The Association of Bureaux De Change Operators of Nigeria (ABCON) has cautioned that the delay in granting operational autonomy to the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) may derail the anti-corruption war.
The ABCON President, Alhaji Aminu Gwadabe who disclosed this to financial Journalist in Lagos expressed worried that delaying the NFIU autonomy would derail progress in Nigeria’s financial system.
He said that ABCON, a self-regulatory body of over 3,500 registered Bureaux De Change (BDCs) licensed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to sell foreign exchange to end-users is uncomfortable over controversies surrounding NFIU’s autonomy.
He said that despite the looming threat of Nigeria’s expulsion from the Egmont Group, a 153-nation network of national financial intelligence units, the Senate and House Committees on Anti-Corruption have disagreed over the domiciliation of the NFIU and need to grant the body full autonomy.
The Recommendation 29 of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) permits the domiciliation of the Financial Intelligence Unit in any larger organisation as long as it has its operational and financial independence.
The bill to grant financial and operational autonomy to the unit, which has been passed by both legislative chambers, is before the conference committee of the National Assembly, which is required to harmonise the discrepancies in both versions of the legislation.
Gwadabe said the delay should be avoided as it portends dangers for the entire financial market and could lead to Nigeria’s suspension by the Egmont Group.
According to Gwadabe, should such suspension occur, Visa, MasterCard and other credit cards issued by Nigerian financial institutions would be rejected by global financial institutions. He added that such suspension could also adversely affect Nigeria’s credit rating by global financial markets.
Another adverse implications, the ABCON boss said, is that it would derail the anti-corruption war as recovery of looted funds abroad and other follow up by anti-corruption agencies will be hindered, making cooperation by sister global corruption agencies difficult.
He added that it could also affect the international ratings of Nigerian financial institutions, restricting their access to some big-ticket international transactions.
Nigeria will also no longer be able to benefit from financial intelligence shared by the other member countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom.
He said that ABCON has zero tolerance for poor Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) compliance, and therefore wants the relevant parties to unite to save Nigeria’s financial institutions from an unintended vulnerabilities, threats, risks and losses that would follow suspension by Egmont Group.