True to its pledge to beam its searchlight on top politicians and civil servants, the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) has requested deposit money banks to immediately release the account details of all legislators (Senate and House of Representatives) and judiciary officials in the country.
The NFIU, in a letter dated September 10, 2019 and signed by Fehintola Salisu, NFIU Associate Director, Analysis and Compliance, directed the Chief Compliance Officers of banks to furnish it with account names, numbers and transaction details of the top civil servants.
Though the reason for the sensitive request was not expressly stated in the letter, but it may not be unconnected with the unit’s recent move to clampdown on those involved in financial graft of gargantuan proportions.
The agency also sought the account details of members of the National Judicial Council (NJC).
Although it listed judges and national assembly members as well, there was no mention of any member of the executive arm of government. The letter with reference:NFIU/ACCFT/ACCOBANKS/VOL.I/877/PO5IA29 reads: “Request for information on: All accounts of: the National Assembly, National Judicial Council (NJC), all the members of the National Assembly, principal officers (management) of the National Assembly Service Commission, (and) of principal officers of the judiciary.
“Kindly provide the NFIU with a schedule (account names and account numbers) of the National Assembly, members of the National Assembly and principal officers of the National Assembly Service Commission, as well as all accounts of National Judicial Service Commission and their principal officers including judges and other relevant politically exposed persons.”
The NFIU, headed by Hamman Tukur directed the banks to forward the information on or before Friday, September 13, 2019. The agency’s operations went full blast in 2018, after President Muhammadu Buhari accented to a bill taking it away from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
By so doing, the Unit is now to, “receive currency transaction reports, suspicious transactions reports, currency declaration reports and other information relating to money laundering and extremists financing activities from financial institutions.”
The NFIU had recently vowed to make public assets of all public officials and senior political office holders. Meanwhile, a source at one of the second generation banks said it will obey the directive to the letter.
“I trust my management. They will open the accounts of these people NFIU wants opened. Banking is now transparently done with ICT. Already, we do release information to relevant agencies on transactions above certain limits. This is not new. We will comply”, he said.
Another bank source said any bank that does not comply may have itself to blame. “This is a directive from a known government agency. It doesn’t mean anyone has defaulted of gone contrary to the law. It’s just a government agency doing its job.
“This happens all over the world. It’s not peculiar to Nigeria. How do you think the US government was able to bust those Nigerians and other foreign nationals involved in financial crimes? They monitored their accounts over a long time”, he said.
A Senate source, who refused to be named, said “only the spokesmen of the Senate and the House of Representatives can speak on the matter. As it is, the Senate President, who is also the Chairman of the National Assembly, is out of town. The National Assembly will speak soon.”
When contacted, NFIU director, Tukur Modibbo, said the letter might just be for operational reasons and nothing to worry about.