The founding chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nuhu Ribadu, has faulted opposition to a new regulation restricting management of funds meant for Nigerian local governments.
The Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) had, in May, announced a ban on transactions on State/Local Governments Joint Account and limiting cash withdrawal on local governments accounts to N500,000 per day.
The directive, which the agency said, is part of new financial control regimes it is evolving, was immediately opposed by Nigerian governors.
Two attempts to secure a court order to stop the implementation of the regulation have not succeeded as high courts in Uyo and Abuja both declined to restrict the agency.
Speaking on Friday while delivering a convocation lecture at the 4th convocation ceremony of Federal University Dutsin-Ma, Katsina State, Mr Ribadu backed the new directive.
“These are important things happening to us and we should not allow a few to say no. On my way here I received a text which said my own local government, Yola South, has not had N500,000 in its account since 2002 until this month when N129 million was paid directly to it,” he said.
He described the action as a positive way of ensuring probity, accountability, and development at the local level.
“If the financial sector is porous and prone to abuse, in form of unregulated cash transaction, we cannot be free from our current challenges, including the menace of kidnapping and sundry crimes. Opposition of moves to regulate our public accounts are therefore misinformed and largely self-centred,” he said.
Mr Ribadu added that in tackling corruption the most important step is taking charge of financial activities.
“It is by tightening the control of the banking and non-banking financial sectors that anti-money laundering regimes can be effectively applied, and breaches detected. This is possible through transparency infrastructures that bring everything under vigilance and control.”
Mr Ribadu said corruption must be made a difficult crime by coming up with measures that ensure transparency.
“One of such early ideas in taking control of the financial sector was the idea of the Bank Verification Number (BVN). The concept of BVN is to enable transparent banking by making all banking customers identifiable across platforms using one number. This is a global best practice under the concept of Know Your Customer, a transparency measure intended to profile real persons behind transactions, and eliminate secrecy.”
Cut in cash transactions and biometric identification of bank users, he said, will aid anti-money laundering measures and make it easier to apply sanctions.
“This idea of transparent banking makes the Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs) from around the world work with ease in flagging suspected illicit movement of funds whether by drug cartels, terrorists or public officers.
“The role of the FIU, as an intelligence agency, is to alert those concerned about such movements of money and work with law enforcement agencies to track source and destination of such funds for sanctions.
“With such effective oversight and implementation of control measures, like what the. NFIU is trying to do now, incidences of corruption and insecurity can be greatly curtailed,” he stated.
The former EFCC chairman said Nigeria also needs to tighten “transparency requirements” in the management of the country’s resources.
“In this regard, and specific to Nigeria, is extractive industry transparency—how do we make sure every bit of our natural resource is protected, processed without being stolen, and the proceeds accounted for without any leakage? The second, which is the flip side of the first one, is ensuring judicious use of that money through open-contracting and transparent governance,” he said.