The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Wednesday insisted that the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) was independent of its control.
The Acting Chairman of the commission, Mr Ibrahim Magu, said at an interactive session with editors on Wednesday in Abuja, that ongoing efforts to create a “stand-alone’’ NFIU was needless.
It would be recalled that the NFIU, which is domiciled in the EFCC, was recently suspended by the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units reportedly for not being independent.
Egmont Group is a global financial intelligence gathering body made up of 156 Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs) representing 156 countries.
It is a platform for members to share expertise and financial intelligence to combat money laundering and terrorist financing.
The group reportedly demanded autonomy for the NFIU as a condition for the suspension to be lifted, failing which Nigeria would be expelled in January, 2018.
Following the suspension, the Senate moved to establish the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Agency through a bill, which passed second reading in July.
Magu said, “I am not opposed to the autonomy of the NFIU; in fact the NFIU has always been operationally autonomous.
“I understand the workings of Financial Intelligence Units around the world and they are domiciled in law enforcement agencies based on their credibility.
“This is another way of corruption fighting back; people are fighting and pretending to be in support of what is ongoing, but they are not giving a face to the fight against corruption.’’
Shedding more light on this, the Director of the NFIU, Mr Francis Usani, said the Egmont Group was simply asking for amendment of Section 1(2)(c) of the EFCC Act.
Usani said the group was not demanding the creation of a separate NFIU as being portrayed in some quarters.
“The section says that the EFCC is a designated FIU, but the group is saying the provision is not clear to them.
“What the group is saying is that we should create the NFIU as a unit under the EFCC by amending that provision of the EFCCT Act. It is as simple as that.
“But it is unfortunate that the perception generally is tending towards abusing what the Egmont Group is asking us to do.
“As the Chairman has said, there is a very high level of operational autonomy in the NFIU.
“When we talk about operational autonomy it is different from administrative autonomy.
“The NFIU has three core responsibilities which are to receive information, analyse the information and disseminate it to law enforcement agencies.”
Usani said other law enforcement agencies make request for information directly to the NFIU without the knowledge of the EFCC chairman.
He explained that the chairman had no knowledge of information given by the NFIU to agencies like the ICPC, DSSAN among others.
“The NFIU signs MoUs without the EFCC chairman’s consent, I attend meetings within and outside the country which the chairman doesn’t know about.
“There are a lot of other things we do at the NFIU without his knowledge. The chairman doesn’t ask me who is making request to us or to who we are making request to.
“Even my international engagements he doesn’t know about.
“All these give credence to its operational autonomy. But these issues are being politicised and that is what pains me the most,” he added.
The director warned that a stand-alone NFIU was against the principles and protocols of the Egmont Group and would earned the country total expulsion.