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Stashed Cash: EFCC Putting More Governors Under Watch, Says Bawa

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Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Chairman Abdulrasheed Bawa has said the number of governors the commission is monitoring for money laundering suspicion have increased beyond the three it earlier mentioned.

But Bawa, who addressed State House correspondents at the Presidential Villa in Abuja after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, declined to give the number of governors the commission was beaming its searchlight on.

The EFCC boss said he did not want to be misrepresented.

Bawa had, about two weeks ago, hinted of the commission’s surveillance operations around three governors, whom he alleged were being watched over money laundering-related issues, in the wake of Federal Government’s plan to redesign and replace the naira.

Asked if it was true that the EFCC was using an application called ‘The Eagle Eye’ to monitor governors planning to use stashed funds to pay salaries, he said: “You are mixing two things: the Eagle Eye is an app; it’s a novel idea of the EFCC that we launched for the ease of reporting crimes to us.

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Let me use this opportunity to remind Nigerians that the Eagle Eye is very important for those that are reporting the holders of these currencies that we know that are out there. So, that is one.

“On the issue of the governors that we are monitoring, in fact, the numbers have even increased. We are monitoring everything; Nigerians are helping. Well, I don’t want to give you the figures so that you will not go and speculate whether they are in the North or in the South. But it’s important that Nigerians key into it,” he said.

The anti-corruption Czar also lauded the new naira redesigning project, describing it as a significant process in the country’s fight against financial crimes and other forms of corruption.

Bawa said the huge amount of the country’s currency that has left the hold of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) makes trailing financial crimes difficult.

The EFCC boss noted that the naira redesigning is an opportunity for the government to regain control over the flow of cash in the country.

“…You know that there is an obligation of money laundering law that we have, in which an individual is expected to carry out a transaction that is above N5 million through the financial institution. There is also the threshold in which a corporate entity is expected to carry out transactions that is above N10 million in the financial sector.

“Why is it so? It is so because financial institutions are expected to make currency transaction reports, and suspicious transaction reports to relevant agencies. With that, institutions like us will be able to monitor which funds are legitimate and which ones are not legitimate.”

“Here we are now, in which 85 per cent of our currency is out in circulation and people are carrying out transactions above the thresholds as provided for by this provision over and above that we will not be able to monitor. We don’t know what they’re doing.

“These are the transactions that are creating and giving avenues to other forms of crime that we’re seeing in this country: payment of ransom, banditry, and all of that; payment of bribery to political actors, and the rest.

“So, we are happy with this naira redesign in the sense that it will give the Central Bank an opportunity of going back to square one. By the time they collect all this money back to their system, then they are going to control the money that they are going to release to the system.

“Then, of course, once the money is back within the financial institution, it will help to further boost economic activities in the sense that there will be more money for people to borrow and then we on our own part, we’ll have the avenue of monitoring what we are doing with all these huge resources that are out there before that are now within the financial institutions,” he said.