The Director of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, Usani Francis, has warned that Nigeria may be expelled from the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence over the country's move to create a new agency on financial intelligence.
Mr. Francis said this during a meeting with stakeholders in the country's war against corruption organised by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC on Wednesday.
According to Mr. Francis, the steps to create the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Agency, NFIA, which bill was passed by the Nigerian Senate in July, could lead to the expulsion of Nigeria from the group.
"By the Egmont Group standards, there cannot be two FIUs in one country, otherwise there will be tendency for disagreements.
"If you do anything that will distract the core functions of the FIU, the Egmont Group will frown against it," Mr. Francis said.
He added that the EFCC was not against the creation of an independent NFIU.
"The EFCC is not against an Independent FIU. Since the international best practice is that a country should not have two NFIUs, the moment you are creating one, you must kill the one that has been existing.
"When you are creating a new FIU, the Egmont Group has to come in to determine the criteria, whether it meets the requirement of the Egmont Group.
"We have even faltered. If we want to create an FIU, we have to first of all inform the Egmont Group, irrespective of the suspension. The Egmont Group in their next plenary will require us to make a new law, which they will review.
"They will ask Nigeria to nominate two mentors, that is two countries within the sub-region, who understand what is going on. And within the West African Sub-region, Nigeria is the pioneer NFIU, Nigeria mentored Ghana and currently Nigeria is mentoring Gambia, Sierra-Leone and Liberia. So, if we now have to get two mentors who will become our mentors?"
He said the right step should have been for Nigeria to either allow the NFIU to remain under the EFCC, or to detach the body without necessarily creating a new organ.
The NFIU, an arm of the EFCC, was suspended from the Egmont Group at a plenary of the Heads of FIUs in Macao on July 5.
The Senate had based its decision to hurriedly pass a new bill to create the NFIA on the suspension by the Egmont group. However, analysts believe that was done to weaken the power of the EFCC, whose acting chairman, Ibrahim Magu, the Senate has refused to confirm for the position.