By Ikechukwu Okaforadi and Musa Adamu
The Senate has slated today to debate the conference committee report on the Bill seeking to establish as an independent body, the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), which has been domiciled in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
This measure by the Senate is aimed at averting Nigeria’s impending expulsion from the Egmont Group of financial intelligence association.
The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, said this during yesterday’s plenary, where he pointed out the need to expedite action on the report so as to prevent Nigeria from expulsion from Egmont Group.
Receiving the report from the Chairman, Senate Committee on Financial Crimes and Anti-Corruption, Senator Chukwuka Utazi, he commended the committees of both chambers for their efforts in preparing the report before the deadline.
Senator Ike Ekweremadu said, “It is a very important bill and I am happy that you have come into agreement with the House of Representatives.
“It is important that we consider the report tomorrow so that Nigeria will be out of the suspension and be counted among the comity of nations in the Egmont Group”.
Nigeria is currently serving a suspension from Egmont Group, a body of 154 financial intelligence units across the world, which provides a platform to secure exchange of expertise and financial intelligence to combat money laundering and terrorism financing.
It accused Nigeria of sharing confidential information and constant leakage of sensitive intelligence to the media, contrary to global best practices it signed up for.
The NFIU, which represents Nigeria in the Egmont Group, was suspended at its July 2017 meeting in China, following Nigeria’s failure to grant operational autonomy to the financial intelligence unit, a situation which the group has objected to for years.
The group had threatened to expel Nigeria permanently by March 11 if the Nigerian government failed to grant the unit the autonomy required to become its member.
The Senate and House of Representatives had differed over the passage of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Agency, NFIA Bill establishing the NFIU as an independent entity.
Senator Utazi had last week raised a point of order, accusing his counterpart in the House of Representatives, Hon. Kayode Oladele of frustrating efforts to expeditiously pass the bill and warned that failure to pass the bill ahead of the next Egmont Group meeting would cause a major economic crisis for the country.
Reacting to the allegation, Hon. Oladele, said he never frustrated the process, and instead accused Senator Utazi of putting off all efforts for them to meet.
Both lawmakers, according to Senator Utazi, however, met on Monday evening and came up with the report.
If given the Presidential assent, the bill is expected to act as the central body in Nigeria responsible for requesting, receiving, analyzing and disseminating financial and other information to all law enforcement and security agencies and other relevant authorities in the country.