AS the the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) prepares to visit Nigeria any moment from now, the Association of Bureaux De Change Operators of Nigeria (ABCON) is working round the clock to achieve total compliance with the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) rules.
The association, through long years of training and guidance, has strengthened BDCs and helped them understand the gains of bowing to the AML/CFT regulations.
FATF is an inter-governmental body established in 1989 by the Ministers of its member jurisdictions. The objectives of the FATF are to set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system. The FATF is, therefore , a “policy-making body” which works to generate the necessary political will to bring about national legislative and regulatory reforms in these areas.
Thers is no gainsaying the fact that the BDCs are conversant with the threats and dangers posed by Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (ML/TF) in Nigeria, Africa and globally. As a result of this, the operators are well armed to tackle the menace headlong under the watchful eye of Aminu Gwadabe, their president.
On his members’ level of preparation for the FATF visit, Gwadabe disclosed that ahead of the FATF Team visit this September, ABCON, in collaboration with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), is organising a sensitisation workshop for over 4,500 licensed BDCs in Nigeria. The workshop is expected to hold in the six geopolitical zones.
He said that as the global body that sets standard for AML/CFT efforts, the FATF team will assess banks and other financial institutions compliance with the AML/CFT measures.
Like other previous evaluations for Nigeria, the FATF team will carry out checks at the branches of selected banks and BDCs across the country, adding that compliance at the airports andaborders may also come under their scrutiny.
Gwadabe said Nigeria, which has been one of the regional champions mentoring other member states in the development of their AML/CFT systems, has largely addressed its action plan by enacting legislation to criminalise money laundering and terrorist financing. The country is also implementing procedures to identify and freeze terrorist assets and ensuring that customer due diligence requirements apply to all financial instructions.
The ABCON boss said BDCs have met a number of compliance requirements specified by FATF and local regulators. The BDCs have conducted enhanced due diligence, a major compliance requirement on some high-risk customers. The collation and reporting of foreign currency transactions and suspicious transactions by BDCs are now fully automated.
The ABCON had in February, launched its Live Run Automation Portal in Lagos. The technology automates all BDC operations with those of Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS), Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to improve the level of compliance of the BDCs with set regulations.
The platform allows BDCs to send their reports online real time, thereby removing the challenge of manual rendition of reports that has been confronting operators for decades. The project is also boosting the perception towards BDCs in Nigeria especially in the eyes of international investors.
Gwadabe said the world is going digital, and BDC operators under his leadership are committed to staying ahead of the competition by deploying time-tested technology to deliver effective services to customers and ensure compliance.
He said the Live Run portal has enhanced BDCs compliance with set regulations and promoted market integrity.
According to him, the portal has sustained transparent transactions in the BDC corridor, boost the morale of its members and ensure their continuous operations.
The ABCON chief said the group had fully upgraded its Information Communication Technology (ICT) platforms, to achieve full digitisation of BDCs operations in line with its goal of sustaining transparent operation and prompt rendition of weekly returns to regulatory agencies.
He added that the ABCON fully aligns with the statutory provisions of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011 (as amended), the CBN’s AML/CFT Regulations, 2013 and recommendations of the FATF.
The members’ trainings, most times, are done by the association in collaboration with regulatory agencies and key government parastatals.
With over $30.4 billion being ferried out of Africa annually, ABCON has signified its intention to intensifying its commitment to fighting money laundering and terrorist financing by ensuring that its members comply with regulations in doing their business.
Gwadabe said the group is already equiping over 4,500 BDCs with the right technology and skills to tackle illicit financial flows within the country.
He said the BDCs meet regularly with regulators, government agencies/officials and experts to analyse, monitor and identify strategies for the effective implementation of Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) measures.
The FATF assessment, he explained, was designed to evaluate the implementation and effectiveness of the laws, regulations or other measures required to ascertain the effectiveness of the AML/CFT regime.
The Mutual Evaluation will equally provide information on the progress made by Nigeria in meeting its obligations towards the FATF recommendations.
ABCON has over the years established itself as a key player in the bureau de change (BDC) industry, and has also made several commitments and sacrifices to ensure that the sector continues to thrive and its members follow global best practices in the retail of foreign exchange to end users.