The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has issued a final warning to over 120 managing directors and top executives of banks to submit their asset declaration forms.
The anti-graft agency gave the top bankers till June ending to obey the order even as the initial deadline of June 14 has passed.
The EFCC Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, had initially in March given top bankers, among others, till June 1, 2021, to declare their assets in line with the Bank Employees, ETC (Declaration of Assets) Act 1986, with defaulters said to risk 10 years in jail if found guilty by any Federal High Court.
But the anti-graft agency extended the deadline till June 14 to allow bankers to comply with the order effectively.
However, Sunday PUNCH learnt that the EFCC chairman had sent a final reminder to all the affected banks executives and given them till the end of June to declare their assets.
“The truth is that this law has been in place for over 35 years, but it was hardly ever enforced and so these bankers would just declare anything or not declare at all. However, the EFCC is now demanding the declaration forms as part of moves to sanitise the system.
“To this effect, the chairman has written a reminder to the banks, asking all top executives to comply latest by the end of June,” an investigator told Sunday PUNCH.
Findings showed that well over 120 managing directors, deputy managing directors and executive directors of 19 deposit money banks are affected by the EFCC’s order.
Checks by Sunday PUNCH showed that Access Bank has 16 board members, United Bank of Africa has 15, Sterling Bank and EcoBank have 13 members each, while First Bank, Guaranty Trust Bank and Fidelity Bank have 12 members each as contained on their official websites.
Others are Zenith Bank, 11; Wema Bank, 11; Union Bank 11; First City Monument Bank, 9; and Unity Bank, 8.
According to the Bank Employees, ETC (Declaration of Assets) Act 1986, bankers should declare their assets through the appropriate authority like the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation. But the forms were hardly ever scrutinised, a trend which the EFCC seeks to change.
Section 1 of the Act states, “Every employee of a bank shall, within fourteen days of the commencement of this Act, make a full disclosure of all his assets.
“In the case of a new employee, he shall within 14 days of assuming duty with the bank make a full disclosure of all his assets at the time of his assuming duty; and for the purpose of this subsection, a transfer or secondment from one bank to another shall be treated as a new employment.”
Section 2 of the Act reads, “The full disclosure of assets required under Section 1 of this Act shall be made in the manner prescribed in the Declaration of Assets Form contained in Form A of the Schedule to this Act and shall be executed before and attested to by the Registrar of a High Court, the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court.
“The President or the appropriate authority may from time to time prescribe such other forms as may be necessary to achieve the purpose and intendment of this Act.”
The Act in Section 5 states that the Chief Executive of every bank “shall twice in every year, but not later than 7 January, or 7 July, as the case may be, submit to the appropriate authority a list of all employees who joined or left the employment of the bank in the immediately preceding six months expiring respectively on 31 December of the previous year and 30 June of that year respectively.”
The Act explained that “Chief Executive” meant the chairman, the managing director or other similar officer of a bank, including the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Likewise, the Act defined “employee” or “employee of a bank” to include the governor (of the CBN), the chairman and members of the board, managing director, director, general manager, manager, examiner, inspector, controller, agent, supervisor, officer, clerk, cashier, messenger, cleaner, driver, and any other category of workers of the Central Bank, a bank or other financial institutions.
Speaking in March, EFCC chairman, Bawa, noted that the anti-corruption agency was worried about the role that financial institutions and bankers played in corruption.
He said, “We understood that at the tail end of every financial crime, it is for the criminal to have access to the funds that he or she has illegitimately acquired and we are worried about the roles of financial institutions.
“We have discussed, but we hope that all financial institutions, particularly the bankers, will declare their assets as provided for by the law, in accordance with the Bank Employees Declaration of Assets Act.
“The EFCC, come June 1, 2021, will be demanding the asset declaration forms filled by the bankers so that the line that we have drawn from June 1 is really complied with by bankers in particular.”
In an action backing the EFCC’s move, the House of Representatives recently passed for second reading a bill to make it compulsory for workers in the banking, insurance and pension industries to declare their assets.
The proposed law will also bar staff members of banks and other financial institutions from operating accounts outside the shores of Nigeria. Their spouses and children may also be mandated to declare their assets when a bill presently at the House becomes law.
