By Ugonnabo Ngwu
The conference report of both chambers of the National Assembly on the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Agency, NFIU, bill was laid before the House of Representatives on Tuesday, same day that the Senate received the conference committee report on a bill to establish the NFIU as an independent entity.
The bill seeks to make Nigeria’s Financial Intelligence Unit, currently under the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, totally independent, as is the practice in other climes.
At the House of Reps, the lawmakers, who had put the bill on hold after it was passed by the Senate, adopted the harmonised report of the conference committee from both chambers of the national assembly on Tuesday.
Chairman of the House Committee on Financial and Economic Crimes, Kayode Oladele, had presented the report to the House during plenary.
This development came a week after the Chairman of Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption, Senator Chukwuka Utazi, accused his House of Representatives counterpart, Hon. Akinloye Babajide, of hindering the progress of the bill by not attending scheduled meetings of the conference to fine-tune the bill.
The Senate and the House of Representatives had differed over the passage of the bill establishing the NFIU as an independent entity. But while debunking to Utazi’s claim, Babajide denied stalling the process.
The NFIU, which is domiciled in the EFCC, was last July suspended by the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units for not being independent. Egmont Group is a global financial intelligence gathering of Financial Intelligence Units, FIUs, of 156 countries.
The group, which is a platform for members to share expertise and financial intelligence to combat money laundering and terrorist financing, threatened to permanently expel Nigeria by March 11 if the Nigerian government failed to grant the unit the required autonomy.
The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, had on Sunday in a social media message assured that the bill will be passed this week.
While receiving the report on Tuesday, the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the day’s plenary, harped on the need to expedite action on the report.
Ekweremadu commended Senate and the House of Representatives Committees on Financial Crimes and Anti-Corruption for the report which will ensure Nigeria is not expelled from the EGMONT Group.
He disclosed that the upper legislative chamber will consider the report on Wednesday, stating that, “it is a very important bill and I am happy that you have come into agreement with the House of Representatives.
“It is important that we consider the report tomorrow so that Nigeria will be out of the suspension and be counted among the comity of nations in the EGMONT Group,’’ Ekweremadu said.