By Ngozi Ekhator
Nigeria’s 36 governors have approached the President Muhammadu Buhari on the decision by the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) to “dabble into a matter that is beyond its mandate.”
The Chairman of the NGF and Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar, signed off a letter in which governors expressed “dismay and angst at this brazen attempt by the NFIU to ridicule our collective integrity and show total disregard for the constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria (1999) as amended.
The Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, NFIU, which was excised from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, set June 1, 2019, as the takeoff date of the new order, making it compulsory for all LGA allocations to go straight to their respective bank accounts. The decision is contained in a guideline released by the NFIU after a lengthy meeting with officials of commercial banks in Abuja.
But in a swift reaction, the NGF Letter was titled Re: NFIU Enforcement and Guidelines to Reduce Crime Vulnerabilities Created by Cash Withdrawal from Local Government Funds Throughout Nigeria Effective June 1st, 2019.
The letter is dated May 15th, 2019.
Extracting copiously from the constitution, governors drew the attention of the President to section (6) (a) and (b) which confers on the States and National Assemblies the powers to make provisions for statutory allocation of Public revenue to the Local Councils in the Federation and within the states respectively.
Similarly, the Governors added, Section 162 (6) expressly provides for the creation of the States Joint Local Government Account (SJLGA) into which shall be paid all allocations to the LGAs of the State from the Federation Account and from the government of the state.
The NGF Chairman emphasises that nothing in the NFIU Act 2018 gives the body the powers that it seeks to exercise in the guidelines that it released and is therefore acting in excess of its powers and by so doing, Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar added, NFIU exhibits complete disregard of the constitution of Nigeria.
The NGF Chairman further accused the NFIU of “stoking mischief and also deliberately seeking to cause disaffection, chaos and overheat the polity.”
The NGF says that Local Government Councils are a creation of the constitution and are not financial institutions. They are, governors also said, not Reporting entities and are therefore not under the NFIU in the manner contemplated by the NFIU so-called guidelines.
In principle the NFIU should concentrate on its core mandate of Anti-money laundering AML activities and Combatting financing Terrorism CTF as prescribed in the Act establishing it and should desist from encroaching on or even breaching constitutional provisions.
The Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) is the Nigerian arm of the global financial intelligence Units (FIUs) once domiciled within the EFCC but now for the purpose of institutional location domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria. This means the NFIU is only mandated to trace or track laundered money that finds its way into terrorism financing and report such to the nation’s security agencies. The NFIU should seek to comply with those standards on combating Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism and its proliferation as stipulated and not dabble into matters that are both constitutional and beyond NFIU purview.