The Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit has banned cash withdrawals from accounts belonging to the Federal Government, all its agencies, and also state and local governments.

This, the NFIU said, would take effect from March 1, 2023, adding that any government official who withdraws cash from public accounts risks investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Independent Commission of Corrupt Practices and the Nigerian Police in collaboration with the NFIU, depending on the severity of the situation.

Addressing reporters in Abuja on Thursday, NFIU CEO Moddibo Tukur said the ban was necessary to curb the rate at which money is withdrawn from public accounts in flagrant disregard of money laundering laws and, to sometimes, for purposes of corruption.

He noted that the decision was in sync with Nigeria’s full transition to a cashless economy that the Central Bank of Nigeria has been leading.

Tukur said that all financial institutions have been instructed to stop cash withdrawals from government accounts from March 1, 2023, adding that any government official who flouts the order will be prosecuted along with their accomplices.

He said: “The rate of withdrawals over the threshold from public accounts has been alarming, more than N701 billion in cash has been withdrawn from 2015 to date.

“The NFIU had told banks and government agencies at all levels to go fully digital by moving online, as all transactions involving public money must be routed through banks for the purposes of accountability and transparency.

“This is not reversible as we are only enforcing the law. As far as we are concerned, Nigeria will become a completely cashless economy by March 1, 2023 this year. As a consequence, any government official withdrawing even one naira in cash from any public account as of March 1 will be investigated and prosecuted in collaboration with relevant agencies such as EFCC, ICPC and NPF.”

However, the NFIU chief added that the president is in a position to grant exemptions to government officials based on certain considerations.

He added: “Due to government requirements, only the President has the power to grant any waiver to any government official considering the importance of the situation; whether for national security, health or other important reasons.”