The Senate on Wednesday resolved to enact a law to establish a new anti-corruption body; Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), a move aimed at reversing the suspension of Nigeria from the EGMONT Group.
The Senate, following a motion by Senator Chukwuka Utazi (PDP-Enugu North), vowed to “make the Unit legally and operationally autonomous with powers for the employment, reward mining, promotion and discipline of its workforce independently”.
If the proposed law is finally enacted, NFlU will no longer operate under the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The EGMONT Group is a network of 152 member-countries that share information relating to criminal intelligence and financial investigations on money laundering, terrorism financing, proliferation of arms, corruption, financial crimes and economic crimes.
The NIFU,, currently under the EFCC which represents Nigeria at EGMONT meetings, was suspended till January 2018 at the July 2017 meeting in China, with a threat of an expulsion if the country fails to meet the standards of the Group with regards to its operations.
The Senate contended that Nigeria would no longer be able to benefit from the financial intelligence shared by the other 152 member countries of the group, which includes the United States and the United Kingdom with its suspension of EGMONT.
According to Senators, the suspension of Nigeria will significantly hamper its abilities to recover stolen funds most especially those stashed in foreign financial institutions.
Against this background, the Senate adopted a multiple point resolution that called for the establishment of an independent NFIU, and the empowerment of the unit to be able to exchange and relate with all countries on the issues within its mandate at bilateral and multi-lateral meetings.
The Senate’s resolution called on the Ministries of Justice, Finance and Interior to work to ensure that Nigeria’s suspension is immediately reversed and ensure that all the conditions set by the EGMONT Group are met to re-admit and improve Nigeria’s standing within the Group.
The Senate also called on the Executive branch to ensure that it includes a separate budget for the NFIU in any supplementary budget it sends to the National Assembly before the end of the year.
Doing so, it stated, will ensure that Nigeria’s suspension is lifted as soon as possible.
Senator Utazi, leading the debate on the proposed bill disclosed that the Group hinged its suspension of Nigeria on the fact that NIFU is still domiciled within the EFCC instead of granting operational autonomy, which was the major reason for the unit’s admission into the group in June 2007 and agreed to by the board of anti-graft agency.
In his comments, Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki stated that separating the NFIU from the EFCC will show that we are serious about this anti-corruption fight. The Senate President further called on the Senate to begin the process of enacting the law.
“We must make sure that the suspension is lifted,” Saraki said, “The earlier we get it lifted the better it is for our image and the sooner we can restore our standing internationally.”