By Kemi Yesufu, Abuja
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) have kicked against the National Assembly granting autonomy to the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU).
Even as EFCC and the NGF urged that NFIU be retained as a unit of the anti-graft agency, the Nigerian Law Reform Commission (NLRC), civil society groups and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) kicked against retaining NFIU within the EFCC.
Speaking at a one-day public hearing organised by the House of Representatives committee on Financial Crimes on an act to amend the EFCC (establishment ACT 2017), Secretary of EFCC, Emmanuel Aremo, stated that, giving NFIU autonomy outside EFCC will endanger it.
“NFIU needs a protective shield from politicians; if you leave it to survive alone it will be endangered and exposed to danger.
“In the entire universe only three tiny countries have autonomous FIUs and what Edmont Group wants is for it to have autonomy within the EFCC”, he added.
Aremo called for the act establishing the anti-graft agency to be amended to give it the powers to retain five percent of recoveries from proceeds of crime by corrupt public officials.
According to him, the suggested percentage is much lower to the percentage of proceed of crimes being retained by anti-graft agencies of other neighbouring African nations on similar.
Speaking on the side of the EFCC, the Director General of NGF, Ashishana Okauro noted that, “as a foundation member of EFCC I know what the Edmont Group wants and it is autonomy within the EFCC.
“It’s baffling that ten years after we were registered by Edmont Group we’ve been suspended and we stand to lose more if we are finally expelled from the group.
“From Nigeria we may not be able to make scholarship payments and card monies may not be honored if we are finally expelled”, he stated.
But representative of the NLRC, Prof. Jummai Audi said “NFIU should be independent and an autonomous body separate from EFCC.
The NLRC also rejected the proposal for the retention of five percent of recovered confiscated asset monies from suspects and convicts as the EFCC ought to have a comprehensive budget proposal to prevent it from using any confiscated asset or money or resources for its operations.
“The Nigerian Law Reform applauds the initiative but recommends the establishment of NFIU as an independent and autonomous body separate from EFCC rather than as a unit domiciled in EFCC as proposed in the bills”, she said.
She told the committee that Nigeria was suspended from the Egmont Group for lack of autonomy in the real sense of the NFIU and this position has not been addressed by the bill.