Photograph — National Accord.

Nigerians are set for more frustrating times as they might be barred from carrying out international transactions with their bank cards by the Egmont Group. Th Egmont Group, a global body of 152 Finance Intelligence Units (FIUs) from different countries, is set to expel Nigeria’s Finance intelligence Unit from the group following the interference of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in its activities.

The Group suspended Nigeria in July last year for the same reason, saying that the intrusion of the EFCC was against its laws, and Nigeria’s FIU must be independent and free from all interference. The suspension was later rescinded when Vice-president Yemi Osinbajo set up a committee to reorganize Nigeria’s FIU. However, up until now, it seems the FIU in Nigeria is still under the government’s control.

“Of all the 14 countries in West Africa with an FIU, Nigeria is the only jurisdiction that currently domiciles its FIU in a law enforcement agency, EFCC, even when it is registered as an administrative-type FIU. This is a misnomer,” said Walter Duru, an analyst who spoke with TheWhistle regarding Nigeria’s FIUs.

If Nigeria gets suspended in March, it would mean Nigeria’s financial institutions will be blacklisted Internationally, with both Mastercard and Verve cards ceasing to work for international transactions. It also means Nigeria would be unable to recover stolen funds from outside the country, as it would be unable to benefit from the financial intelligence to be gained from being a part of the Egmont Group.

Egmont Group had asked Nigeria to amend the laws that established FIU after its suspension last year, by making it autonomous and free from government interference. Egmont group accused the EFCC of leaking sensitive information from the FIU to the media, and using FIU to harry political opponents. The Nigerian Senate passed a bill for the establishment of the NFI agency, which would ensure its autonomy from the EFCC after the suspension came into force last year.

The suspension was lifted after the Senate’s resolution, but sadly, the body is still under the control of the EFCC. The EFCC has been unable to hands off the FIU.

The antagonism felt by the Nigerian Senate towards EFCC boss Ibrahim Magu over his controversial position as Acting Chairman of EFCC for the past two years has been a constant feature of Nigerian politics for some time. Nigerian Senate has twice rejected his appointment as EFCC boss, and a court in Abuja finally upheld their rejection two weeks ago.

Nigeria’s membership as part of the Egmont Group was one of the main achievements of former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo. It put Nigeria on the global financial map and kicked-off an era of ease in carrying out international financial transactions.

Ibrahim Magu promised to implement the autonomy of Nigeria’s FIUs in December 2017, but it is yet unclear if it that has been done. Nigeria’s position in Egmont Group will be on the agenda when the group and heads of member FIUs meet in Argentina, between March 2 and March 7 2018.

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