The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) yesterday urged the National Assembly not to grant autonomy to the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) but retain it as a unit of the anti-graft agency.
This is even as the Nigerian Law Reform Commission (NLRC), the civil society group and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) kicked against retaining NFIU as a unit of the EFCC.
Presenting the position of EFCC, Secretary of the agency, Mr. Emmanuel Adegboyega Aremo, argued that “giving NFIU autonomy outside EFCC will endanger it” adding that “NFIU needs a protective shield from politicians; if you leave it to survive alone it will be endangered and exposed to danger”.
He explained that “In the entire universe only three tiny countries have autonomous FIUs and what Edmont Group wants is for it to have autonomy within the EFCC”.
Aremo said that the enabling act establishing it should be amended to give it the powers to retain 5% of recoveries from proceed of crime by corrupt public officials.
He added that the 5% of recoveries it proposes to retain is a far cry when compared to the percentage of proceed of crimes being retained by anti-graft agencies of other neighbouring African nations in a similar situation.
The agency also informed the lawmakers that it returned over N34 million to crime suspects who were later found to be unwarranted arrests in 2017 alone and assures of its readiness to return every kobo illegally taken with interest.
Supporting the EFCC, the director general of Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) Mr. Ashishana Okauro noted that “As a foundation member of EFCC I know what the Edmont Group wants and it is autonomy within the EFCC.
“It’s baffling that ten years after we were registered by Edmont Group we’ve been suspended and we stand to lose more if we are finally expelled from the group.
“From Nigeria, we may not be able to make scholarship payments and card monies may not be honoured if we are finally expelled”, he stated.
But countering the agencies, a commissioner at the Nigeria Law Reform Commission (NLRC), Prof. Jummai Audi said “NFIU should be independent and an autonomous body separate from EFCC.
She said “the Nigerian Law Reform applauds the initiative but recommends the establishment of NFIU as an independent and autonomous body separate from EFCC rather than as a unit domiciled in EFCC as proposed in the bills”.
Audi noted that the bill was a good idea saying, “the commission recommends the establishment of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) as an independent and autonomous body separate from the EFCC as proposed” saying this will ensure that Nigeria complies with the requirements of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units (Egmont Group).
She explained that Nigeria was suspended from the Egmont Group for lack of autonomy in the real sense of the NFIU and this position has not been addressed by the bill. According to her, “a better approach to address the issue of autonomy of the NFIU is a bill passed by the senate on the establishment of NFIU as a unit independent of the EFCC”
“The Egmont Group requires that the NFIU be independent and autonomous to guarantee its effectiveness in countering terrorist financing, money laundering and fighting corruption”, she stated.
The Commission also called for the appointment of a chairman for the EFCC, separate from the executive chairman arguing that the present composition where “the chairman/chief executive of the EFCC is also the chair of the board that ought to supervise the EFCC.
She argued that the composition eliminates checks and balances and suggested that a retired chief justice or justice of a superior court of record be made board chairman, while the chief executive will be a member of the board and head of the secretariat.
The NLRC also rejected the proposal for the retention of 5 percent of recovered confiscated asset monies from suspects and convicts because the EFCC ought to have a comprehensive budget proposal from the onset in such a way that it will not contemplate the use of any confiscated asset or money or resources for its operations.
A representative from the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and minister of justice, Mr. Anthony Abba, simply told the lawmakers that a Committee to harmonise the various positions of the stakeholders would be set up to by the Attorney General.
While declaring the public hearing open, Speaker Yakubu Dogara represented by the deputy whip, Hon. Pally Iriase said “no country can develop with the high level of corruption in Nigeria
He said “despite various government efforts to enact laws to curb corruption it is fast threatening our culture in Nigeria but once these laws are passed it will clear some of these internal and external challenges.
The representative of the Human Rights Environmental Development Agency (HEDA), Mr. Olarenwaju Surajo backed the NLRC in rejecting the proposal to keep the NFIU as a unit of the EFCC.