The Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, has constituted an ad hoc committee to reposition the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU). The decision was contained in a memo issued from his office and exclusively obtained by SaharaReporters. The NFIU is an appendage of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Dated 31 July and signed by Mr. Ade Ipaye, Deputy Chief of Staff to the President (Office of the Vice President), the memo (SH/OVP/DCOS/NFIU/) was addressed to Mr. Chukwuka Utazi, Chairman, Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes.
The memo listed Mr. Utazi as the Chairman of the ad hoc committee on NFIU. Members include Mr. Kayode Oladele, a member of the House Representatives, Mr. Abdullahi Y. Shehu, and representatives of the Federal Ministries of Justice, Finance and Interior. Other members are the Executive Secretary, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), representative of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Offences Commission (ICPC) and representative of the EFCC.
The ad hoc committee was handed five terms of reference. Among these are the recommendation and facilitation of legal and regulatory measures to bring about financial and operational autonomy of the NFIU, recommendation of other necessary steps to acted upon by relevant stakeholders to ensure the restoration of NFIU’s membership on the Egmont Group, a network of financial intelligence units; and to offer advice on the implications, including financial and otherwise, of NFIU’s proposed membership of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Also, the ad hoc committee is expected to advise on steps to be taken in readiness for the proposed mutual self-evaluation visit of the FATF in November and make other recommendations necessary to boost the country’s capacity to deploy financial intelligence to fight crime.
The ad hoc committee is expected to conclude its work and turn in a final report of the exercise by the end of August.
The decision to reposition the NFIU is coming on the heels of the suspension of its membership by the Egmont Group on 5 July reportedly over its failure to provide a legal framework that will ensure its autonomy from the EFCC. The suspension drew a reaction from the Senate, which resolved to pass a law to make a NFIU independent from the EFCC. It mandated its Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes to submit, for discussion, a draft bill for the establishment of an autonomous NFIU in line with international best practices.
The Senate, which described the implication of the suspension as grave, also called on the Ministries of Justice, Finance and Interior to ensure that the NFIU is re-admitted by the Egmont Group. It also requested the Executive arm to include in any supplementary budget estimate that may be presented to the National Assembly before the end of the year to include a separate budget for the NFIU, given the urgent need to ensure its re-admission into the Egmont Group.