Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The 36 state governors of the Federation have pleaded with President Muhammadu Buhari to call the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) to order, over moves to stop them from tampering with the monthly allocations of local governments.
In a statement by the Head, Media and Public Affairs, Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) Secretariat, Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo, yesterday, the governors warned the NFIU not to dabble into a matter that is beyond its mandate.
The NFIU had earlier announced, at its inauguration, a ban on transactions on state and local governments joint accounts, arguing that such accounts are only transitional accounts from where funds should go directly to the accounts of local governments.
The NFIU, which was excised from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, set June 1, 2019, as take-off date of the new order and also, also placed a limit on cash withdrawals from local governments accounts to a maximum of N500,000 per day. It warned banks to ensure strict compliance.
The decision was contained in a guideline released by the NFIU after a lengthy meeting with officials of commercial banks in Abuja.
But, governors are angry.
Regardless, NGF Chairman and Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar, signed off a letter in which governors expressed “dismay and angst at this brazen attempt by the NFIU to ridicule our collective integrity and show total disregard for the Constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria (1999), as amended.”
The letter was titled: Re: NFIU Enforcement and Guidelines to Reduce Crime Vulnerabilities Created by Cash Withdrawal from Local Government Funds Throughout Nigeria Effective June 1st, 2019.
They said they extracted “copiously from the constitution,” to draw the attention of the president to section (6) (a) and (b), “which confers on the states and national assemblies the powers to make provisions for statutory allocation of public revenue to the local councils in the federation and within the states, respectively.”
Similarly, the governors added, section 162 (6), which expressly “provides for the creation of the States Joint Local Government Account (SJLGA) into which shall be paid all allocations to the LGAs of the state, from the Federation Account and from the government of the state.”
The NGF chairman said nothing in the NFIU Act, 2018, gives the body the powers that it seeks to exercise in the guidelines that it released.
The governors also argued that the NFIU is acting in excess of its powers and with complete disregard of the constitution of Nigeria and accused the NFIU of “stoking mischief and also deliberately seeking to cause disaffection, chaos and overheat the polity.”
The NGF stressed that local government councils are creation of the constitution and are not financial institutions. The governors, local governments are not reporting entities and are, therefore, not under the NFIU; in the manner contemplated by the NFIU so-called guidelines.