The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), has again accused the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and its Acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, of frustrating the Federal Government’s anti-graft war.
Malami, in a statement issued in Abuja, alleged that Magu and the EFCC leadership have “manipulated and misused intelligence to the detriment of the fight against corruption and financial crimes in Nigeria.”
He also accused them 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) and ensure the country’s formal expulsion.
The Egmont Group, currently made up of 156 Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs), representing 156 countries, serves as a platform for exchange of expertise and financial intelligence to combat money laundering and terrorist financing and functions as the operational arm of the international anti-money laundering and counter financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) apparatus.
Nigeria, represented in the group by the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), was suspended on June 1, 2007 because the NFIU lacks independence and was subject to the control of the EFCC via the provision of the Section 1(2)(c) of the EFCC Act.
The group demanded autonomy for NFIU as a condition for the country’s readmission, failing which it would be expelled.
Since the nation’s suspension, Malami and Magu have been unable to agree on how to meet the condition set by the Egmont Group for the country’s readmission.
While the AGF wants the creation of an autonomous NFIU, detached from the EFCC, and has send a Bill to the National Assembly to that effect, Magu wants NFIU to remain part of EFCC, but with mere re-organisation of its operations.
In the statement issued for the AGF by his spokesman, Comrade Salihu Othman Isah, Malami frowned at Magu’s hard stance on the issue and noted that the uncooperative attitude of EFCC’s leadership could encourage the Egmont Group to carry out its threat to expel the country.
Malami regretted that Magu appeared not 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.
The AGF, who insisted on ensuring the separation of NFIU from the EFCC, praised 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.”