- No cause for alarm –Senator Utazi
Fred Itua, Abuja
Anxiety has gripped many Nigerian ATM card users as deadline to make the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) an independent agency of government expires.
Barring any last minute change, Nigeria may be expelled from Egmont Group following its failure to comply with its directives.
If expelled, millions of bank depositors would be unable to use their Nigerian-issued MasterCard and Visa debit/credit cards for international transactions.
NFIU is currently domiciled in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
In July, 2017, the Egmont Group, suspended Nigeria at its 24th plenary of the Heads in Macao. The group also explained that the NFIU was suspended because the EFCC was leaking sensitive information to the media.
The Egmont Group equally accused the EFCC of blackmailing individuals with the confidential intelligence made available to it.
Following Nigeria’s suspension, the Group had threatened that if the Federal Government was unable to grant a full autonomy to NFIU before March 11, 2018, when the group will hold its biannual meeting, the country will be expelled. The announcement could be made anytime.
Last week, both chambers of the National Assembly hurriedly passed a bill to grant a full autonomy to NFIU. NASS, however, domiciled it in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Lawmakers explained that despite the fact that it is domiciled in the CBN, it is still an independent body, as prescribed by Egmont Group.
The bill has been transmitted to President Muhammadu Buhari for assent.
But the Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), in a telephone interview with Daily Sun, said he was unaware of the status of the bill.
He, however, promised to revert today (Monday).
“Unfortunately, I cannot tell you the status of the bill. I am not in Abuja. As I speak with you, I am in Uyo. I will be back to the office tomorrow (today). When I get to the office, I will be in a position to explain more on this issue,” he said.
In a similar chat, chairman of the Senate committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes, Chukwuka Utazi, said there was no cause for alarm. He said as a parliament, it has done what is expected of it.
“There is no need to be apprehensive about it. As you know already, we have done our job as a parliament by ensuring that the bill was passed. That was what was expected of us and we have done it,” he said.
Utazi, had while raising the alarm a fortnight ago, painted a gloomy picture of what awaits Nigeria and Nigerians in the event that the country is suspended.
He had explained: “In July last year, Nigeria was suspended by Egmont Group with a threat to expel the country in March this year. This is coming up on the 11th of March, which is next week (yesterday). If we do not put our house in order, we will be expelled.
“The expulsion will have severe consequences. Our financial banks will not be able to do anything. Our banks and foreign transactions will no longer amount to anything. We will be degraded. Even the corruption index we are complaining about will be a child’s play to what we are going to face in few day’s to come.”