NFIA Bill: Why Stakeholders Declared Support–Group

By Paul Kingston

A group of Civil Society Organisations under the aegis of Civil Society Coalition against Corruption believes that key stakeholders in the country threw their weight behind the establishment of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Agency during last Monday's public hearing on the bill in the interest of the nation.

A Communication Consultant and Spokesman of the group, Walter Duru revealed this while addressing newsmen in Abuja yesterday.

Duru, who expressed delight at the voting pattern and the overwhelming support for the Bill commended the stakeholders for putting the nation's interest above personal gains.

He reiterated the determination of civil society organisations in the country to fight the menace of corruption in order to guarantee the future of the nation.

Stakeholders at the public hearing held on Monday, 16th December, 2013 at the new Senate building, took turns to commend the sponsors of the bill for what they described as a strategic legislation to strengthen the legal framework in the war against money laundering, terrorism financing and corruption in Nigeria.

First on the list was the Attorney General and Minister for Justice, whose representative declared total support for the passage of the Bill and by implication, the establishment of the agency.

Next to speak was the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, whose secretary, Mr. Emmanuel Adegboyega, in what was glaringly an unpopular opinion, opposed the bill.

The EFCC Secretary, while presenting the position paper of the agency, also faulted the regulatory powers granted the proposed agency.

According to Adegboyega, “the proposed NFIA, if made autonomous, would be exploited by politicians, adding that “it is also open to a floodgate of injunctions, restraining orders and other litigation to stall anti-corruption trials.” He therefore told the Senate Panel that “the Bill is unnecessary and should be jettisoned”

In what appeared like a reaction to EFCC's position, Nigeria's apex Bank, the Central Bank of Nigeria reiterated the urgent need for the creation of the new agency, describing it as long overdue.

Director, Legal Services, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Amusa Ogundana, who represented the CBN governor, Malam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, said the apex bank is in support of the establishment of the NFIA, although it recommended some amendments to the bill, especially, the area that gives regulatory and supervisory powers to the proposed agency.

“We are not opposing the NFIA Bill. We are in support and we encourage it.”

In his presentation, representative of the National Intelligence Agency, Norman Smith Nwokoma declared the Agency's support for the bill. “NIA is in full support of the bill.”

He argued that the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, as is presently constituted is not known to the country's law.

Making reference to a purported board resolution cited by the EFCC representative, Nwokoma described the document as fake and challenged the Commission to produce evidence of the board meeting where the resolution was made. He challenged all present to put public interest first above pecuniary interests, even as he accused the EFCC of insincerity.

Similarly, Mrs. Blessing Egbefor, who represented the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) said the bill, when passed into law, would strengthen the fight against financial crimes in Nigeria.

Also in his presentation, representative of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Mr. Joseph Sunday, reiterated that the NFIU as presently structured lacked legal status.

Sunday, who is the NDLEA Director of Prosecution and legal services, said the agency supported the bill because it would empower the FIU to effectively disseminate financial intelligence to law enforcement agencies and other stakeholders.

“We are fully in support of the NFIA bill. There is a fundamental problem with the present structure of NFIU.”

In its own contribution, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, ICPC threw its full support for the bill, even as it commended the Senate for strengthening legislations on anti- corruption.

Adding its voice, the Nigerian Police Force joined the league of supporters, to the amazement of many and threw its weight behind the Bill.

The Directorate of State Security, which was represented by Mr. C.I. Osagie threw its full weight behind the bill.

Osagie however took a swipe on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission over what he described as its insincerity in the handling of public service.

He further argued that the establishment of the NFIA as a central Agency responsible for assessing, analyzing and disseminating financial intelligence to law enforcement and other relevant agencies is not only in conformity with international best practices, but a boost to the war against money laundering, corruption and terrorism financing in Nigeria, even as it will give the stakeholders confidence in dealing with the agency.

The National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) and the National Accountants of Nigeria, represented by Nze Joseph Okoro both declared support for the bill.

Thirteen, out of the fourteen government Agencies present at the hearing all declared their support for the bill. Only the EFCC opposed it.

Nigerian Customs Service and Ministry of Finance were conspicuously absent at the public hearing.

Civil Society Organisations also came out en mass to participate in the public hearing. They all threw their weight behind the bill, describing it as very strategic in the fight against corruption, money laundering and terrorism financing in Nigeria.

Among the Civil society organisations present were: International Federation of Women lawyers, Nigerian Bar Association, Media Initiative Against Injustice, Violence and Corruption, International Association of Criminal Justice Practitioners, Zero Corruption Coalition, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Center, Network on Police Reforms in Nigeria and Independent Service Delivery Monitoring group.

Others include: Foundation for environmental rights advocacy and development (FENRAD), Center for community inclusion and disability studies, National emergency department inventory, Citizens Centre for integrated development and social rights, change movement Nigeria, Locale 2020/Nigeria, Educational watch center, Independent advocacy project, among others.

Earlier in his address, Chairman, Senate Committee on Drugs, Narcotics, Financial Crimes and anti-Corruption, Senator Victor Lar, said the National Assembly is driven only by national interest and considerations not individual and parochial interests.

He urged participants and stakeholders to put the interest of the nation above personal aims in the course of the meeting.

The NFIA Bill aims at establishing a national agency that will be responsible for the receipt of information from financial institutions and designated non-financial institutions, analysis of the financial information for the purpose of turning the information into financial intelligence and dissemination of the financial intelligence to all law enforcement agencies.

The Bill will ensure that the NFIU is not tied to any agency but will have adequate measures to build an independent financial intelligence system, in conformity with international standards and best practices.

NFIU autonomy is part of the Financial Action Task Force Standard Requirements to remove Nigeria from the list of “High Risk” jurisdiction countries of the world.

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