transactions using any other currency, such a practice conflicts with the provision of the Central Bank of Nigeria Act. So the onus was on the EFCC to convey this information to the missions through the foreign affairs ministry and that essentially was what we did. We did not write to any foreign mission in Nigeria.”

He added, “I think the foreign affairs ministry has the protocol for engaging with foreign missions in Nigeria. It is within their competence to determine the ways and manner in which they will transmit the information to the various missions in Nigeria and I’m sure those who are charged with that responsibility are handling it.”

Meanwhile, Uwujaren said a special task force, on naira abuse and forex malpractices, is working across the federation to discourage people from transacting in dollars.

He warned individuals to be aware that the naira is the only acceptable means of transaction in Nigeria and not be surprised if the commission takes action against individuals for acting contrary to the law.

Uwujaren said, “And if you have been following the activities of the EFCC, you’d have noticed that we have a special task force on naira abuse and forex malpractices that is working across our zonal commands throughout the federation. 

“The focus is to discourage people from transacting in dollars because the naira is the only acceptable means of transaction in the country and we want to ensure that people who in the past feigned ignorance of any law that prohibits this to be aware now that there is a law that bans this and you cannot claim ignorance of any law going forward if the commission moves against you.

“The step that we have taken is to bring to the knowledge of those who are involved in these practices is that some of these activities they are carrying out, conflicts with existing laws in Nigeria and the onus is on them to take corrective actions;

“…and ensure that their practices are in alignment with laws and regulations that exist in our country. If they fail to do that, then the commission will have no option than to enforce the law as it is.

“No matter what you want to charge in Nigeria, you water free of charge but let it be the lenger tender, the naira that should be used for transaction. That is the focus of the EFCC.”