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ESVARBON, NFIU move to end money laundering in real estate sector

By Chinedum Uwaegbulam
05 September 2022   |   4:10 am
Determined to curb money laundering in the real estate sector, the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) and the Estate Surveyors and Valuers Registration Board of Nigeria (ESVARBON), have agreed to forge an enduring partnership.

Director,Special Control Unit Against Money Laundering (SCUML), Enu Matthew (left ); Chairman, Estate Surveyors and Valuers Registration Board of Nigeria (ESVARBON), Gersh Henshaw and Director, Nigeria Financial Intelligent Unit (NFIU), Moses Azege during the 2022 Valuers Assembly in Abuja.

Determined to curb money laundering in the real estate sector, the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) and the Estate Surveyors and Valuers Registration Board of Nigeria (ESVARBON), have agreed to forge an enduring partnership.

Both institutions will henceforth commence the process of strengthening regulations that will lift the real estate industry and minimise corruption tendencies within the sector.

Speaking at the ESVARBON’s 2022 Valuers’ Assembly held in Abuja, last week, stakeholders within the sector said the real estate industry has the potential to boost the nation’s economy,
though lamented that some practitioners have not been keeping to the codes and ethics of the profession, which short-changes the sector and its professionals and the country at large.

Speaking on the theme of the event, “The Role of Professional Ethics In Nation Building: Estate Surveying And Valuation Profession In Mind,” the registration board’s chairman, Gersh Henshaw, assured that, ESVARBON would not relent in promoting best practices of the profession and ensuring sound ethical standards, rules, as well as regulations.

He said that the board would continue to deepen societal awareness of the profession and roles of estate surveyors and valuers. In his keynote address, former Nigerian Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Dr. Christopher Kolade, who stressed that no nation can grow beyond the value it places on its code and ethical practices, said estate surveyors and valuers must do everything in line with their codes of practice.

According to him, the professional values and ethical principles in the code should be the way of life of them, not only in their estate surveying and valuation work, but also in any other activity upon which they embark in their life and living.

“This must be our first conclusion: – that when these professionals do anything important to nation-building, for instance, they should proceed as demanded of them by their own code of conduct,” Kolade said.

He added that, by living and acting this way, these practitioners would ensure that their professional ethics could influence their nation-building efforts positively.

Head of Department, Real Estate and NPO, Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), Moses Azege, who cited the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Report for first quarter (Q1) 2022 published by the National Bureau of Statistics, Nigeria’s real estate sector contributed 5.34 per cent to real GDP amounting to N2.2trillion.

This, he said, makes the sector a significant employer of labour and underscores the sector’s relevance to all stakeholders.

Similarly, he noted that in the National Inherent Risk Assessment (NIRA) 2016, the Real Estate Sector was noted as highly vulnerable, adding that the sector had an overall threat and vulnerability assessment rating of Medium High (MH) 2.

Also, Azege said in the NIRA 2022, the inherent risk in the sector was rated very high. Yet, the real estate professionals dominate the activities of the (Designated Non-Financial Business and Professional (DNFBP) sector in terms of the value of transactions.

Despite this, he added that real estate professionals generally have a low understanding of money laundering/Terrorism Financing (ML/TF) risks and their Anti-Money Laundering/Counter Financing Terrorism (AML/CFT) obligations.

He said the sector was attractive for money laundering due to the inadequate regulatory framework, stability in value, big ticket transaction amount, ease of integrating cash into construction, the high transaction volume, cash-induced economy, and little or no regulation, hence, he said it is no surprise that the sector is found attractive by money launderers.

But he said, all hope was not lost if NFIU and ESVARBON could close the gap and collaborate to reverse the trend.

Going forward, he said the NFIU would engage more with ESVARBON as the regulator of real estate practitioners to strengthen their anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) oversight function.

He urged ESVABRON to establish an AML/CFT Committee that will be an interface with relevant authorities. Azege also called on ESVABRON to include in the subsequent amendments of its regulations incorporating regulations against money laundering in real estate.

He also urged the ESVABRON to collaborate with NFIU to monitor compliance of her members with AML/CFT requirements. ESVABRON, he said, should make ML/TF one of the examinable topics for intending new members.

With collaborative efforts, Azege said ESVABRON, NFIU and other stakeholders would be able to explore ways in shrinking the real estate practitioners’ space from quacks.