By Progress Godfrey, Abuja.
The Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, NFIU, Modibbo Tukur
on Thursday, announced that starting from March 1, 2023, Nigeria would fully begin its cashless-economy policy in line with government guidelines.
Tukur said this while addressing newsmen in Abuja, stating that the reason for the discontinuation of cash transactions from public accounts was a result of the NFIU’s findings from the operations of the financial system and legislative amendments from the National Assembly, attended to by the President. Section 2 of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act creates threshold limits and withdrawals of cash from all corporate body accounts, pegging them at N10 million.
The NFIU Boss also noted that the Proceeds of Crime Act provides for up to 3 years imprisonment or payment of fine twice or three times the amount for withdrawals exceeding the threshold limits. He, however, referred to section 13 of the same act which recommends that in cases that make the operationalisation of certain provisions difficult, development of new products and responses to new technologies have to be adopted.
He said, “As we stated with the local government guideline, it is not reversible because we are going by the provisions of the law, so we are only enforcing the law as far as our responsibility is concerned. If later the National Assembly deems it fit to accompany it with an act of parliament, to outlaw cash withdrawals completely from public accounts, then we are happy, but otherwise, it still stands and we are also happy to address any issues arising from that. If they are necessary, they will be addressed.
“This also, with the cash withdrawal policy of the CBN regulation of the cash withdrawal, has automatically taken the country to a non-cash economy. That has to be stated clearly. And we are all developing an advisory to the bank that the country is already designated a non-cash-based economy. It is a complete transition that happened through an evolutionary process and circumstance. So with effect from March 1, 2023, Nigeria is no longer a cash-based economy.”
He further stated that considering the introduction of the new naira notes, the inflation in the country and the limited cash in circulation, the cashless policy will help the new currency adjust to the market operation as is it also expected to reduce cash withdrawal by 1 trillion out of the N3 trillion in circulation weekly. This he said, addressed the government aspect of it completely.
He said the NFIU in a statistics it ran since the introduction of the new note, discovered that the rate of withdrawal still surpassed that of deposits, which he said, means there was no rush in depositing cash stuffed at home, to indicate imminent threat.
“So as far as corruption and money laundering is concerned, we have the records, no imminent suspicion or threat, ” he added.
On the limitations of the guidelines, he said “if there are special needs to withdraw cash from any public account anywhere, there has to be a presidential approval.” Secondly, he said there has to be a standing waiver that permits withdrawals beyond the limit, by the president himself and it is going to be on a case by case basis.
“Three, we have issued an advisory to all the state governors and all the local governments and all the MDA’s in the federal government. We give them between now and the end of March, 2023 to put all facilities in place for operational use of the guideline. So what’s the bottom line: by the end of March if there is cash withdrawal from the government account, even if it is one naira, we are going to trigger off money laundering and corruption investigation in either EFCC or the ICPC, the Nigeria Police or all the law enforcement agencies depending on the relevance, ” Tukur said.