The Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) says criminals are seeking the assistance of real estate agents and lawyers to acquire multi-million naira worth of properties across Nigeria.

NFIU said suspects often use the names of family members for their crime-related transactions leveraging real estate agents and lawyers.
This was disclosed by a Chief Operating Officer at NFIU, Dr Emmanuel Sotande, on Tuesday during an event organized by the Nigerian Bar Association(NBA) in collaboration with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC).

The program was an anti-money laundering sensitization workshop for legal practitioners in Nigeria.
Sotande, who spoke on the topic,“Money laundering in the real estate sector, trust and company service providers,” said the 2022 National Risk Assessment Framework showed that the key threats in 2022 were bribery corruption, trafficking of illicit substances and fraud.
He explained the major key vulnerability for Nigeria was “the banking sector and real estate.”
e added that some lawyers help suspects to conceal their fraudulent acts by advising them to invest in real estate.

“Unfortunately, why lawyers have a lot of responsibility is because some of the lawyers do help their clients to buy houses. Criminal-minded people come and invest or conceal their proceed of crimes using lawyers to buy assets in real estate.”

Sotande called for collaboration between the NBA, NIFU and EFCC, especially when clients approach law firms for legal assistance or briefs.
He said, “What we can be thinking as lawyers, is that do I need to consult NBA to advise me on a very sensitive transaction with a politically exposed person?
“For example, if a politically exposed persons wants to do a transaction with your law firm, and you think this transaction is very sensitive, you can consult the NBA to guide.”

He called for a collaborative regime between Nigerian lawyers and competent authorities like the Special Control Unit against Money Laundering (SCUML) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), NFIU, to track the proceeds of crimes.

He added, “Unfortunately, many lawyers who have engagement with real estate practitioners and also provide real estate services.
“And because lawyers also engage in real estate, we need to have a robust guidelines.
“The problem now is that we have some lawyers who deal in properties; so what kind of guidelines do we put in place?” Lawyers must take the lead

In his opening remark, the NBA president, Yakubu Maikyau(SAN) charged lawyers to take the lead in observing the NBA rules of professional conduct 2023 especially in handling of financial and money laundering matters.

He said no other person understands the need for lawyers to deal with the relevant laws like legal practitioners but added that the fight against corruption is a fight by all.
What Maikyau said,
“We are in a better position to give direction in this regard.
“That is why, when we came on board, we decided that our responsibility in this regard is to make the anti-money laundering guidelines and the counter-terrorism guidelines part of our rules of professional conduct.
“We should take the lead in the fight against corruption. We should actually be the ones advising the EFCC, NFIU and all other agencies on how to deal with the issues of corruption. It is an aberration that EFCC is telling us what to do.”

On his part, Executive Chairman, of EFCC, Mr Ola Olukoyede welcomed the call to collaborate with lawyers in the fight against corruption.
Represented by the EFCC Director, SCUML Daniel Isei, the commission maintained that collaboration was vital in tracking financial corruption.
“The framework of collaboration is an international requirement. International framework on issues of money laundering calls for collaboration; no agency or body can do it alone,” he said, assuring the NBA of EFCC’s hands of fellowship.