By Danlami Nmodu
The Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) has described a leaked document written by its officer to banks requesting account details of the country’s topshots as “unauthorized”
Consequently, the NFIU has moved to allay fears of looming probe of the leadership of National Assembly,lawmakers as well as the Chief Justice of the Federation,CJN
In a second statement on the matter signed by Ahmed Dikko, its chief media officer,NFIU said Monday, “For the avoidance of doubt, Their Excellencies, The Senate President, The Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Chief Justice of the Federation, as well as Senators, Members of the House of Representatives, Justices and other members of the Judiciary are NOT under investigation by the NFIU.
The statement therefore appealed “to members of the public that it is needless to make political capital out of this as the entire country is just a co-signatory with other 164 members of the FIU processes.”
NFIU said in part on Monday,“The Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) has found it necessary to issue this second press release on the leaked letter asking for information on certain categories of public officers. This is to reaffirm the earlier press release made on Friday, September 13, 2019.
“We have noticed that while some individuals who seem to be favourable to Government are creating the wrong impression that the opposition is using the NFIU, those in the Opposition seem to be speaking through some Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and insinuating that Government is using the NFIU to its political advantage. Both positions are not only untrue but patently unimaginable.
“It has become necessary to restate that the officer who initiated the request was obviously unacquainted with the fact that the NFIU already had access to such information through its data base.
“It is also pertinent to note that the NFIU has the major responsibility, in accordance with global standards, to maintain and regularly update the list of Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs).
It will be recalled that a new government was inaugurated in May 2019. The officer who initiated the unauthorized letter was also taking the initiative to update the PEPs list. This list includes politicians and political appointees in all organs of government. The update exercise which is a regular practice in order to protect public funds and other assets is also in accordance with global best practice.
Internal probe begins
The NFIU also disclosed that it has commenced a probe into the ‘unaunthorised’ letter saga. According to Dikko, “Having been aware that the leaked letter was not subjected to the appropriate level of authorization before transmission, the NFIU has commenced investigation to unravel the persons and the factors that led to the inadvertent circumvention of our internal process in this isolated case with a view to applying appropriate sanctions as deterrence.”
No ‘need to write banks for account details’
In its first statement on the matter,NFIU said it doesd not need to write banks for account details of anybody since it already has access to such as enshrined in the statute books.
Dikko said “The attention of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), has been drawn to media reports stating that the unit has requested banks to furnish it with the account details of principal officers of the National Assembly and the Judiciary. Such reports are not true,
“In line with its powers as provided in the NFIU Act 2018, the Unit already has access to details of all bank accounts in the country and does not therefore, need to write to commercial banks asking for the same information.
“As a matter of fact, relevant reporting entities such as investigative and other Law Enforcement Agencies always rely on the NFIU for information on bank details of individuals and body corporate under investigation as they go about carrying out their functions. Such is a mandatory reporting process.
“The Unit does not also make blanket requests to all banks as is being speculated in the reports
“The media and indeed the general public are therefore, requested to disregard such reports”