ICYMI: Two-week ultimatum for bankers to declare assets

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    It will no longer be business as usual for bank chief executive officers (CEOs) and their employees who live above their income.

    They have two weeks to declare their assets in compliance with the Bank Employees, etc (Declaration of Assets) Act 1986 obtained by The Nation yesterday. The application of the law begins today.

    They risk a 10-year jail, if found guilty by any Federal High Court.

    Besides declaration of assets by the CEOs, anti-graft agencies are to trace suspected assets to parents, spouses, children and associates of bank workers.

    After the declaration, the CEOs are to submit all the forms within seven days to the appropriate authority or the designated agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

    Relying on the Declaration of Assets Act 1986, the Chairman of EFCC,  Abdulrasheed Bawa, on March 16, told all bank workers to prepare for the declaration of their assets by this month.

    He made the declaration after a session with President Muhammadu Buhari.

    Bawa also said there was no going back on the application of the 35-year-old law beginning from June 1.

    Ahead of compliance with the law, the anti-graft agency claimed that there had been anxiety in the banking sector.

    The penalty for violation of the Act is contained in Section 7(2), which stipulates a 10-year jail term for offenders.

    The Act says: “It shall be an offence for an employee of a Bank to own assets in excess of his legitimate, known and provable income and assets.

    “Any employee guilty of an offence under Sub-section (1) of this section shall on conviction be liable to imprisonment for ten years and shall, in addition, forfeit the excess assets or its equivalent in money to the Federal Government.

    “For the purpose of imposing a penalty on conviction under this section, due regard shall be had to the amount or value of assets by which the assets of the convicted employee are in excess of his legitimate, known and provable income and assets.”

    On verification of assets, the law says the government can investigate bankers’ parents, spouse, children, associates and privies.

    It says: “The appropriate authority shall cause to be verified every Declaration of Assets Form and Annual Assets Declaration Form submitted under this Act and may direct that a thorough investigation should be conducted into the assets and activities of the employee concerned including the assets and activities of his spouse, child, relative, parent, associate or privy.”

    The law gives guidelines on how bank workers will disclose their assets.

    The Act further reads: “Employees to make full disclosure of assets. 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 fourteen 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.

    “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. 3.

    “On completion and execution of the Declaration of Assets Form in the manner prescribed in section 2 (1) of this Act, the employee shall submit the form to the Chief Executive of his Bank within the time prescribed in section 1 of this Act.

    “The Chief Executive of the Bank to whom Declaration of Assets forms have been submitted under subsection (1) of this section shall, within seven days after the expiration of the time stipulated in Section 1 of this Act, submit the forms to the appropriate authority together with the list of employees compiled in the manner prescribed in Form B of the Schedule to this Act.”

    It adds: “The chief executive of every bank shall twice in every year, but not later than January7, or July7, 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 list referred to in Sub-section (1) of this Section shall be in the manner prescribed in the Biannual Returns of Employees Movements contained in Form D of the Schedule to this Act.”

    In the latest edition of its in-house magazine, the EFCC ALERT, the anti-graft agency confirmed what it described as “trepidation” in the banking sector over the June 1 deadline.

    It said: “But, with the June 1 ‘deadline’ just by the corner, there is trepidation in the banking sector amid permutations about the possible scenarios in the coming

    The announcement drew mixed reactions, with many questioning the powers of the EFCC to issue the notice, while others applauded the move, saying it was long overdue.

    “Among those who are yet to tidy their assets record, there is said to be an air foreboding regarding their fate.

    “The fear, though largely unspoken, is about the consequences of second guessing the resolve of the EFCC chair to apply the full weight of the law on erring bankers.

    “This is premised on the recent history of the banking sector, where a couple of former chief executives came under EFCC’s radar in the aftermath of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s whistle on the indiscretion of some bank chiefs in 2008.

    “Two of the former bank executives have been jailed while others are still in court, battling to extricate their necks from the intricate web of fraud charges filed against them by the anti-graft agency.

    “What will happen post-June 1 remains a matter of conjecture. However, one thing is certain; the steely resolve of the EFCC chair to walk the talk.”

    It quoted the EFCC boss as claiming that there is no going back on the June 1 deadline.

    The in-house journal quoted Bawa as saying: “All we are saying is that come June 1, we are going to be demanding for it (assets declaration forms).

    “We want to look at it vis-à-vis other information that we have. It is something that as an institution we have resolved to do. Of course we expect stiff resistance, but we are determined.”

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