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Money Laundering Act: Is the Government Fighting Cybercrime or Just Being Bitter?

In March 2022, the senate sat to pass a mandatory bill to amend the Money Laundering Act of 2011. A bill where single financial transactions and lodgements of N5m for individuals and N10m for corporate bodies are reported. This means that banks and other financial institutions will start reporting people’s business transactions directly to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Nigerian laws and restrictions worsen by the year, especially when it involves money. There have also been other bills that have caused outrages at some points in time. I wonder what the next set of wicked bills these senators are cooking up have in stock for us, but it is becoming very concerning.

This bill will make commercial banks less customer-friendly and trustworthy. It is, by extension, an invasion of privacy; the government is telling banks to snitch on their customers. This decision will affect everyone in general, including the banks. It is capable of crippling businesses because of the slow cash flow, and also, because of this, banks may not be able to meet their daily, monthly, or yearly quota. If banks were to close down branches, that would lead to layoffs and more unemployment. Perhaps, you can switch to online banks.

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The bill states:

any person or financial institution that contravenes the provisions of Section 12 subsections (1), (2) and (3) commits an offence and is liable to imprisonment of not less than 2 years and not more than 5 years in the case of an individual; and a fine of not less than N10 million but not more than N50 million for a Financial Institution, in addition to the prosecution of the principal officers of the body, and winding up and prohibition of its constitution or incorporation.

This means that anyone who stops or denies the provision of such reports to EFCC will be arrested and imprisoned. Well, Bankers and their counterparts just had another stressful job added to their list of duties to deal with.

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Reasons for the bill

According to Suleiman Abdu-Kwari, the chairman of the bill committee, the bill seeks to redress the institutional and legal framework of money laundering prohibition in Nigeria. Also, the bill will see the establishment of the Special Control Unit under the EFCC.

When he presented the report on the proposed amendment, he said

provide for effective and comprehensive legal framework to re-invigorate the fight against money laundering in the country by leaning more on prevention as a useful tool to strengthen the existing legal regime in combating money laundering and other related crimes in the country.”

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The unit, when established, will be charged with the effective implementation of the money laundering laws in relation to designated non-financial businesses and professions in Nigeria. The enactment of this bill seems to have good intentions, but is it worth stressing the entire nation?

Who does it really affect?

Popular opinion seems to believe this amendment is targeting the youths. The Nigerian government and the youths don’t agree on things. Ever since President Buhari called them “lazy Nigerian youths,” both identities have never seen eye to eye. There is a high rate of unemployment in the country, which is unsolved. The youths decided to get busy and work by trading in crypto, and what did the government do? They banned it, claiming it was the cause of inflation in the country.

Nigerian youths believe the government is out to frustrate their lives. Though cybercrimes are rampant, not everyone is either a yahoo boy or yahoo girl. There could have been a better way to sort out the criminals, but our lawmakers don’t want to bother themselves.

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Asides from young people, generally sending and receiving money will become a pain. No one wants to be under EFCC’s radar, not because they are scared of money laundering but extortion.

Is the Money Laundering Act amendment bill a bad idea?

No, it isn’t, not in the long run. The government might seem bitter and determined to frustrate Nigerian citizens, but it doesn’t change the fact that the bill can apprehend criminals. The bill is like a massive net set and ready to fish out criminals of all ages and sizes. It would lead to some inconvenience, but Nigerians are already used to suffering and smiling.

With the foregoing analysis and the antecedents of the National Assembly, it is clear that the lawmakers can enforce a number of things on the Nigerian citizens. Instead of restricting people’s businesses and convenience, they should channel that energy to make significant changes in the economy and society.

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Conclusion

The Nigerian legislators are determined to discourage money laundering and risks of terrorism financing. Though it is inconvenient, you have to break some eggs to make an omelette. Money launderers will still try to hide from this law through alternative means. The best thing that can be done is to make every one susceptible to the amendment. It will be stupid if government officials or certain god-father-like individuals are immune to this bill because they are the most prominent suspects of money laundering. As they say, laws are made for the poor.

law grinds the poor, rich men rule the law

Oliver Goldsmith, The Vicar of Wakefield
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Ngozi Nwaubani

Ngozi Nwaubani

She's usually found writing Sci-Fi and fun articles on entertainment and lifestyle.

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