Indications emerge that the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units will decide Nigeria’s status at its plenary scheduled to hold in September this year.
This is contrary to speculations that failure of Nigeria to pass a law granting autonomy to the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit and relocating the unit from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission before March 11, 2018, would earn it an outright expulsion from the group.
However, documents made available by sources in the group on Thursday, indicated that the NFIU had been notified of the September 2018 meeting since November 2017.
According to the group, the decision to either sanction Nigeria or lift the suspension on it will be taken at the meeting of its Heads of Financial Intelligence Units to be held in Sydney in September 2018.
Apart from the NFIU, the FIUs of Italy, Saudi Arabia, El Salvador, and two other nations are also to be tabled for discussion at the upcoming September 2018 plenary.
The Egmont Group had, at its plenary of the Heads of FIUs in Macau on July 5, 2017, suspended and disconnected the NFIU from the Egmont Secure Website, a platform used for the exchange of information by members.
Sources from the group also confirmed that the meeting which was speculated to be where Nigeria’s fate would be determined held in Argentina from March 11 to 13, 2018.
“The meeting that held in Sydney was a working group meeting where the status reports of various members, including Nigeria, were reviewed,” sources with the group said.
According to the source, there will also be an “inter-sessional meeting in June 2018” when members could send updates on their status reports for review before the plenary “which holds in Sydney in September this year”.
The Egmont Group, through its Membership Support and Compliance Working Group, has identified two issues which Nigeria must address before the September 2018 plenary to have the suspension on it lifted or risk outright expulsion.
The concerns bordered on the expectation of the group for a review of the relevant provisions of the EFCC Act which, currently is the law that created the NFIU, to guarantee the “protection of confidentiality, specifically as regards to the status of Suspicious Transfer Reports information and information deriving from international exchanges” and not an outright passage of a new law.
“Information held by the NFIU, either deriving from domestic STRs or from international exchanges, is kept confidential and secure and only used for legitimate purposes,” the Egmont Group had told the NFIU.
The second area is the need for Nigeria to address “legal basis and clarity on the NFIU’s operational independence from the EFCC” as currently provided in section 1(2)(c)of the EFCC Act.
The warning by the Egmont Group for Nigeria to address the issues before the September 2018 meeting read, “Taking the above mentioned consideration, NFIU is further reminded that if the identified concerns are not addressed and immediate corrective actions are not implemented by the next plenary meeting to be held in Sydney, Australia, next September 2018, the continued lack of compliance could ultimately lead to more sever compliance actions by the Heads of FIUs, including expulsion from the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units.
“In order to determine whether the raised concerns are effectively addressed in the next plenary meeting, you are kindly requested to provide all the relevant information regarding the corrective measures taken no later than June 1, 2018 in order for the MSCWG to perform a legal review based on the information provided and eventually recommend an onsite visit to NFIU.”