By ABBA MAHMOOD –
The Senate has initiated a bill which will grant autonomy to the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) currently domiciled in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). This Senate’s move was said to be a response to the supervision of Nigeria from the EGMONT Group of financial intelligence units.
The EGMONT Group is an informal group which serves as backbone for monitoring international money laundering activities. In fact, more than 50 countries across the globe do not belong to the EGMONT Group. There are four different models of the financial intelligence units of the Group; the Nigerian model, whereby the NFIU is part of the EFCC, is one of the models. So the EGMONT Group did not say the NFIU must be removed from the EFCC. It is only interested in proper definition of the relationship between the two as well as the financial autonomy of NFIU, not the creation of an entirely new agency to compete with EFCC.
The move to grant autonomy to the NFIU to separate it from the EFCC will only weaken the anti-corruption war. EFCC without NFIU will just be “crimes commission”. The National Assembly can just amend the EFCC Act to grant the NFIU “financial autonomy” as demanded by the EGMONT Group without necessarily making it fully autonomous so that the EFCC can still relate fully with NFIU. That is the best approach instead of the impulsive reaction of granting it full autonomy, or creating it as a new agency as being initiated now in the new bill. The request of the EGMONT Group is very clear and the new bill as currently being debated is going beyond what the Group wants. In fact it was the establishment of the EFCC that qualified Nigeria for the membership of the EGMONT Group in the first place. The National Assembly should look at this thing dispassionately by inviting all relevant stakeholders to a public hearing and not rush into what may jeopardize the current anti-corruption efforts, thereby undermining Nigeria’s interests.