Wednesday, August 23, 2017 11:19 pm
What appears to be another open fight between two officials serving the Muhammadu Buhari administration broke out on Wednesday as Abubakar Malami (SAN), Nigeria’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice alleged that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and its Acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, are frustrating the Federal Government’s anti-graft war over their stand on the independence of Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit, NFIU.
Malami, in a statement issued in Abuja, accused EFCC and its Chairman of working to prevent the lifting of the country’s suspension by the global financial intelligence gathering body – Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units (Egmont Group), a platform for exchange of expertise and financial intelligence to combat money laundering and terrorist financing. The platform also and functions as the operational arm of the international anti-money laundering and counter financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) apparatus.
NFIU which was Nigeria’s representative in the group, was suspended on June 1, 2007 over allegations by Egmont Group that it was not independent was subject to the control of the EFCC through Section 1(2)(c) of the EFCC Act.
The group consequently demanded full autonomy for NFIU as a condition for the country’s readmission or else. it would be expelled.
Malami, the chief law officer of the land and Magu have been unable to agree on the form the independence demanded for NFIU by the Egmont Group should take.
While the AGF wants the creation of an autonomous NFIU completely detached from the EFCC, and has sent a Bill to the National Assembly for the purpose, Magu wants NFIU to remain part of EFCC with its operations re-organised.
But in the statement issued Comrade Salihu Othman Isah, his spoeksperson on Wednesday, Malami accused Magu of not cooperating with him in the bid to stop the Egmont Group from carrying out the threat of expelling the country from its fold.
Malami also said the EFCC Chairman has refused to understand the implication of Nigeria’s expulsion from the group on government’s efforts to combat corruption, terrorism, money laundering and other related vices.
Malami therefore commended the Senate for passing the Bill for an independent NFIU and urged the House of Representatives to urgently pass similar Bill currently pending before it.
The statement reads: “The EFCC is now in a state of paranoia, as it dreads the effort of the government to have an independent NFIU, which it has stood against stoically since 2006.
“As it presently stands, the NFIU staff are all deployed by the EFCC to serve in the interest of whoever is its current Chairman. This has to stop if it must conform to the new thinking and global best practice. Nigeria cannot be an island of its own. It cannot fight corruption in isolation.
“The threat of expulsion from the Egmont Group calls for a thorough review of the NFIU and the manner in which the EFCC leadership has manipulated and misused intelligence to the detriment of the fight against corruption and financial crime in Nigeria.
“To achieve the desired goal, NFIU needs to stand alone as an agency with full complements of power to recruit its staff and an annual budgetary allocation guaranteed for its operations.
“Its independence must be ascertained in the new law to set up Nigerian Financial Intelligence Agency (NFIA) to enable it carry out its mandate, which shall include responsibilities for receiving, requesting, analysing and disseminating financial intelligence reports on money laundering, terrorist financing and other relevant information to law enforcement, security and intelligence agencies, and other relevant authorities.”