By: Valentine Adese,Frank Agbai and Joy Olohi,
Nigerians in some quarters have stated reacting and explaining that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) may be stripped of its powers to investigate financial crime offenders if the President eventually gives his assents to the amendment of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Agency (NFIA) bill passed by the Senate this week.
You would recall that the bill was passed after it was read for the third time by the lawmakers but without the usual public hearing organized to consider opinions of concerned parties on the matter.
The Senate had referred the bill to the Committee on Anti-corruption on Tuesday for review and the Committee submitted its report on Thursday only for the bill to be unanimously passed.
The Senate says the bill was given accelerated consideration to help Nigeria avoid expulsion from the Egmont group of Financial Intelligence unit.
The group recently suspended Nigeria over the absence of a legal framework that guarantees the independence of the country’s unity.
The Senate had earlier sought for the establishment of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Agency (NIFA) as the central body in Nigeria.
The Bill sponsored by Senator Chukwuka Utazi, seeks to strip the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of control over the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU).
The motion was seconded by Deputy Majority Leader Senator Bala Na’ Allah who urged his colleagues to do the needful and support the Bill.
From records, the NFIU bill would be the fastest bill passed by the Senate since the Eight Senate was inaugurated on the 9th of June, 2015.
Suspecting Nigerians have opined that the bill is aimed at weaken the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and yank off major responsibilities from the Act setting up the anti-graft agency.
However, the Senate Spokesman, Aliu Sabi, had while briefing Senate Correspondents, explained that the Senate was committed to enacting the law in good time, to boost the anti-corruption fight of the Federal Government.
The Senate, had equally noted that: “the EGMONT Group suspended Nigeria for a number of reasons, including the fact that the NFIU which is the body that represents Nigeria in the Group, has not been granted operational autonomy, as well as the fact the Unit is still domicile within the EFCC, a situation the Group has objected to over the years.”
Another reason for the suspension according to the Senate, was the alleged “meddlesomeness of the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, in the affairs of the NFIU, by his interference in the operations and staffing of the Unit, leading to the departure of many competent hands.”