Local governments financial autonomy is set for a major boost — courtesy of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU).
The agency yesterday banned banks, governors, financial institutions, public officers and other stakeholders from tampering with the statutory allocations of Local Government Areas from the Federation Account.
It also said all erring individuals and companies will face international and local sanctions.
Some of the sanctions are:
likely blacklist of erring governors and the Chief Executive Officers of the affected banks;
shutdown of any erring bank; and
watch-list of violators in 160 countries where they cannot transact business or pay bills.
The agency has imposed a daily N500, 000 cash transaction limit on all the 774 local governments.
But one of the major highlights of the new guidelines, which will become effective from June 1, borders on the restoration of the financial autonomy of local governments.
Each local government is now free to spend its funds judiciously without taking directives from governors who have hijacked the monthly allocations of the third tier of government under the guise of State Joint Local Government Accounts.
The complete copy of the guidelines has been released to the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Chairman, Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and Chief Executive Officers of all banks and other financial institutions.
A statement by the Acting Chief Media Analyst of the NFIU, Mr. Ahmed Dikko, explained the steps taken to protect local government allocations.
The statement said: “The NFIU requests all financial institutions, other relevant stakeholders, public servants and the entire citizenry to ensure full compliance with the provisions of the guidelines already submitted to financial institutions and relevant enforcement agencies, including full enforcement of corresponding sanctions against violations from 1st June, 2019.
“Having realised through analysis that cash withdrawal and transactions from the State Joint Local Government Accounts (SJLGA), poses biggest corruption, money laundering and security threats at the grassroots levels and to the entire financial system and the country as a whole, decided to uphold the full provisions of Section 162 (6) (8)of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution as amended which designated “ State Joint Local Government Account into which shall be paid allocations to the local government councils of the state from the federation account and from the government of the state.”
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“The amount standing to the credit of local government councils of a state shall be distributed among the local government councils of that state” and not for other purposes. As far as the NFIU is concerned the responsibility of the account as a collection account is fully reinstated.
“In addition, taking such measures was necessitated by prompting reasons on the NFIU to respond to threats of isolating the entire Nigerian financial system by other International financial systems due to deficiencies in our anti-money laundering and counter terrorism financing implementation and measures.
“Therefore, it is no longer possible to allow the entire system to suffer the deliberate and expensive infractions or violations by public officials and/or private business interests.”
The NFIU vowed to deal with individuals and companies abetting the diversion of local government funds.
The agency said such violators will face local and international sanctions.
The statement added: “Henceforth, all erring individuals and companies will be allowed to face direct international and local targeted sanctions, in order not to allow any negative consequences to fall on the entire country.
“To be precise, with effect from 1st June any bank that allows any transaction from any local government account without monies first reaching a particular local government account will be sanctioned 100%, both locally and internationally.
“In addition, a provision is also made to the effect that there shall be no cash withdrawal from any local government account for a cumulative amount exceeding N500, 000:00 per day. Any other transaction must be done through valid cheques or electronic funds transfer.
“The complete guidelines have been released to the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Chairman, Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and Chief Executive Officers of all Banks and other financial institutions.
“Any state government that is willing to seek any expert economic advice in the unlikely event of these guidelines constituting an inconvenience to the management of the state can work with the NFIU and /or CBN.”