National Assembly passes NFIU bill, whittles down EFCC, police powers

The National Assembly yesterday passed into law the bill aimed at establishing the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) in line with international best practices.

If assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari, the NFIU, which hitherto was under the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) will now be domiciled as a unit under the Godwin Emefiele-led Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

The senate passed it’s own version of the NFIU bill in September last year while the harmonized and final copy was passed yesterday by the House of Representatives at the plenary presided over by the Deputy Speaker, Sulaimon Yussuff Lasun.  

The NFIU is to be a directorate to be headed by a director to be appointed by the president on the recommendation of the minister of justice and attorney general of the federation, subject to confirmation by the senate.

Chairman of the House Committee on Financial Crimes, Mr. Oladele Kayode, said that the powers of the EFCC would be whittled down when the NFIU law becomes operational. 

“The financial intelligence bill that we just passed does not give police power to sanction if there is disobedience to its directives. What used to obtain was a hybrid type where you have enforcement as well as administrative functions put together because it was domiciled in the EFCC.

“But now that we want to domicile it in the CBN, they would lose that enforcement power. I don’t know how that is going to be because in Ghana, for instance, it is domiciled in the CBN and anytime there is disobedience of the regulations and instructions and they want to enforce it, they go to court to obtain order to enforce anything and it delays their activities.” 

NFIU is a central body responsible for receiving, requesting, analyzing and disseminating financial intelligence report and other information to law enforcement, security and intelligence agencies and other relevant authorities. 

The passage of the legislation is key to Nigeria’s membership of the Egmont Group, an informal network of 156 financial intelligence units (FIUs). 

National FIUs collect information on suspicious or unusual financial activity from the financial industry and other entities or professions required to report transactions suspected of being money laundering or terrorism financing.

FIUs are normally not law enforcement agencies, with their mission being to process and analyze the information received. If sufficient evidence of unlawful activity is found, the matter is passed to the public prosecution agencies.

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