The House of Representatives has expressed support for the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit over the agency’s request for details of bank accounts belonging to members of the National Assembly, judiciary and politically exposed persons.
According to the lower chamber of the National Assembly, such information is necessary for an institution like the NFIU to function efficiently.
Those whose accounts are being probed are the President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; principal officers and members of the House of National Assembly.
The probe by the NFIU will also include accounts owned by Nigerian judges, including the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammad.
Recall that the NFIU had written to all banks in the country to send them the banking information of the affected persons, in a letter dated September 10, 2019.
The letter signed by the NFIU’s Associate Director, Analysis and Compliance, Fehintola Salisu, gave the banks up till September 13 (Friday) to comply with the directive.
The Senate had described the directive of the NFIU to the banks as invasion of privacy.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Adedayo Adeyeye, had in an interview with Saturday PUNCH, described the directive of the NFIU to the banks as invasion of privacy.
He said most senators were already established individuals with flourishing businesses before they contest and won election into the red chamber.
But the House of Representatives expressed its support for the NFIU over the move, saying such information was necessary for an institution like the NFIU to function efficiently.
The Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr Benjamin Kalu, in his reaction sent to our correspondent on Saturday, noted that that other agencies depend on NFIU for such information.
Kalu said, “I am aware that they have access to all account details and, as such, should not be asking for such. The NFIU Establishment Act allows them access to all bank details.
‘‘Your bank details and mine are the tools they work with when the need arises, and denying them such access amounts to opening them up for an inefficient outing.
“I am also aware that Ahmed Dikko, the Chief Media Analyst of NFIU has attempted clearing the air on this. According to him, such letter of demand for bank details did not emanate for them and should be disregarded.”
The Deputy Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Mr Peter Akpatason, who spoke to our correspondent on Friday, also said it was a routine process by security and intelligence agencies, adding that there was no big deal about it.
Akpatason said, “I am not aware (of it) but I think it is a routine thing that they do. I don’t think there is any big deal about it. It is a normal thing. Ideally, they should have the account details of business people, politicians and others.
“I do not think it is targeted at any particular person. It is a routine thing they are doing and they have the right to do it.”