Governors urge Buhari to call NFIU to order over joint accounts

State governors have urged President Muhammadu Buhari to caution the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) against dabbling into a matter that is beyond its mandate.

In a letter signed by the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar, the state chief executives expressed “dismay and angst at the brazen attempt by the NFIU to ridicule their collective integrity and show total disregard for the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) as amended.”

The NFIU, which was excised from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has set June 1, 2019 as the takeoff date of a new order for all local government allocations to go straight to their respective bank accounts. The decision is contained in a guideline released by the NFIU after a lengthy meeting with officials of commercial banks in Abuja.

But in a swift reaction, the NGF, in a letter to Buhari, faulted the NFIU’s directive.

Extracting copiously from the constitution, the governors drew the attention of the President to section (6) (a) and (b) which confers on the states and the National Assembly the powers to make provisions for statutory allocation of public revenue to the local councils in the federation and within the states.

“Similarly, Section 162 (6) expressly provides for the creation of the States Joint Local Government Account (SJLGA) into which shall be paid all allocations to the local government areas of the state from the federation account and from the government of the state.”

The NGF chairman emphasised that nothing in the NFIU Act 2018 gives the body the powers that it seeks to exercise in the guidelines that it released and is, therefore, acting in excess of its powers, exhibiting complete disregard of the constitution of Nigeria.

The NGF further accused the NFIU of “stoking mischief and also deliberately seeking to cause disaffection, chaos and overheat the polity.”

The forum argued that local government councils are a creation of the constitution and are not financial institutions.

“They are not reporting entities and are, therefore, not under the NFIU in the manner contemplated by the NFIU so-called guidelines.

“In principle, the NFIU should concentrate on its core mandate of Anti-Money Laundering (AML) activities and Combatting Financing Terrorism (CTF) as prescribed in the Act establishing it and should desist from encroaching on or even breaching constitutional provisions.”

The NFIU is the Nigerian arm of the global financial intelligence units (FIUs) once domiciled within the EFCC but now, for the purpose of institutional location, is domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria.

According to the governors, “the NFIU is only mandated to trace or track laundered money that finds its way into terrorism financing and report such to the nation’s security agencies.

The NFIU should seek to comply with those standards on combating money laundering and financing of terrorism and its proliferation as stipulated and not dabble into matters that are both constitutional and beyond NFIU purview.