The deafening silence emanating from Buenos Aires, Argentina’s meeting of Egmont’s Working Groups (WGs) and Heads of Financial Intelligence Units (HoFIUs) last week has heightened the apprehension of Nigerians, especially credit card holders, over the fate of the country.
Following the suspension of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) last July over governance issues, it was widely reported recently the Egmont Group was considering an outright expulsion of Nigeria due to its failure to sort out the issues within six months as demanded by the group.
The expulsion was said to be part of the agenda of Egmont’s WGs and HoFIUs’ meeting between March 12 and 15 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. But since the end of the meeting last Thursday, Nigerians have been waiting with bated breath for the outcome of the group’s deliberations. The consequence of the expulsion, if eventually handed down, is that Nigerians may no longer be able to carry out international transactions as the country would be blacklisted in international finance services. This could affect the use of credit and debit cards of both MasterCard and Visa by Nigerians. It could also affect the international rating of Nigerian financial institutions by restricting their access to some big-ticket international transactions. Nigeria will also no longer be able to benefit from financial intelligence shared by the rest of the 154-member countries, including the US and the UK. Also to be affected is the country’s ability to recover stolen funds abroad.
The grouse against the country arose from the interference by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in the affairs of NFIU.
“The Heads of FIUs made a decision, by consensus, to suspend the membership status of the NFIU, Nigeria, following repeated failures on the part of the FIU to address concerns regarding the protection of confidential information, specifically related to the status of STR details and information derived from international exchanges, as well as concerns on the legal basis and clarity of NFIU’s independence from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The measure will remain in force until immediate corrective actions are implemented,” according to the joint statement by Mr. Sergio Espinosa, Chair of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs)/Deputy Superintendent of FIU, and Ms. Deborah Ng, Head of GIF, the Financial Intelligence Office, Macao, Chinese Special Administrative Region (SAR) at the 24th Plenary of the Egmont Group of FIUs in Macao, SAR, from July 2 – 7, 2017.
Actually, the group, comprising 155 countries, mandates its members to establish an FIU that serves as a national centre for the receipt and analysis of: suspicious transaction reports; and other information relevant to money laundering, associated predicate offences and financing of terrorism, and for the dissemination of the results of that analysis.