By Ikechukwu Okaforadi and Musa Adamu
The Senate on Thursday said that Nigeria risked being expelled from the EGMONT Financial Intelligence Group next week, as the deadline given by the group to Nigeria to make Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) independent of EFCC expires.
This was sequel to the adoption of a Point of Order raised by Chairman, Senate Committee on Anti- Corruption and Financial Crimes.
Citing order 43 of the Senate rules during plenary, Utazi expressed worry over the inability of the National Assembly to come up with a conference report needed in granting independence to Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU).
He accused his counterpart, Chairman House of Representatives Committee on Financial Crimes, Rep. Kayode Oladele, of derailing the process of having a legal framework that would guarantee independence of the unit.
According to Utazi, “my counterpart in the House of Representatives has refused to make himself available so that the two arms can meet and come up with the conference report.”
It could be recalled that The NFIU had been a unit under the control of the Economic and Financial Crimes Control (EFCC).
Nigeria was suspended from the EGMONT Group which is a network of 152 member countries that share information relating to criminal intelligence and financial information.
Nigeria was suspended because of failure to meet up with the conditions of the group, one of which is to make the NFIU an independent unit.
“So the bill becomes imperative because if the process of having a legal framework does not receive an accelerated consideration to help Nigeria avoid expulsion from the EGMONT Group, the Senate should not be held responsible,’’ Utazi said.
In a swift reaction, Oladele denied the allegation, saying that he never derailed the process.
Oladele told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that on the contrary, Utazi shoved off all his efforts for them to meet.
According to him, I have tried all my efforts to ensure that we meet but each time we try to meet he will say he was busy.
“But just on Tuesday to be precise, we were both guests of honour at the Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption and while we were discussing I threw it to him and said why can’t we meet this week and he shoved it off.
“I repeated it and he didn’t answer me and I took it again that he was busy until about 10 pm on Wednesday, I received a text from him asking me to meet with him at 2 pm on Thursday.
“And I replied him that I have a previously slated meeting that he should please choose another time or date.
“Utazi fixed the date without consulting with me to fix a meeting date and time and expected me to abandon every other engagement that I had earlier schedule on my calendar.
“Before this time there was nothing from him suggesting a meeting,’’ Oladele said.
He, however, expressed his commitments to the interest of the country.