BY EDMOND ODOK, ABUJA – The Buhari-Osinbajo campaign group, ‘`No Alternative To Buhari-Osinbajo (NATBO 2019)’ says the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) must be strengthened if the planned financial autonomy for local government councils in the country is to become a reality.
According to the group, government’s latest moves seeking to sanitise, restore and re-position the country for a glorious future will only be accomplished through the instrumentality of strong institutions and robust governance structure.
The group’s National Coordinator, Vincent Uba said in Abuja on Sunday that agencies like NFIU must be stregthened with adequate government backing to implement the on-going anti-corruption fight in the country.
He maintained that a reinvented and strong NFIU will no doubt add verve to the governmant’s fight against corruption, especially in the areas of sanitising the financial system and restoring integrity in all fiscal processes.
Mr Uba, who lauded government’s recent order as being in the right direction to help monitor local Councils’ accounts and avoid funds’ diversion by state governors, however said NFIU needs all the necessary support to succeed in its assigned responsibility.
The group further said in its statement that; “This is indeed a very welcome development, since we are all witnesses to what has been going on in our local governments which have remained a shadow of themselves from what they used to be in the past.
“The NFIU found that the cash withdrawal and transactions from the state and joint local government accounts posed the biggest corruption, money laundering and security threats to the country especially at the grassroots levels.”
Similarly, the Campaign group noted that; “Before now, the creation of joint local government account gave the governors control of local government funds. The financial autonomy of this third tier of government disappeared and most state governments routinely diverted the funds allocated to the local governments.
“One cannot but be happy for this turn of events as the local government can finally be free from the hegemony of the governors who hitherto saw the local government funds as free money.
“A new lease of life has consequently come to the local governments and with this development, the people can hold local government chairmen accountable for the implementations of campaign promises.”
In the statement, the group also applauded the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government for the focused approach adopted in the trial of former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, stressing that it has further justified the confidence and faith reposed in the administration by the Nigerian electorate.
For the group, this indeed clearly demonstrates that “the heightened expectation of the citizenry of a renewed anti-graft fight by the Buhari-led government has not been misplaced.”
The NFIU Bill, signed into law by President Buhari in July 2018, effectively ensure the Unit ceased to function as an arm of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC).
With this independence from the EFCC, NFIU has designed guidelines to ensure financial independence for the 774 local government councils in the country.
Unveiled by the NFIU in Abuja on May 6, the new financial guidelines, which will effectively take off on Saturday, June 1, 2019, have directives stopping daily cash withdrawals in excess of N500,000 from the Councils account.