US embassy cable - 02ABUJA2557

NIGERIA: GON RESPONSE TO FATF CONCERNS

Identifier: 02ABUJA2557
Wikileaks: View 02ABUJA2557 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Abuja
Created: 2002-08-30 14:36:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: KCRM EFIN PGOV SNAR NI
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L ABUJA 002557 
 
SIPDIS 
 
 
DEPT FOR INL AND AF 
. 
TREASURY FOR OFFICE OF ENFORCEMENT--SHAUN LONERGAN 
 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/29/2017 
TAGS: KCRM, EFIN, PGOV, SNAR, NI 
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: GON RESPONSE TO FATF CONCERNS 
 
Classified by Ambassador Howard F. Jeter. Reasons 1.5 (b) and 
(d). 
 
 
1.(SBU) In June 2002 the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) 
reviewed Nigeria's one-year status as a "Non-Cooperative 
Country or Territory (NCCT)" and determined that it had made 
no significant progress  improving anti-money laundering 
controls.  At that time, the FATF publicly noted that the GON 
had until October 31, 2002 to take significant steps; 
otherwise, the FATF would ask its members to impose 
"counter-measures" against Nigeria.  We have learned from the 
U.S. Department of Treasury representative to FATF that the 
decision to proceed with counter-measures will actually be 
taken at the October 9 Plenary session of the FATF. 
 
 
2.(C)  On August 28 Ambassador Jeter met with President 
Obasanjo, alerting him to the possibility of imminent, 
FATF-directed  "counter-measures" against Nigeria failing a 
discernible, positive response by the GON within the next 
five weeks.  The Ambassador outlined Nigeria's poor record of 
communication with the FATF Secretariat in Paris and the 
FATF's Africa and Middle East Review Group (AMERG) based in 
Rome.  Jeter cited successful attempts by the FATF President 
and the AMERG Chairman to engage the GON in a dialogue.  A 
GON delegation to an AMERG meeting in Rome in December 2001, 
led by the late Attorney General Bola Ige, had been well 
received and showed promise of a sustained dialogue leading 
to reform and averting Nigeria's censure by the FATF.  With 
Ige's death last December, however, the dialogue stopped, 
leading to the negative finding by the FATF in June 2002. 
 
 
3.(C) Ambassador Jeter specifically cited a July 11 letter 
from the FATF President to Obasanjo, which has not yet been 
answered.  Obasanjo said he had not seen the letter but would 
make sure the mail was answered adequately and quickly. 
Several times repeating that Nigeria must do all it can to 
avoid the anathema of FATF sanctions, the President said he 
would make certain that dialogue with FATF would be resumed 
by sending current Attorney General Kanu Agabi to Rome within 
the next two weeks to explain that Nigeria wants to cooperate 
and that it has a plan of action to enhance anti-money 
laundering controls.  Giving vent to his frustration and 
continuing political troubles with the National Assembly, the 
President blamed part of the problem on the failure of the 
legislature to pass the proposed Financial Crimes 
legislation that has been languishing in the Assembly for 
months. 
 
 
4.(C)  In a subsequent meeting the same day with Presidential 
Permanent Secretary Steven Oronsaye and Presidential Special 
Assistant for Economic Affairs Obi Ezekwesili, the Ambassador 
and RNLEO raised the same points in greater detail.  Oronsaye 
and Ezekwesili also said they had not seen the July 11 FATF 
letter to the President but pledged to respond to it 
immediately.  They also stated the GON would prepare a 
delegation to visit both the AMERG in Rome and the FATF 
Secretariat prior to the October 9 session of the FATF 
 
SIPDIS 
Plenary in Paris.  Ezekwesili stated that she knows the 
precise concerns of the FATF.   Like the President in his 
meeting with us, she noted that a draft Financial Crimes 
Bill, which would address much of the FATF's concerns through 
structural reforms, remained stuck in the National Assembly. 
However, Ezekwesili expressed confidence that the Presidency 
could have the Central Bank of Nigeria adopt temporary 
"circulars" or regulations to tighten reporting on financial 
transactions as well as impose a greater threat of penalties 
to banks that fail to report suspicious transactions. 
 
 
5.(C) Comment:  The GON's performance vis-a-vis the FATF has 
been disappointing.  We have repeatedly advised various 
officials and urged the Government to deal with the FATF and 
all money laundering issues more efficiently and timely. 
Now, with the threat of embarrassing and perhaps financially 
painful international "counter-measures," the GON seems 
genuinely concerned and eager to do whatever is necessary to 
convince the FATF that it wants anti-money laundering reform. 
 President Obasanjo seems to have designated Attorney General 
Agabi as the Government's point-man on this issue, and the 
Ambassador will meet Agabi next week.  We will find out 
Agabi's plans at that meeting and continue to press the GON 
to be responsive to FATF concerns.  Ambassador Jeter also 
briefed Nigeria's National Security Advisor, Aliyu Mohammed, 
on this issue. 
JETER 

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