Also, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation would also be stripped of the responsibility to keep records of declared assets by Nigeria Customs Service and bank workers, and transfer it to the relevant regulator of each industry.
In an earlier move, the Central Bank of Nigeria in 2016 ordered workers in all the 19 Deposit Money Banks in the country to declare their assets in an anti-corruption crusade in the banking industry.
However, some bank directors who spoke to one of our correspondents on Friday said they had yet to meet the deadline because court workers were on strike for two months and they thus could not notarise the declaration forms.
“We would have met the EFCC deadline, but courts were shut for two months and we could not notarise our forms. We will submit this week unfailingly,” a bank director who spoke on condition of anonymity said.
“I have received the letter from the EFCC. I will comply latest by Tuesday,” said another bank executive who preferred to remain anonymous.
The EFCC has in recent times investigated, detained and prosecuted several bank executives for allegedly mismanaging customers’ funds.
On Wednesday, a Lagos State High Court convicted a former Managing Director of the defunct Bank PHB, Francis Atuche, for defrauding the bank of N25.7bn.
A former Managing Director of the defunct Oceanic Bank, Cecilia Ibru, was also convicted and ordered to repay $1.2bn.
Also, a former Chairman of Skye Bank (now Polaris Bank), Tunde Ayeni; as well as a former Managing Director of the defunct Intercontinental Bank, Erastus Akingbola, are facing corruption charges.
EFCC chairman, Bawa, had said earlier in the week that bankers usually aid corrupt officials in laundering public funds even as he alleged that a former Minister of Petroleum Resources delivered $20m in cash to a bank executive.
However, the Bank Employees, ETC (Declaration of Assets) Act 1986 which ought to check the criminal actions of bankers has hardly ever been enforced.
Section 8 of the Act says any bank employee who “knowingly fails to make full disclosure of the assets and liabilities required to be made under this Act; or knowingly makes a declaration that is false, knowing same to be false in part or in whole; or fails to answer any question contained in the appropriate form under this Act; or fails, neglects or refuses to make a declaration or furnish information as required by the provisions of this Act, commits an offence under this Act and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of 10 years.”
When asked what would happen if the bank executives don’t make their asset declaration form available, the investigator said, “We will cross the bridge when we get to that point. But this is a matter of law. Anyone who makes false declarations actually risks 10 years in prison.”
When contacted on the telephone, the EFCC spokesperson, Mr Wilson Uwujaren, simply said, “We are still in the process of collation.”
Bankers’ union calls for time extension
However, as the deadline to submit their asset declaration forms approaches, the National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions has called on the EFCC to extend the recent deadline given to bank executives.
The union had earlier said its members were not afraid to declare their assets as being required by the EFCC, stating that workers in the banking sector were guided by the principles of integrity, transparency, and honesty.
Speaking with one of our correspondents via telephone on Saturday, the union’s president, Anthony Abakpa, stated that in view of the fact that court activities had yet to commence fully, top bank officials should be given more time to declare their assets.
Abakpa reiterated that an extension would enable the officials to meet the demands effectively.
He said, “As I told you earlier, basically, before someone attains a managerial position in a banking institution, it is mandatory that they must declare their assets at a point of entry.
“So, all of them have declared their assets through the EFCC, NBIC (Nigerian Bank for Commerce and Industry), and DSS (Department of State Services) before they came into the position.
“So I don’t think that it is a new thing. They have not been able to keep up with the deadline because the judiciary was on strike. I think they need more time to do it accurately.”
Banks will comply with EFCC order as with CBN –Sterling Bank MD
Asked his position on the declaration of assets, Sterling Bank Managing Director, Abubakar Suleiman, said bank MDs would comply with the EFCC’s order as they had done with the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Suleiman noted that the EFCC’s directive was not a new thing for bank MDs.
He said, “It has actually been a part of the requirements for bankers to submit asset declaration forms. When one is appointed on the board of a bank, one of the important documents that one has to submit to the CBN is one’s asset declaration form. It is not a new requirement for bankers.
“The requirement to submit to the EFCC would also not make a difference. We will simply update those asset declaration forms and submit them.”