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Over N1 trillion cash withdrawn from govt accts since 2015, NFIU says; announces ban

The NFIU threatens to clamp down on erring officials after the deadline for the withdrawal of cash from governments' accounts.

By Kunle Sanni

The Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) has announced a deadline for cash withdrawals from accounts of the federal, state and local governments and all their Ministries and Department Agencies (MDAs). The agency also said over N1 trillion in cash was withdrawn from government accounts (federal, state and local government) between 2015 and 2022.

The NFIU Director, Moddibo Tukur, who announced these while addressing journalists in Abuja on Thursday, vowed that his agency would clamp down on erring officials who violated the directive after the deadline at the end of February.

Mr Tukur said his unit would begin to enforce compliance from 1 March 2023.

The NFIU boss said the ban on cash withdrawal from governments’ accounts was necessary because civil servants in the country were becoming more vulnerable to money laundering and related offences. He added that over the years, civil servants had been withdrawing cash from state governments’ accounts in a manner that exposed them to the offences of money laundering.

Mr Tukur said the planned move would reduce the rate at which funds are taken out of public accounts in what he described as a flagrant violation of the laws against money laundering and sometimes for corrupt purposes.

He said the move was in line with section 3(1) (a) – (s) and section 23 (2) of the NFIU Act, 2018, and other provisions under the Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Act, 2022 (MLPPA, 2022) that provides the guidelines for all financial institutions, non-financial institutions and public officials in Nigeria.

Speaking further, he said only the president had the authority to offer government officials waivers of withdrawing cash depending on specific circumstances.

The NFIU boss also warned that any government official that went against the provisions of the law would be investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC), and the Nigeria Police Force in collaboration with the unit.

“The rate of withdrawals above the threshold from public accounts has been alarming,” Mr Tukur said. “Although, I do not have the actual figures but over N701 Billion has been withdrawn in cash from 2015 till date,” Mr Tukur said.

He said the NFIU had told “banks and government agencies at all levels to go fully digital by moving online, as all transactions involving public money must be routed through the banks for the purpose of accountability and transparency.

“This is not reversible as we are only enforcing the law. As far as we are concerned, Nigeria will become a full non-cash economy by March 1, 2023, this year. 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 EFCC, ICPC and the NPF.

“For government exigencies, only the President has the power to grant any waiver to any government official considering the importance of the situation; either for national security, health, or other important reasons.”

PREMIUM TIMES reported last month how the NFIU disclosed the plan to stop cash payments from the accounts of all three levels of government across Nigeria.

The financial intelligence unit said the action was part of a renewed effort to enforce the anti-money laundering law and the new currency policies of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Massive cash withdrawals

The NFIU boss said that between 2015 and 2022, the unit documented withdrawals from the federal government totalling N225.72 billion, state government withdrawals totalling N701.54 billion, and local government withdrawals totalling N156.76 billion, a total of about N1.1 trillion.

He said the amounts were withdrawn in cash, which put the country’s civil servants at risk of committing money laundering offences.

“The NFIU analysis covering the period 2015 to 2022, the federal government withdrew N225.72 billion cash, state governments withdrew N701.54 billion cash, and local governments withdrew N156.76 billion cash.

“The cash withdrawals directly contravene the provisions of the MLPPA, 2022 and the Proceeds of Crime (Recovery and Management) Act, 2022 (POCA, 2022) which provide the legal framework setting limitations on cash transactions and sanctions for infringement of the provisions.

“Section 2 of the MLPPA, 2022 restricts cash payments of a sum exceeding N5 million (or its equivalent) for individuals, and N10 million or its equivalent for a body corporate. Section 19 of the MLPPA, 2022 imposes a fine of at least N10 Million or imprisonment for a term of at least three years (or both), in the case of individuals; and a fine of N25 Million in the case of a body corporate.

“Section 26 of POCA, 2022 makes provision for the seizure and detention of cash over the prescribed amount under the law.

“Most cash withdrawals from public accounts are in excess of N5 Million and N10 Million respectively which is prohibited and liable to imprisonment upon conviction. The breach of this particular provision became so rampant because there are heavy withdrawals of cash from public accounts necessitated by inflation and changes in the economy, and also due to payment for overseas travels in terms of estacode and other overseas allowances.


The move to block cash withdrawals from government accounts across all levels comes on the heels of the recent redesignation of the top three naira bills – N1,000, N500, and N200 – and a new policy limiting cash withdrawals to N20,000 per day and N100,000 per week.

The policies have since triggered a mixed reaction.

Some have criticised the policy of cash withdrawal limits on the grounds that it can harm businesses given the problems inhibiting electronic transactions in Nigeria.

But others have hailed it for its potential to curb the stockpiling of cash by politicians for illicit activities such as vote buying ahead of the 2023 general elections.

President Muhammadu Buhari had said in London last year November that his administration would significantly curtail big political campaign spending in the forthcoming 2023 general elections.

He also said the elections will not be business as usual for politicians as they would not be allowed to mobilise resources and thugs to intimidate voters.

Source: The Premium Times, Nigeria

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