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Magu, Financial intelligence and the truth

*The intrigues and poli-tricks

From Adenike Lucas

The truth can’t be suppressed for long. Like the sun and the moon, it can’t be hidden. No matter the lies, the truth will triumph, it will stand tall and strong!

So pardon me, if I sound repetitive as I ramble on about the sad happenings at Nigeria’s Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU). The truth, as we all now know is that last year the NFIU was suspended the Egmont group. Till date, the NFIU remains suspended and as it stands, the country would not be allowed to participate in its upcoming plenary in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Even worse, is that on the agenda is the possible plan to expel Nigeria from the regulatory body. One would have thought that the Federal Government would be dealing with this issue with all seriousness. But, eh! The last we have heard was the creation of two NFIU committees composed of the same individuals! The outcome of the committee is for speculation.

So how did we get in this difficult state? On 7th May, 2017, I exclusively reported Nigeria’s suspension from the Toronto-based financial server. The original report dated 7th May, stated that Ibrahim Mustafa Magu, acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), was obtaining confidential information through the NFIU server and leaking them to his chosen allies in the media.

The Deputy Commissioner of Police, who was rejected as the fourth chairman of the EFCC where the NFIU is domiciled, was also accused of blackmailing politicians with information derived from the financial server.

The seriousness of these allegations should have warranted the honest truth from Mr Magu. But, instead he issued a defamatory press release against me and hoped the issue, like the damming report from the secret service would get swept under the carpet.

Unfortunately for him it did not! The world knows he is not telling the whole truth and the indicting report written by the Director of the Department of State Security Services (DSS), was not far from the truth. Indeed, Mr Magu is a “perennial offender,” who is never going to change.

Not only did Mr Magu lie about the suspension, but he is also lying about how he has decided to expunge the NFIU from the EFCC. He has openly said that the effort to create a stand-alone NFIU was needless.

To buttress his point, he said the NFIU “has always been operationally autonomous.” The question is: why is the Egmont group raising the issue of its autonomy, if they were operating independently.

How comes the director of the NFIU is usually appointed by the EFCC chairman? Okay, hear this: On 19th July, 2017, Mr Magu set up a committee to reset the NFIU. Mr Magu, playing judge and jury appointed those to serve on the committee which would recommend the said changes to the NFIU.

The Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, who has continued to support Mr Magu, despite a court affirmation of the Senate’s right to reject his nomination, also constituted a panel to do the same job. Professor Osinbajo, also selected same individuals as Mr Magu. Nothing has been heard from both panels.

Until now, the frenzy to lift the suspension or prevent the country from being expelled from the regulatory body consisting of 156 Financial Intelligence Unit has come from the Senate.

Those that were meant to work in line with them are working against the recommendation set to make the NFIU independent.

For instance, after passing the NFIA bill, why did the House of Rep member for Yewa North and Imeko Afon Federal Constituency, Ogun State, Kayode Oladele, draft a completely new bill – one that contradicts the recommendations made by Egmont for the NFIU to be made autonomous of the EFCC.

The Egmont group specifically calls for the NFIU to have its own staffing structure, but in Hon. Oladele’s bill this would not be the case. Should the EFCC continue to appoint the Director of the NFIU?

Were it not for the meddlesomeness of the EFCC boss and the deliberate leak of sensitive information, would we be in this embarrassing position? Where Nigeria – a supposed giant of Africa – could be left in a position where it would not be able to share intelligence with other member countries? How then can the war on corruption be won? Even the fight against terror would suffer because the country would not be able to track the finances of those suspected to be sponsoring the terrorist sect that have killed many and displaced so many others.

Moreover, the implication of being expelled would lead to Nigeria returning to the Dark Age when it was blacklisted by the international community.

Ordinary citizens would have their card transaction put under severe scrutiny from the international community. It is worrying to say the least.

So, yes Nigeria’s suspension from the Egmont group is now an open secret. Everyone is talking about it. Mr Magu tried to supress the truth but it did not work.

Perhaps, an apology from Mr Magu and a retraction of his 11th May, 2017, press statement will limit the damage done to my person. I guess it is never late to do the right thing.

But most importantly, this is a call for action and support for the Senate’s Nigerian Finance Intelligence Agency (NFIA) Bill.

While discussing the issue of the NFIA, can the National Assembly look into the EFCC amendment bill sponsored by Honourable Ladi Adebutu in 2016.

At the moment, because Mr Magu’s appointment has not been confirmed, Board members have not been formed. The Acting chairman currently takes all the decisions on his own.

A Bill that proposes to increase the level of EFCC’s operational efficiency, by separating the Board of the Commission from the Executive Management of the Commission, would definitely help to prevent another potential power drunk EFCC chair from aggregating undue powers to himself.

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