• You can’t spend cash, agency tells helmsmen of states
Governors and the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) may be set on a collision course over cash withdrawals and the use of security votes, The Nation learnt yesterday.
The NFIU has said that the restriction on cash withdrawals from public accounts was still in force.
The 36 governors will engage the leadership of the anti-graft agencies, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and others on how to better manage security votes tomorrow. The meeting will be virtual.
Ahead of the meeting, the governors have been advised to spend whatever they want, but not in cash.
A source at the NFIU told The Nation: “Nobody is saying the governors cannot do anything with their money. They should just do the right thing.
“Must they spend security votes in cash? If it is payment they want to do, they can do it through transfer. It doesn’t have to be in cash.”
After the NFIU announced the ban on cash withdrawal from public accounts, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) scheduled a meeting.
In January, the NFIU announced that “Nigeria will become a full non-cash economy by March 1”.
It added: “As a consequence, any government official that withdraws even one naira cash from any public account from March 1 will be investigated and prosecuted in collaboration with relevant agencies like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).”
The NFIU had told banks and government agencies to move fully into online payments “as all transactions involving public money must be routed through the banks for the purpose of accountability and transparency”.
“Any government official who flouts the order will be prosecuted alongside his or her accomplices,” the NFIU warned.
However, it is not certain how NFIU intends to prosecute any erring governor because of the immunity clause in the constitution.
Spokesman of the NGF, Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo, in a statement yesterday, quoted NGF’s Director General Mr. Asishana Okauru, as stating that the crucial meeting will hold tomorrow
He said it is “with a view to ironing out thorny issues surrounding their states’ security votes, towards establishing a better option of managing the funds”.
The spokesman added that the decision to hold the meeting virtually was to ensure full representation.
According to him, those invited to the meeting, at the instance of the NFIU, include the EFCC, the ICPC, the FIRS and the CBN.
Bello-Barkindo added: “The meeting will also consider deepening the management and expansion of the cashless policy, which took effect from the time of the redesigning of the national currency last year, to further the financial inclusion of all citizens in the ensuing scheme of things, going forward.
“This meeting is called at the instance of the NFIU, in its letter of 30th March, which was addressed to the Chairman of the NGF and signed by the NFIU Director, Modibbo Hamman Tukur.
“The letter said that apart from the facilities for national financial inclusion, it is also putting on the table the uniform development and cooperation on the national addressing and post-code project, which will put Nigeria on the same pedestal as all advanced countries across the globe.
“Also on the agenda is a consensus on harmonising and updating the national tax collection and business entry standards and its requirements to help respond to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the European Union (EU) greylisting in which Nigeria appeared.
“All governors are advised to prioritise the meeting as its contents had been discussed at the NGF emergency meeting of Thursday 30th March, where it was unanimously agreed that a meeting with the afore-mentioned agencies was imperative.”
The NFIU guidelines barring governors, ministers, foreign missions and other public servants from making cash withdrawals from public accounts came into effect on March 1.
Banks notified their customers about the directive and urged them to use digital channels.
The Nation learnt that 167 countries were placed on the alert for any governor, minister and other public officials who withdraw cash from public accounts from March 1.
The NFIU had activated the Egmont Secured Web (ESW) protocol to share information with the countries if any governor is flagged for money laundering.
In a January 4 circular, the agency directed all financial institutions to discontinue cash withdrawals in naira and foreign currency from public accounts at all levels.
The policy may pit the governors against the Federal Government again after some states were forced to sue the Attorney-General of the Federation at the Supreme Court over the naira redesign and scarcity.