ABUJA, March 6 (Reuters) - Nigeria’s lower house of parliament passed a bill on Tuesday aimed at helping authorities to tackle money laundering and funding for terrorism.
Following international pressure, the law makes the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit an independent body that can share information with similar agencies abroad. The Senate, Nigeria’s upper house, is expected to approve the bill on Wednesday.
Parliament’s move comes after the Egmont Group, a body of 155 Financial Intelligence Units across the world, threatened to delist Nigeria unless the local unit gained autonomy, enabling it to deal with financial crimes more effectively.
Until now, the agency has operated under Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
The Egmont Group had insisted that failure to make it legally independent would have led to financial transactions from Nigeria including funds transfer and credit cards would have been subject to special controls, banking sources said.
Banking transactions above a stipulated threshold are automatically sent to the financial intelligence unit.
Nigeria suffers from endemic corruption and is fighting Boko Haram militants in the northeast who have killed more than 20,000 people since 2009 and displaced two million others in an insurgency aimed at creating an Islamic state.
Last week the U.S. Treasury Department added two individuals and seven organisations in Africa and Asia connected to Islamic State to its sanctions list for global terrorism. (Writing by Chijioke Ohuocha; editing by David Stamp)