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Tuesday, 4 February 2014


At the recent World Economic Forum, the Nigerian President Dr. Good luck Jonathan stirred up a debate when he reportedly told the international audience that Nigeria's problem is not corruption  but rather the insecurity situation that has not allowed productivity to reach a commendable height and for the democracy dividends to reach the millions of unreached rural poor Nigerians.

Most Nigerians immediately opposed this way of analyzing the very serious and weighty existential problem afflicting Nigeria which obviously is corruption that has not allowed Nigeria to grow optimally and this climate of corruption has created widespread poverty and hunger in the land and has led to the systematic collapse of vital national assets and infrastructure thereby exposing a lot of Nigerians to insecurity of lives and property coupled with the unprecedented rise in armed insurgency in parts of the North. Globally, it is a notorious fact that money laundering, terrorist financing and financing of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction are interconnected and are indeed serious threats to security and integrity of the financial system and constitute grave threat to the territorial integrity of sovereign nations. So it was understandable why right thinking observers challenged President Jonathan's assertion that corruption is not Nigeria's most disturbing problem. He was wrong because corruption and terrorism are like Siamese twins. Little wonder then that the Financial Action Task Force, a global wide mechanism for confronting financial crimes was compelled in February of 2012 to upgrade the international standards on combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The internationals standards which recommend independent and strong institutional framework/mechanism was reviewed to strengthen global safeguards and further protect the integrity of the financial system by providing governments with stronger tools to take action against financial crimes. These new standards rolled out on February 12th 2012 were targeted at addressing new priority areas such as corruption and tax crimes. These twin evils are rife in Nigeria making it all the more imperative that the nation has to work out an effective institution such as an independent Nigerian Financial Intelligence office to tackle these crimes headlong away from the bureaucratic bottlenecks that characterized the traditional crime fighting models.

Corruption is Nigeria's most important problem and must be seen as such. Those who are entrusted with the duty of fighting corruption are expected to be accountable and transparent in all their activities and the administration of the institutions that wage war against corruption and economic crimes must be cured of all maladies relating to abuse of power and corrupt enrichment of the officials. There is therefore the clarion call internationally for the creation of an independent body that will check and balance the activities of all the anti-graft institutions so that no particular agency of government acquires the larger -than- life tendency of thinking that the officials of these agencies are above the law.

Therefore the creation of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit was geared towards making sure that all financial transactions meet with international best practices and indeed this body ought to be independent enough to be able to also monitor, collate and circulate intelligence to all the agencies of law enforcement charged with the constitutional duty of keeping Nigeria free from money launderers and international kingpins who engage in illegal capital flight that contribute to the economic downfall of Nigeria.

The advocacy for the creation of a body of legislation to empower the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit to become autonomous is said to be stridently opposed by some persons in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Chairman is fingered as one of those fighting the passage of this bill by the National Assembly because he feels threatened that some of his executive powers would be eroded if this department is made independent. This opposition has led to public spat between the acting director of this Financial intelligence Unit and the chairman of the EFCC to such an extent that the media is awash with reports that a detachment of well armed mobile policemen on the alleged orders of the EFCC chairman took over the offices of the NFIU thereby chasing away the acting Director and refusing her access to her personal belongings. In this era of democracy should any official of government be allowed to grow too big to be controlled by the relevant laws? This and many other questions are expected to be answered by the National Human Rights Commission so as to save Nigeria from international opprobrium that may result from the determined effort of a cabal to undermine the independence of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit.

This infighting notwithstanding, the National Assembly, particularly the Federal House of Representatives kicked off a public hearing on the executive bill to empower the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit to become an independent institution on February 3rd 2014 with a strong note of warning by the Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, an accomplished lawyer Mr. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal that the parliament is determined to pass the legislation so as to combat the increasing wave of official theft, mismanagement of public fund in Nigeria.  There is no gainsaying the fact that under the current regime of anti-graft campaign, the type waged since the appointment as Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission [EFCC] Mr. Lamorde has yet to reignite the kind of momentum that characterized the anti-corruption battles which was waged successfully by the pioneer chairman Mallam Nuhu Ribadu who was however removed unceremoniously for political reasons under the late Umaru Musa Yar'adua-led government. The lackluster approach to the anti-graft war has now given rise to the clamor for the creation of an independent Nigerian Financial Intelligence Department away from the prying eyes or control of the chairman of EFCC since the office coordinate the generation and distribution of intelligence on financial transactions to all law enforcement agencies including the Department of State Security [SSS], the Independent Corrupt Practices and allied offence Commission [ICPC] among others.

On the public spat that greeted the determination of the embattled acting director of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit Ms. Julieth Umezuoke to secure independence for that office, a highly trusted and competent source at the National Human Rights Commission hinted me last weekend that the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission[EFCC] Ibrahim Lamorde, an assistant Commissioner of police has been dragged before the Rights commission following a very strong petition alleging abuse of power and threat to the life of one of Nigeria's best known anti-corruption legal experts who is said to be heading the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit within the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

Listed as " PETITION AGAINST THE EFCC CHAIRMAN MR. LAMORDE ON ABUSE OF POWER, THREAT TO LIFE ,INTIMIDATION AND VICTIMIZATION OF BARRISTER JULIET IBEKAKU", the petitioner through her lawyer is praying for a number of reliefs among which is the clarion call on the authority to ensure that the precious life of this distinguished female lawyer who incidentally is a pioneer senior staff of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is not endangered by elements who are afraid that her bold moves to secure total autonomy for the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit may undermine their unpatriotic dealings. She also alleged that her office was invaded by armed mobile policemen on the instruction of the EFCC boss on December 20th 2013 and has not been allowed to pick her personal belongings.
 The reputable female lawyer left her job at THE UNITED NATIONS to join the EFCC in 2004 and for the past 10 years, she has been serving the EFCC in various capacities and was appointed acting DIRECTOR, NIGERIAN FINANCIAL INTELLIGENCE UNIT (NFIU) in 2012.

Some of the critical accomplishments of the critically acclaimed female anti-corruption lawyer within one year of her appointment to this national assignment were: the delisting of Nigeria from the FATF blacklist, which received the generous support of PRESIDENT GOODLUCK EBELE JONATHAN and the cohesive collaboration of the relevant stakeholders; the development of a strategic plan for the NFIU that led to a collaborative approach to intelligence sharing between the NFIU and other law enforcement agencies in Nigeria, particularly in the area of anti-money laundering,  combating  terrorism  financing and international support for Nigeria.  

In a bid to ensure that the NFIU was operating within international standards as provided by the FATF, the acting Director was directed by Mr. President through the Attorney General of the Federation to initiate the Bill for the establishment of an independent NFIU. This is because it was discovered that the domestication of the Unit in EFCC has created a crisis of confidence amongst the other law enforcement  agencies and ultimately inhibited the efficiency in the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing.

This position was reflected in an Executive bill on the establishment of a “Nigerian Financial Intelligence Agency” endorsed to the National Assembly for consideration. This is a worthy cause.

+ Emmanuel Onwubiko is Head of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria and;


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