If hints from the Senate are anything to go by, the plan by the upper chamber to resume debate tomorrow on the proposed amendment of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission 2004 will make for the creation of more government agencies.
But the proposal is coming against the backdrop of moves by the federal government to trim down what it considers an already large number of agencies, in line with Oransonye presidential committee on the merging of government agencies.
According to a source close the Senate, the bill for the enactment of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 will be tabled for public hearing on Monday. The ultimate aim of the bill is to make the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) an autonomous body, independent of EFCC, by creating the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Agency (NFIA).
NFIU is the central body responsible for the receipt and analysis of financial disclosures (currency transaction reports and suspicious transaction reports) and dissemination of intelligence generated therefrom to relevant authorities. The body, which was established in June 2004, barely a year after the establishment of the EFCC, but commenced operations in January 2005, is domiciled in EFCC. Though, in line with international best practice, the NFIU operates independently of EFCC in its coordination of Nigeria’s anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism (AM/CFT). The NFIU also services all the stakeholders, including the law enforcement and regulatory agencies.
However, reacting to the planned debate on the EFCC amendment bill, pioneer president, West African Bar Association (WABA), Femi Falana (SAN), said at the weekend that the described the debate was “diversionary”. He said, “Nigerian people are asking for how the current agencies will be independent of the government. That is, away from the control of the executive.”
Falana spoke further, “Creation of more agencies will make mockery of the recommendation of the presidential committee chaired by Mr. Stephen Oronsaye. The current agencies are not being adequately funded. Where will the fund for the new ones to be created come from? It is illogical. It is primitive. Nigeria, despite our challenges, is still a role model in law making.
“This was how they destroyed the Nigeria Police by creating State Security Service (SSS), Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC).”
Chairman, Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC), Olanrewaju Suraju, described the provision in the bill removing the Senate’s power to confirm the appointment of the director general of the proposed agencies as “ridiculous. The bill should be thrown into the dustbin.”
Condemning the attempt by the Senate to whittle down the powers of EFCC, Falana noted that the institutions of state should rather be strengthened and well-funded.