Fears heighten as Egmont Group plans to expel Nigeria

EFCC Operatives used to illustrate the story.

Millions of bank depositors will be exposed to risk while trying to use their Nigerian-issued MasterCard and Visa debit/credit cards for international transactions in the coming weeks as the Egmont Group is poised to expel the country from the group, PREMIUM TIMES has learned.

In July, 2017, the Egmont Group, a global network of 152 Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs) suspended the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) at its 24th plenary of the Heads of the FIUs in Macao.

The group explained that the NFIU was suspended because the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, under which the NFIU was situated, was leaking sensitive information to the media.

The Egmont Group also accused the EFCC of blackmailing individuals with the confidential intelligence at its disposal.

“The Heads of FIU 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 suspicious transaction report (STR) details and information derived from international exchanges, as well as concerns on the legal basis and clarity of the NFIU’s independence from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The measure will remain in force until immediate corrective actions are implemented,” the group said in a statement.

But days after, an EFCC source told PREMIUM TIMES that the NFIU was suspended following a “false petition” sent to the Egmont Group by an embittered former director of the NFIU.

“What Nigeria is facing today may have been self-inflicted as certain citizens with vested interests in the running of the NFIU are known to regularly feed the world body of FIUs with false information regarding the situation in Nigeria,” a top official in the EFCC who did not want to be named told PREMIUM TIMES.

“The issues that culminated in the recent suspension of Nigeria are predicated on a false petition by a former director of the NFIU who, embittered by the manner of her dismissal, painted a false imagery of siege on the NFIU with the objective to compromise information from the Egmont Secure website,” the official said.

Following the suspension, Nigerian Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, in a memo numbered: SH/OVP/DCOS/NFIU/ addressed to Chukwuka Utazi, chairman, Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes, explained that he had set up an ad-hoc committee to reposition the NFIU and restore its membership of the Egmont Group.

The memo listed Mr. Utazi as the Chairman of the ad-hoc committee. Other members include Kayode Oladele, a member of the House Representatives, Abdullahi Shehu, and representatives of the Federal Ministries of Justice, Finance and Interior. Others are the Executive Secretary, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), a representative of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Offences Commission (ICPC) and a representative of the EFCC.

The committee was charged with facilitating the legal and regulatory measures to bring about financial and operational autonomy of the NFIU, and to make other recommendations necessary to boost the country’s capacity to deploy financial intelligence to fight crime.

The committee was expected to turn in a final report by the end of August 2017. However, nothing has been heard of its recommendations.

PREMIUM TIMES could not reach Mr. Utazi for comment.

Laolu Akande, Mr. Osinbajo’s spokesperson, did not answer calls to his mobile telephone. He also did not respond to a text message sent to him requesting comments.

When reached for comments, spokesperson of the EFCC, Wilson Uwujaren, promised to return with a statement. He, however, failed to do so hours after he made the promise. The EFCC chairman, Ibrahim Magu, had however said earlier that the NFIU operates with a large degree of autonomy.

The implication of expelling Nigeria

While the status of committee’s recommendations remains in the dark, PREMIUM TIMES has learnt that a proposal to permanently expel Nigeria from the Egmont Group is on the agenda of the Egmont Working Group and Heads of FIU meeting to be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, between March 2 and 7.

If the group goes ahead with the proposed expulsion, transactions done with credit and debit cards issued in Nigeria could be flagged as suspicious. The liability of foreign transactions will also be shifted to Nigerian card users.

Tunde Ajileye, a partner at SBM, a geopolitical research firm, explains what a liability switch is:

“We would have liability shift. What that means is that, if there is an issue and they (banks, payment companies) want to adjudicate, normally they adjudicate before they move the money to any party but with a liability shift, what it means is that they will first move money from you to the other party and if they now decide that you are not at fault they will then move the money back to you. The risks become higher and the odd is staked against you if there is an issue with your transaction.”

Mr. Ajileye also said another implication of expelling Nigeria from the group will be that Nigerians will be more prone to be suspected of money laundering.

“Money that comes in from Nigeria will become more suspect. Normally if you do a suspicious transaction report to the NFIU and the NFIU shares that report with other international agencies to track but if we are expelled we really can’t share. We also do not have access to information, so we become more prone to money laundering.

“For instance, if someone has been flagged internationally because we don’t have access to that information, we won’t know, and the person(s) can continue to do their transactions unlike today where we can get such information,” he said.

NFIU autonomy

The Egmont Group is said to be uncomfortable that the NFIU still operates under the control of the EFCC, which is accused of being meddlesome.

Last July, the Senate passed the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Agency Bill, which grants autonomy to the NFIU one week after it was presented to the upper legislative chamber.

The bill is, however, yet to be passed by the House of Representatives.


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  • Debekeme

    Buhari was seriously advised to ensure ONLY persons he trusts 100% and persons who are 100% loyal should head the leadership of the NASS.

    In his usual naive manner, he says he doesn’t care who becomes Senate President and Speaker.

    Now, his Govt is unstable due to misunderstanding and friction between the Exec and NASS. All this on account of them NOT being on same page on multitude of issues. This Egmont issue, non confirmation of nominations, rejections of bills etc are symptom of the existing schism.

    Well, lets congratulate the leadership of the NASS. Although not the preferred choice i must confess that they have been the most dynamics, most engaging and most cerebral NASS leadership in a long while. Buhari’s loss is NIgeria’s gain!

    Major congratulations most especially to the over ambitious and highly ruthless Bukola Saraki. Like him or hate him, hes a smart guy and a sly fox. Buhari is not his mate in politics.

    • Sanssouci

      “Buhari is not his mate in politics.” Bro not by a longshot!

