Debit and credit card users in the country may be plunged into risk as the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs) considers expelling Nigeria, Premium Times reports.
The 156-member group had in July suspended the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, a body operating under the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), at its 24th plenary of the Heads of the FIUs in Macao.
The suspension was reportedly a result of the EFCC leaking sensitive information to the media, and blackmailing individuals with the information at its disposal.
The group had in a statement said:
The Heads of FIU made a decision, by consensus, to suspend the membership status of the NFIU, Nigeria, following repeated failures on the part of the FIU to address concerns regarding the protection of confidential information, specifically related to the status of suspicious transaction report (STR) details and information derived from international exchanges, as well as concerns on the legal basis and clarity of the NFIU’s independence from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The measure will remain in force until immediate corrective actions are implemented.
However, an EFCC official who spoke to Premium Times on the condition of anonymity, said the suspension was a result of a former head of the NFIU providing false information to the Egmont Group. The source said:
What Nigeria is facing today may have been self-inflicted as certain citizens with vested interests in the running of the NFIU are known to regularly feed the world body of FIUs with false information regarding the situation in Nigeria.
The issues that culminated in the recent suspension of Nigeria are predicated on a false petition by a former director of the NFIU who, embittered by the manner of her dismissal, painted a false imagery of siege on the NFIU with the objective to compromise information from the Egmont Secure website.
Worse than the suspension however, is the report that the Egmont Group will be meeting in March and will discuss the permanent expulsion of Nigeria.
A proposal for the expulsion is reportedly on the agenda for the group’s meeting in Buenos Aires between March 2 and March 7, 2018.
An expert in financial intelligence, Tunde Ajileye, and a partner at SBM, a geopolitical research firm, spoke to Premium Times to explain the implication of being expelled from the group. He said:
We would have liability shift. What that means is that, if there is an issue and they (banks, payment companies) want to adjudicate, normally they adjudicate before they move the money to any party but with a liability shift, what it means is that they will first move money from you to the other party and if they now decide that you are not at fault, they will then move the money back to you. The risks become higher and the odd is staked against you if there is an issue with your transaction.
Money that comes in from Nigeria will become more suspect. Normally if you do a suspicious transaction report to the NFIU and the NFIU shares that report with other international agencies to track, but if we are expelled we really can’t share. We also do not have access to information, so we become more prone to money laundering.
For instance, if someone has been flagged internationally, because we don’t have access to that information, we won’t know, and the person(s) can continue to do their transactions, unlike today where we can get such information.
The Egmont group is reportedly displeased with the lack of autonomy of the NFIU, and the fact that it operates under the EFCC.
The Nigerian Senate had back in 2017, after the Egmont Group’s suspension, passed a bill granting the NFIU autonomy.
Ibrahim Magu, acting chairman of the EFCC, had in December 2017 said with the ushering in of the new year (2018), the NFIU would become autonomous. He said: “We have allowed NFIU to go. They are operationally autonomy independent of EFCC.”
This is however not the case, as the National Assembly is yet to accede to the bill.