Nigeria stand the risk of entering into serious economic crisis unless the Senate and the House of Representatives committees on anti-corruption and financial crimes quickly resolved their differences to pave the way for final passage of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Agency Bill.
Also, failure for the bill to be passed will see Nigeria been expelled from EGMONT Group, the Senate warned on Thursday.
The apex legislative Chamber also warned that losing its membership of the 152-member nations of International Financial Intelligence would subject the nation’s economy and the entire citizenry to serious crisis soon.
EGMONT Group has threatened to expel Nigeria from its membership this March, after it suspended the country from its membership last year for non-compliance with global set down standards for members of the body all over the world.
The Senate had on Thursday July 27, 2017, passed the bill seeking to establish the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Agency, one week after it was sponsored in the chamber, a move that was intended to save Nigeria from the big stick of EGMONT.
The body, which is currently a department in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, was in the bill, moved to the Central Bank of Nigeria.
The Senate said the bill was aimed at making the NFIU autonomous to pave the way for the Nigeria’s re-admittance into the EGMONT Group after the country’s suspension.
The sponsor of the bill and Chairman, Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes, Senator Chukwuka Utazi (PDP, Enugu North), said that the expeditious passage of the Bill would halt the threat to expel Nigeria from EGMONT by the group.
Utazi however, raised an alarm yesterday through a point of order, that his counterpart in the House of Reps had been frustrating efforts to expeditiously pass the bill, noting that the Rep had always given excuses not to attend conference committee of the two chambers towards harmonizing the differences between the Senate and the House versions of the bill.
Citing order 43 of the Senate rules during plenary, Utazi expressed worry over the inability of the National Assembly to come up with a conference report needed in granting independence to Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU).
He accused his counterpart, Chairman House of Representatives Committee on Financial Crimes, Rep. Kayode Oladele of derailing the process of having a legal framework that would guarantee independence of the unit.
Making his submission to the chamber in plenary, the lawmaker lamented that failure to pass and transmit the for presidential assent before the expiration of the deadline would result in expulsion of the country, with grave socio-economic consequences on the country.
He said, “July last year, Nigeria was suspended by Egmont Group with a threat to expel the country in March this year. This is coming up on the 11th of March, which is next week. If we do not put our house in order, we will be expelled.
“The expulsion will have severe consequences. Our financial banks will not be able to do anything. Our banks and foreign transactions will no longer amount to anything. We will be degraded. Even the corruption index we are complaining about will be a child’s play to what we are going to face in few day’s to come.
“This Senate passed this bill within a record period of eight working days because of the importance and urgency. That was the first bill to have gotten such a speedy passage in this Senate. I came with a motion earlier to explain issues of what were on ground.
“The House of Representatives also took its time to pass this bill. A Conference Committee had been constituted. I have been calling my counterpart in the House of Representatives. The first meeting was stalled. They said the leadership was meeting over the issue.
“We called for another meeting. Each time I call for this meeting, my counterpart in the House of Representatives will always tell me that he is attending one meeting or another. Even this morning (yesterday), I sent him a message and he said he was attending a budget defence meeting. I told him that this meeting was more important? He knows what is at stake.
“I am bringing this issue to public knowledge that this Senate is doing its job. This Senate is doing its duty. If anything should happen or Nigeria is suspended, it will not be as a result of the failure of the Senate to act on this issue”.
Reacting to the issue, the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, regretted that the conference committee meeting had not met up till moment to finalize the passage of the bill for transmission to the President for assent.
He however, assured that he would intervene to ensure the meeting of the conference committee to harmonise the bill, so that it could be adopted and transmitted to the President for his assent before the EGMONT deadline expires.
“This matter has been discussed at the leadership level and a Conference Committee was set up. I am surprised that this meeting has not taken place. I will meet with the Speaker of the House of Representatives and I will remind him of the decision we took so that he can direct the chairman in the House of Representatives on this.
“Both of you will work on it as fast as you can so that we can transmit this bill to the President before the next Egmont meeting in order to save this country. We will take action.
The bill, when signed into law, would function as a central body in Nigeria responsible for receiving, requesting, analyzing and disseminating financial intelligence reports and other information to law enforcement, security and intelligence agencies and other relevant authorities.