By Temitope Ponle
The Intergovernmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA) says Nigeria’s suspension from the Egmont Group can have negative effects on the fight against money laundering in the sub-region.
Director-General of GIABA, Col. Adama Coulibaly, said this at the opening of the group’s 18th Ministerial Committee Meeting in Abuja on Saturday.
The Egmont Group of financial Intelligence Units is an international body of 156 Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs) that provides a platform for the secure exchange of expertise and financial intelligence to combat money laundering and terrorist financing.
The Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) was, however, suspended from the group in July due to what the group described as lack of a legal framework as demanded by its protocols.
The group also threatened to expel Nigeria permanently by January 2018 if the Federal Government failed to provide the required legal framework to retain its membership.
However, the Senate in July passed the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Agency Bill after considering the bill for only one week.
The Bill, which was only read for the first time on July 20, passed second reading swiftly and was approved by the upper legislative chamber exactly one week after.
NAN reports that the passage of the bill reduced Nigeria’s risk of being expelled from the group.
The GIABA boss, therefore, urged the Federal Government and governments of member countries to provide necessary requirements to support the implementation of anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing (AML/ CTF) laws by relevant agencies.
Coulibaly further urged member states to strengthen the capacities of agencies responsible for implementing AML/CTF policies in line with the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF 40).
“The magnitude of these challenges calls our governments to strengthen their support by providing the structures and agencies in charge of AML /CFT with adequate human and financial resources.
“And, above all, so that countries can respect the timetable of the second round of mutual evaluation as approved by your Committee.”
Minister of Finance Kemi Adeosun said that Nigeria was “doing everything possible” to ensure that its membership of the Egmont Group was restored.
Adeosun was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Mr Mahmud Dutse.
The minister said that the country had also applied to become a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to facilitate efforts in the fight against illicit financial crimes in the country and sub-region.
“Nigeria has come a long way in its AML/CFT regime; it has the capacity to develop and maintain an effective operational AML/CFT regime.
“With strong political will of the government at the highest level and commitment by all stakeholders, Nigeria is determined to achieve its aspirations of being comprehensively shielded from the menace of money laundering and financing of terrorism.”
Adeosun urged member states to develop appropriate policies and practices for AML/CTF agencies.
She further urged stakeholders to enhance collaboration to promote their understanding of the aims of local and international institutions.