The constitutionality of NFIU directive on LG funds

Section 7(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) establishes the Local Government System throughout Nigeria.

                                                                                                                          Section 7(6) (a) provides that the National Assembly shall make provisions for statutory allocation of public revenue to local government councils in the federation; while section 7(6) (b) provides that the House of Assembly of a state shall make provisions for statutory allocation of public revenue to local government councils within the state.

It is clear from the foregoing constitutional provisions that the National Assembly alone has power to regulate and determine the allocation of funds to the local governments from the federation account.

The relevant point here is that the constitution mandates the National Assembly to ensure that allocations to the local government from the federation account actually get to the local governments and not to be diverted to any unconstitutional use, not even to be withheld in the local government joint accounts of the states.

The foregoing constitutional provisions also provide that state Houses of Assembly shall make provisions for the allocation of public revenue to the local governments within the state.

 Indeed, these provisions do not insinuate that the state House of Assembly or the state executive can make any law or introduce any regulation or practice, respectively, to divert any funds from the federation account to the local government.

The provisions do not empower the states to touch or appropriate funds in the local government joint accounts other than for the purpose of transmission to the local governments themselves.

Thus, as far as any funds or money from the Consolidated Revenue of the Federal Government are concerned, the federal government, which implements the laws of the National Assembly, can, through its relevant agencies or bodies, enforce such laws directly or by any instrument or manner permitted by the law of the National Assembly.

The Nigerian Financial Intelligence Agency (NFIU) is a statutory body established by an Act of the National Assembly to, among other functions, ensure the following:

1. Receive and collect currency transactions report, suspicious transactions reports and other information, including records of wire transfers relevant to money laundering, financing of terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and related activities from financial institutions and designated non-financial institutions as required under the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, or any other relevant laws or regulations.

2. Assist in the identification of the proceeds of unlawful activities, the combating of money laundering, the financing of terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and related activities.

3. Direct the monitoring of accounts, transfers and any other means of payment or transfers of funds

4. Do such other things as are necessary or expedient for the attainment of its objectives.

It is, thus, in the legitimate discharge of its statutory functions, as provided above, that the NFIU’s guidelines, which took effect on June 1, 2019, were issued.

Therefore, the NFIU’s guideline ref. NFIU/EXT/PUB/GUIDL/DCEO/ PRESIDENCY/25 APR-2019/VOL.1/001 has its justification in the provisions of Section 7 of the Constitution of the FRN, 1999 (as amended) and in the National Financial Intelligence Agency Act, which is a law made by the National Assembly, giving the agency powers to make regulations regarding the utilisation of revenues from the Consolidated Revenue Account of the Federal Government to local government councils.

Gata writes from Minna, Niger state.

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