President Muhammadu Buhari is expected to sign a bill that detaches the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, NFIU from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, a presidency official said Monday.
The proposal has pitted the acting-chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, against Attorney-General Abubakar Malami for months, and Mr. Buhari had largely refrained from making his position known on the matter.
The Senate picked up and passed the bill in July, a few weeks after the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units, an international body that monitors money movements to combat terrorism and illicit practices, suspended Nigeria’s financial intelligence monitoring department.
The suspension was a major blow to the Buhari administration’s fundamental aim of combatting corruption, since it effectively deprived the country of needed cooperation from foreign countries, especially the West.
Following its passage in July by the Senate, the bill has proceeded to the House of Representatives, where lawmakers are expected to pass it.
Mr. Malami supports the measure, complaining in a memo to Mr. Buhari that the consequences of Nigeria’s suspension from the Egmont Group were multi-faceted and far-reaching.
Mr. Magu opposes outright removal of NFIU from the control of EFCC, but supports the setting up a committee to review all extant regulations for improved transparency.
Juliet Ibekaku, an assistant to Mr. Buhari on justice reform, said Mr. Buhari recognises the overarching benefits of an independent NFIU and would act accordingly once the bill gets to his table.
“It’s a critical legal framework for Nigeria” that will demonstrate the independence of the country’s financial intelligence unit, Ms. Ibekaku said at an anti-corruption dialogue in Abuja Monday.
The event, tagged: Conversation on Anti-Graft Campaign, was organised by the Centre for Democracy and Development, a civic intervention think-tank based in Abuja.
Ms. Ibekaku said the NFIU was not designed for only the EFCC, saying Mr. Buhari would consider all elements of the bill prior to granting a presidential assent.
“It’s going to be used by all law enforcement agency and not meant for one agency,” Ms. Ibekaku said. “The decision to sign it will be based on different factors and not on an individual.”
She also echoed the Attorney-General, saying the NFIU as currently constituted “was deemed not satisfactory to the international community recently.”
Ms. Ibekaku was removed as the head of NFIU late 2013, and there had been speculation that she was responsible for the scathing petition that prompted Egmont Group to suspend Nigeria.
Participants at the anti-corruption forum asked for more transparency from the federal government, noting that the government’s avowed war on corruption won’t thrive amidst opacity.