Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) on Saturday expressed its willingness to engage the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) over its plan to stop cash withdrawals from accounts of the federal, state and local governments.
The NFIU said this in a statement by its Chief Media Analyst, Ahmed Dikko.
According to the statement, NFIU Director, Moddibo Tukur, gave the assurance that the unit was willing to work with the six-person committee established by the state governors to address their concerns about the “anomalies” in the monetary management and financial system of the country.
“First of all, we are ready to partner with the 6-man committee they set up. We will enlighten them,” the statement highlighted, quoting Mr Tukur.
The financial intelligence unit said this in reaction to a statement by the NGF stating that the recent NFIU Advisory and Guidelines on cash transactions were outside the NFIU’s legal remit and mandate.
Earlier this month, NFIU set a deadline for cash withdrawals from accounts of the federal, state and local governments and all their Ministries and Department Agencies (MDAs).
The unit said it would begin to enforce compliance from 1 March 2023, as well vowing to clamp down on erring officials who violate the directive after the deadline at the end of February.
It further explained that the ban on cash withdrawal from governments’ accounts was necessary because civil servants in the country were becoming more vulnerable to money laundering and related offences.
The agency also said over N1 trillion in cash was withdrawn from government accounts (federal, state and local government) between 2015 and 2022.
We acted within the framework of the law
The NFIU emphasised that its ban on cash withdrawal on all federal, state and local government accounts was in line with the framework of the law. It noted that it issued the Advisory and Guidelines on cash transactions to control the barrage of investigations that was anticipated.
“Secondly we acted within our functions and the law. We issued the Guidelines to control the barrage of investigations that we saw coming. Our Guidelines were meant to help the Governors, not to fight them or any public servant.”
The agency further reminded the NGF that Nigerian Banks were fined millions of dollars by the FIUs of the United States and the United Kingdom for failing to comply with the new Guidelines.
“But more importantly, we need to understand that in the recent past, the United States FIU and the United Kingdom FIU penalized Nigerian Banks with fines of millions of U.S Dollars due to non-compliance. Internally, non-compliance with sections cited in the recent Guidelines comes with heavy penalties on financial institutions. We did, on gentlemanly pretext, avoid until this moment putting a fine to financial institutions expecting gradual learning and adjustments.
“But to eternally guarantee this kind gesture is to automatically keep abusing our laws.”
Both the NFIU and the NGF had taken opposing views on the move by the NGF to enforce the financial autonomy of local governments.