We are distressed by the threats of the Egmont Group & Heads of Financial Intelligence Units to expel Nigeria over its refusal to grant institutional autonomy to the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU).
Our distress is compounded by the lackadaisical & nonchalant attitude with which the Federal Government and the leadership of the National Assembly are dealing with an issue that has potentially far reaching effects on the lives of Nigerian citizens as well as create insurmountable obstacles to the achievement of a corrupt free country.
Nigerians will recall that in 2017 the Egmont Group had suspended Nigeria from its fold over a number of infractions. These include the unprofessional disclosure of valuable information to the media by the Economic & Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as well as the lack of a legislative framework to guarantee the independence of the NFIU.
In the time between the lifting of the suspension and now, both the Federal Government and the leadership of the National Assembly have failed to deal with the issues with the sort of attention that it deserves.
In fact, the Federal Government has continued to support the continued unprofessional disclosure of information by EFCC & the conduct of media trials. The Federal Government has also failed to address allegations that EFCC uses highly confidential information for blackmail.
On its part, the National Assembly has not taken its responsibility to provide the required legislative framework for continued membership of the international group.
The combination of these failures have put Nigerians and Nigeria at risk of losing the many benefits of belonging to the Egmont Group. If Nigeria is expelled, the country will lose access to financial intelligence required to trace and recover looted public fund stashed abroad.
Furthermore, debit and credit cards issued by Nigerian banks will immediately become ineligible for use in international transactions. Nigerians who benefit from international scholarships and grants also stand the risk of losing such scholarship and grants as certain countries and organizations may withdraw them on account of Nigeria’s non membership of the group.
We call on the Federal Government and the leadership of the National Assembly to realise the risk at which Nigeria stands on account of the non-fulfilment of their obligations regarding the Egmont Group. The potential loss of the benefits derivable from our continued membership of the Egmont Group must serve as a an impetus to spur these arms of government to take the necessary steps to ensure Nigeria is not expelled.
If the Federal Government and the leadership of the National Assembly fail, refuse or neglect to live up to their responsibilities to the Nigerian people, all Nigerians must ensure we remember this failure and the hardship which will definitely be occasioned by in as we head to the polls in 2019.
May God bless Nigeria
Convener, Concerned Nigerians
Theophilus Abu Agada