The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Code of Conduct Bureau, on Thursday, opposed the proposal to make workers in the financial sector declare their assets to the Central Bank of Nigeria.
The House of Representatives’ Committee on Financial Crimes held a public hearing on the Bank Employees, etc., (Declaration of Assets)(Amendment) Bill 2021, which proposes that workers in the financial sector declare their assets to the CBN, and not the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, as prescribed by the current law.
The legislation is titled ‘A bill for an Act to amend the Bank Employees, Etc., (Declaration of Assets) Act CAP. B1, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, to reflect the prevailing situation in the country.’
Apart from determining to whom assets should be declared, the bill also seeks to make it compulsory for workers in the banking, insurance and pension industries to declare their assets.
Their spouses and children may also be mandated to declare their assets if the bill, currently at the House, becomes law.
The proposed law will also bar staff members of banks and other financial institutions from operating accounts outside the shores of Nigeria.
The Chairman of the Legal Advisers in the Banking Industry and Head, Legal Services, Union Bank Plc, Sesan Sobowale, criticised several proposals in the bill.
Sobowale, who is also the representative of the Body of Banks’ Chief Executive Officers, a committee of the Chartered Institute of Bankers in Nigeria, said, “Our view is that the amendment should be restricted to bank employees alone, as it may not be feasible for them to know their spouses’ assets for various reasons.
“He or she may not even know that the spouse has acquired an asset. We are also aware that spouses can have investments that are not known to their ‘better half,’ and since these declarations are going to be made on oath, it means that it is to be made at the risk of criminal sanction.”
On the prohibition of foreign bank account ownership, Sobowale said, “We do not believe that this amendment should be made for the following reasons: First, in the Nigerian banking industry today, we have banks that are doing business across Africa – in Europe and in Asia.
“And these are not representative offices or branches; they are fully incorporated companies in those jurisdictions. And the employees could be residing in London, China, Kenya, Accra or New York; and they would need a local account where they live to be able to function as human beings.
“Secondly, the Nigerian economy has opened up significantly that you now have foreigners who work in the Nigerian banking industry, both at the board and management level.”
According to Sobowale, the law already states which category of people should not own a foreign bank account and these include president, vice-president, governors and their deputies, members of the National Assembly.
The Deputy Director, Legal Department, CCB, Peter Danladi, said workers in the financial sector should declare their assets to the CCB.
However, the Chief of Staff to Chairman of the EFCC, Hadiza Zubairu, said, “We do adopt part of the submissions made by the central bank where it highlighted the area of changing the title of the bill from ‘bank employees’ to ‘financial institutions employees.’
Reacting to the EFCC’s submission, the acting Chairman of the committee, Babangida Ibrahim, said, “If you listened to the representatives of the (banks’) CEOs, part of their concern is that, for example, a situation where you say all banks’ employees, which means there is no exemption; and a situation where they have foreigners as employees of the banks who need to repatriate part of what they earn here to their country; and now that they have claimed that banks’ operations are now global as they operate outside Nigeria, and those employees who are sent outside of the country need to maintain a local bank account for them to survive, what is the position of the EFCC with regard to all these?
Banker workers are victims of frauds, protect them – NLC
Speaking for the Nigerian Labour Congress, its Head of Research, Dr Onoho’Omhen Ebhohimhen, said workers in the banks and other financial institutions are not public officers or owners of banks.
CBN backs workers on foreign account operation
The acting Director of Banking Supervisions, CBN, Abubakar Shebe, said while the bill sought to remove officers of the Nigeria Customs Service from the definition of ‘bank employees,’ Section 14 of the Act had not been amended to remove the management and employees of the CBN from such classification.
He said, “We believe such an amendment is necessary, considering the fact that the management and employees of the CBN are public officers, in the meaning of the Constitution, and are therefore bound by the Code of Conduct Act, which places a duty on them to declare their assets to the Code of Conduct Bureau.