      • Oaksway

        I beg to disagree with you, Buhari is a political novice where Saraki is concerned, the latter got it through his paternal gene.

        • Sanssouci

          It means u didn’t understand what I wrote. Read carefully again

          • Oaksway

            Guess you are referring to Tinubu then, if so, truly the sky is far from the ground.

    • shasha

      You are entitle to your opinion but this not about Saraki or NASS, We sent GEJ and PDP out because of corruption and thought that PMB will do better but we were proved wrong. Buari administration has been hijacked. Mrs Aisha Buari has been complaining for the past one year that the husband is no longer in-charge. Please can you know Buari more than the wife? We all have a duty to safe this country from the hijackers by voting this clueless administration out comes 2019. Let someone else take over. We will continue to change our leaders till we get it right. We did in 2015 we can still do it again in 2019 The day our leaders realize that power belong to us (people) they will serve us.

      • Debekeme

        I agree with your entire submission. Why wld you think i wldnt?

    • Sheikh Messi

      There is no friction between the Executive and the NASS.
      The friction exists between the Tinubu/osinbajo arm of the Executive and the NASS. This arm of the Executive have not forgiven Saraki for outwitting them. Yet they are not any ‘cleaner’ than saraki..hence should have allowed sleeping dogs lie.
      The ‘cabal’ arm of the Executive are comfortable with the saraki led NASS.
      you guys think if Buhari wants saraki out today he won’t be picked up by EFCC in 5minutes?
      You guys think if Buhari truly wants Magu cleared he would have allowed the DSS to twice write a damning report on Magu?
      When you say ‘Executive’, specify which.
      Babachir corroborated this when he asked; ‘WHO IS THE PRESIDENCY??’

      • Debekeme

        How utterly simplistic.

        I’ve heard this exact same argument many times. In fact, my ‘contact’ went as far as saying the reason it took a long time for Babachir to be picked up by EFCC was NOT because Buhari is protecting him but rather because Babachir was being protected by Tinubu! LOL.

        Listen, there are NO smart permutations going on in the Presidency. Its chaos. Don’t even try and impute some smart deft maneuvers by Buhari as the reason for this situation. Buhari is not a political chess grand master, please!

        You are trying to tell me that Buhari was was part of the plot by Daura/SSS to write two conflicting reports on Magu? You think Saraki is waiting for EFCC to pick him up and leaving himself at the mercy of Buhari who can pick him up in ‘5 minutes as you say’?!! You are funny. See all the infighting by Buhari’s inner crew!

        On Saraki;- Let Buhari decide to remove Saraki tomorrow. You think its that easy? Buhai is in a precarious situation. Saraki is managing Buhari and Buhari is managing Saraki. None has the upper hand in this tango. You are talking like Saraki is there are Buhari’s mercy. Saraki is 3 steps/moves ahead of Buhari. Unless Buhari wants to send police to bundle Saraki out of office, but as long as everything is in court, Sakari will be Senate President for as long as he wants.

        Let me tell you, Buhari is NOT in control of his Govt. Even his cabal are working a cross purposes. They are running around in circles wielding power like drunken sailors. How do i know? because the results speak for themselves. Does this administration appear to you as if its working as one unified and coordinated machine? NO! Everyone is saying teh same thing as me!

        Thats why the country is unstable under Buhari . His subordinates are talking and acting like loose canons.Look at his fight against corruption, Look at Benue, look at Zamfara, Look at Taraba, Look at Southern Kaduna, look at the massive volume of petroleum smuggling daily under this administration to the extent that we’ve had fuel scarcity for months! These are Buhari’s men supervising this mismanagement! And yet you say he has control over his crew and his government.! How can he control Saraki when he cant control even his boys!?

        Buhari has miscalculated on many fronts. Those who know whats going on in Buhari’s inner circle have TOLD US THE TRUTH about his administration. This includes his wife, his very close friends who were instrumental to his emergence.(OBJ, IBB and co. Wait for Danjuma. He will soon talk).

        He makes WRONG strategic decisions at every turn.

        • aisha ani

          Let us tell it like it is, this person at Aso Rock is not the real Buhari.

  • shasha

    What a useless and a shithole country. We thought things would be better when we sent GEJ and PDP out in 2015 with the assumption that Buari who has been struggling to be the President since 2003 has a better plan. Here we are again, the best is for this ANALOGY man to return back to Daura come 2019, so that a new person preferably DIGITAL man can take over. Let us continue to change our leaders till we net it right.

    • Danladi Mammani

      Even me kuma, I am voting Buhari out of government in 2019, insha’Allah, no matter how soft he becomes to appease citizens prior to our general election.

      • aisha ani

        Time is run out for the appeasement, the oracle has spoken.

  • Sheikh Messi

    The APC runs the Executive arm of government, has a majority in the National Assembly, but they can’t get ANYTHING done!
    High on propaganda but low on political will.
    I just wonder if they will be shameless enough to attempt to pin this on PDP too?
    For crying out loud, people who could concoct a ‘denial’ from IBB can do anything.

    • abodes_124

      of course it is Jonathans fault

  • emmanuel

    The APC and their minions boasted shortly before JP Morgan dropped Nigeria, but we knew how this country was economically humiliated thereafter.
    Let them tell us something in this case.

  • Ezekiel. J.

    Where was nfiu when our money was being looted?

    • abodes_124

      Well said government spokesman.. I am sure you are reflecting or putting forward the presidency’s response to this issue.

  • Freedom Bini

    Magu style had earned Nigeria this Medal?

  • abodes_124

    as people have been saying this government is set to kill Nigeria Those who are soft hearted say it is purely due to ignorance while the more hard hearted say it is deliberate. the disruption of economic activity for individuals and companies if this is allowed to happen is incalculable.