Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit has started investigating bank accounts of all judges in the country, including Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mr Tanko Muhammad.
Also included in the “secret” investigation are Senate President, Mr Ahmad Lawan; his deputy, Mr Ovie Omo-Agege; Speaker of House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila; his deputy, Mr Idris Wase, as well as other principal officers and members of the National Assembly.
Also under investigation are the bank accounts of “other relevant politically exposed persons”.
The unit has written to all banks in the country to send them the banking information of the affected persons.
Our correspondent obtained a copy of the letter dated September 10, 2019 on Friday.
The letter signed by NFIU’s Associate Director, Analysis and Compliance, Fehintola Salisu, gave the banks up till September 13 (Friday) to comply with the directive.
The letter addressed to all Chief Compliance Officers of the banks was tagged “Request for information on all accounts of: 1. National Assembly. 2. All accounts of all the members of National Judicial Council. 3. All accounts of all members of National Assembly. 4. Accounts of principal officers (Management) of National Assembly Service Commission. 5. All accounts of principal officers of the judiciary.”
The letter read, “Kindly provide NFIU with a schedule (account names and account numbers) of National Assembly, members of National Assembly and principal officers of National Assembly Service Commission, as well as all accounts of National Judicial Service Commission and their principal officers, including judges and other relevant politically exposed persons.
“Kindly note that your response is expected on or before September 13, 2019.”
However, NFIU Director, Mr Modibbo Tukur, told one of our correspondents on telephone that he was not aware of the letter.
But Tukur said banks could be sanctioned for leaking the content of the letter, which he described as an “operational issue”.
He said, “You must have seen that the letter was not signed by me. It is an operational issue.
“If it is an operational issue, leaking it is an offence. It is a punishable offence.
“If they are doing their analysis, it may not come to my knowledge. I will find out if you want me to do so.
“But the person you mentioned that signed the letter is an operational director. So anything she signs is confidential. I am even surprised how the banks allowed it to leak. It is punishable.”
It’s a routine exercise – Reps deputy leader
Reacting to the exercise, Deputy Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Mr Peter Akpatason, said it was a routine process by security and intelligence agencies.
Akpatason said, “I am not aware (of it) but I think it is a routine thing that they do. I don’t think there is any big deal about it.
“It is a normal thing. Ideally, they should have the account details of business people, politicians and others.”
When asked about the possibility of clamping down on targeted persons, the legislator said, “I do not think it is targeted at any particular person. It is a routine thing they are doing and they have the right to do it.”
NFIU’s action, an invasion of privacy– Senate
Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr Adedayo Adeyeye, criticised the NFIU’s directive to the banks.
He said most senators were individuals having flourishing businesses before they were elected to the red chamber.
He said, “The salary and emoluments of the lawmakers are being determined by an agency of government that is well known. They can find out what senators earn from them.
“I don’t think it is right to ask banks to expose details of the accounts of each lawmaker because, many of them are private businessmen and women until their election to the National Assembly.
“Publishing accounts of senators is purely an invasion of privacy.”