MOTION ON THE DIRE IMPLICATIONS OF THE SUSPENSION OF NIGERIA FROM THE EGMONT GROUP OF FINANCIAL INTELLIGENCE UNITS -Senator Chukwuka Utazi (Enugu North)

THIS SENATE:

NOTES that the EGMONT GROUP is a network of national financial intelligence Units and is the highest inter-governmental Association of intelligence agencies in the world, with about 152 Member Countries or State Parties who sit regularly for the purpose of sharing criminal intelligence and financial information bothering on money laundering, terrorism financing, proliferation of arms, corruption, financial crimes, economic crimes and such-like offences geared towards the support of local and international investigations, prosecutions and asset recovery.

INFORMED that the Agencies that benefit from the activities of the EGMONT Group include the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Nigeria Customs Service, the ICPC, the EFCC, the Nigeria Immigration Service, the Federal Inland Revenue Service, the Securities and Exchange Commission and many other relevant governmental agencies in addition to facilitating the oversight responsibilities of the National Assembly.

INFORMED that at its July 2017 Meeting in China, Nigeria’s Financial Intelligence Unit, the Agency of government that represents Nigeria at the meetings of the group was suspended till January 2018 with a threat of an expulsion if Nigeria does not meet the standards of the Group with regards to its operations.

INFORMED that the EGMONT Group suspended Nigeria for a number of reasons including:

  1. The Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit, NFIU which is the body which represents Nigeria in the Group has not been granted operational autonomy and the Unit is still domiciled within the EFCC (a situation the Group has objected to over the years), and the admission of the NFIU into the EGMONT Group in June 2007 was on the basis of a resolution by the EFCC Board but the group made it clear that it is a condition of continued membership for the NFIU organs and operations to be autonomous from the EFCC.
  2. The meddlesomeness of the Acting Chairman of the EFCC in the affairs of the NFIU by his interference in the operations and staffing of the Unit leading to the departure of many competent hands.
  3. Divulging confidential information concerning the activities of the EGMONT group.

AWARE that by virtue of our membership of the Group, the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit, NFIU, enjoys the benefit of the privileged information which the members of the group share among themselves. This intelligence sharing is crucial to the universal and local war against corruption, money laundering, terrorism financing, financial and economic crimes, etc. For example, by virtue of her membership, Nigeria relies on the EGMONT Group for assistance in the investigation of the crimes listed above as all bank accounts and other assets of suspectsare made available to the country wherever they are located in the world.

INFORMED that one of the immediate effects of Nigeria’s suspension from the Group is that the EGMONT Secure Web, ESW is currently shut down against Nigeria. The implication is that Nigeria can no longer exchange sensitive information with other Member countries in order to carry out our investigative and regulatory responsibilities as they affect local and international investigations.

OBSERVES that apart from the suspension of Nigeria this July, the Group has given Nigeria up to December 2017 to address the issues raised in the suspension or be expelled which will attract internationalsanctions against Nigeria’s financial system. Nigeria can ill-afford to be black-listed as the implications are dire, not only to our aspiration for membership of the Financial Action Task force (FATF) into which so much energy, time and resources have been invested but the country will also be listed in the G8 list of Non-Cooperating Countries and Territories (NCCT).

INFORMED that if expelled, the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) Implementation Reviewing Group will be served a notice against Nigeria, and most countries, including the United States, the UK, Germany, Switzerland, etc., would alert their financial institutions and services through the issuance of advisories such as the Financial Criminal Enforcement Network Advisory and Foreign Assets and Cash Directive, to warn them to apply extra care and diligence in transacting with Nigeria and Nigerians. The huge political and economic implications of such action is better imagined. An expulsion might also, under certain conditions, attract the imposition of financial transaction limit, including the withdrawal, by certain countries, of scholarships to students of Nigerian origin.

CONCERNED that these sanctions will necessitate that Nigeria will undergo the process of fresh application, which takes years to accomplish in addition to subjecting Nigeria’s financial standards to a total and strict review by international bodies such as the World Bank and the IMF, and assets recovery or repatriation to Nigeria can be slowed down or even stopped, and all painstaking efforts for the full membership of FAFT would be in vain if this suspension is not quickly reversed.

CONCERNED that the valiant efforts of the Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes to avoid this suspension including leading the Nigeria Delegation to many meetings of the Financial Action Task Force, FATF, to impress upon them Nigeria’s readiness and willingness to be accorded full membership were not complemented by the Executive branch, especially the recognized three line Ministries ofJustice, Finance and Interior, and repeated pleas and correspondences for action to avert this suspension went unheeded.

CONCERNED that in view of the non-cooperating stance of the executive branch, the legislative branch will have to urgently leverage on its institutional mechanism to ensure that Nigeria’s suspension from the EGMONT Group is reversed. It is all the more urgent considering the December deadline given to the country to comply to avoid expulsion and also considering the imminence of the annual recess of the national legislature, and in further view of the scheduled visit by the FATF High Level Mission to Nigeria in November 2017 to appraise Nigeria’s preparedness to be granted the status of observer and thence membership of the FATF, especially with regard to the needed co-ordination between the three line Ministries of Justice, Finance and Interior.

NOTES that the granting of the requisite autonomy to the NFIU has been aggressively and progressively resisted by the EFCC and that the Committee, in order to provide the needed autonomy for the NFIU to meet its primary mandate, technically and logistically, considered the budget of the NFIU separately from that of the EFCC in the 2017 budget but for the non-provision of budget sub-heads by the Budget Office and the reluctance of the EFCC to do the administrative necessity required.

THIS SENATE, THEREFORE, RESOLVES:

  1. To pass a law creating a substantive and autonomous Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit, NFIU, and make the Unit legally and operationally autonomous with powers for the employment, reward, training, promotion and discipline of its workforce independently.
  2. To empower the NFIU to, in line with international best practices, exchange and relate with all countries on issues affecting its mandate at the bilateral and multi-lateral levels.
  3. URGE the three Line Ministries of Justice, Finance and Interior to do all within their powers to ensure that Nigeria’s suspension is immediately reversed and ensure that all conditions specified by the EGMONT Group are met to re-admit and improve Nigeria’s standing within the Group while increasing their levels of cooperation and co-ordination to ensure that Nigeria achieves membership of FATF.
  4. URGE the Executive branch to include in any Supplementary budget estimate that may be presented to the National Assembly before the end of the year a separate budget for the NFIU in view of the need to lift the suspension of Nigeria as soon as possible.

I so move.