Following the President Muhammadu Buhari’s signing into law the Money Laundering (Prevention & Prohibition) Bill, 2022, property brokers, estate surveyor and valuers, appraisers and other practitioners have been charged to imbibe the tenets of the law and halt illegal cash flow through the real estate industry.
Specifically, they were urged to ensure due diligence on all property transactions and keep documentation for at least five years after consummating transactions.
The law provides for an effective, extensive legal and institutional framework to support the fight against money laundering and terrorism financing in Nigeria.
The key objectives of the law are to strengthen the existing system for combating money laundering and related offences, make adequate provisions to prohibit money laundering, expand the scope of money laundering offences and provide appropriate penalties and establish the special control unit against money laundering under the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Essentially, the act gives statutory backing to the establishment of the Special Control Unit Against Money Laundering (SCUML) and charges it with the responsibility of supervising the relevant institutions in their compliance with the bill, relevant laws and applicable regulations.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Kayode Adeluola, who led the charge at the general meeting/networking forum organised by Nigerian chapter of International Real Estate Federation (FIABCI) in Lagos, said the law ensures that illicit funds don’t get into the financial system, economy, as well as discourage criminals from perpetrating crimes wherever they may be.
He observed that one of the easiest ways by which illicit funds get into the economy is through real estate, adding that a lot of people commit crimes and the sources of the income of such illegal activities cannot be explained.
Speaking on the theme, “The implications of the recently passed bill on money laundering Act on real estate practice in Nigeria,” he said practitioners must not only see themselves as agents of clients, but as partners with agencies of government to ensure that there are no illicit funds in the economy.
Adeluola said: “They must know their clients very well, know their source of income and shouldn’t get excited simply because someone has come to them with lots of money. They could get into trouble because the money laundering law states that professionals must avoid retaining, acquiring and using or taking out of jurisdiction funds from illegal transactions.
He advised that they should have an indemnity and ensure that client signed. The law mandates them to report transactions of certain nature to anti-money laundry agencies so that clients coming forth with unclean funds will retreat or comply with the law.”
According to him, the law would be a big-win for the anti-corruption war when it is well enforced.
“We have laws that should ensure proper workability of businesses, we must ensure that the methods and measures put in place guarantee that we are in an environment where money invested does not become devalued. A lot of illicit monies are into real estate and that is why when you want to buy property today, which was only about N30 million last year, now, goes for about N50million. We cannot say precisely what is driving it. Yes, there is inflation but because of a lot of illicit funds, it affects the price and many people who are not in possession of such funds,” he added.
The President, FIABCI, Nigerian chapter, Mr. Adeniji Adele, said with the present situation in the country where there is so much policies, especially on real estate and focus on the players, there was the need to update knowledge of members and engender the trust of the public that operators are people of integrity.
Adele said: “It is very important that our people are not cut unaware. Our members will not be found wanting through acts because they are familiar with the constitution and statute book. They pledged to be men of integrity who don’t do things in secrecy. They must disclose all information; know their customers and the sources of money because we are talking about properties that run into billions of naira and dollars. Our platform upholds integrity because it is crucial to the profession.”