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Bank CEOs, Others Jittery Over EFCC Asset Declaration Directive

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Bawa Buhari

By Dipo Olowookere

Some executives of financial institutions, including the Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) in Nigeria, are jittery over a new directive of the nation’s chief anti-money laundering agency.

On March 16, 2021, the newly appointed chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Abdulrashed Bawa, said employees of financial institutions in the country, including their CEOs, have till June 1, 2021, to declare their assets.

Mr Bawa said this when he addressed newsmen after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.

The EFCC boss said the failure of any banker in the country to declare his/her assets by the deadline will result in imprisonment for a term of 10 years as stipulated by the law.

The directive has legal backing

He told journalists that the Bank Employees, ETC. (Declaration of Assets) Act 1986 mandates every employee of a bank to make full disclosure of assets upon employment, and annually in subsequent years.

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According to him, section 7 (1) of the law stipulates that, “It shall be an offence for an employee of a bank to own assets in excess of his legitimate known and provable income.”

He added that section 7(2) emphasised that, “Any employee guilty of an offence under subsection (1) of this section shall on conviction be liable to imprisonment for 10 years and shall, in addition, forfeit the excess assets or its equivalent in money to the federal government.”

Reason for the order

Mr Bawa said his agency is triggering these provisions to sanitize the nation’s financial system and block some of the loopholes currently being exploited by unscrupulous players in the sector to undermine Nigerian economy through money laundering and illicit financial flows.

He said the EFCC was determined to tackle money laundering in the country and bring sanity into the financial system.

Bank executives already jittery

But since this information was revealed yesterday, some bank executives have been nervous and sources close to some of them informed Business Post that efforts are being made to lobby powerbrokers in the country to push the deadline forward.

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“I can tell you that this statement by the EFCC chairman is not going down well with a lot of bank executives.

“I can also tell you for a fact that some of them are making efforts to clean up their tracks and possibly talk to those in power to extend the June 1 deadline.

“To them, the timeframe is too short and they believe it should be moved forward except the EFCC chair wants to use this as a vendetta,” one of the sources told this newspaper.

Another said, “I am not surprised this is coming from the EFCC chairman. He is vast in financial crimes and forensic. He has handled cases of high-profile Nigerians and he knows how senior bankers help politicians to launder money.

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“A few of us saw this coming and we expect more from him because he knows the game very well. He has already thrown many top executives of banks into confusion with this directive. I think it is good for the financial sector.”

Buhari supports directive

But it is not certain how these CEOs and executives would go about it as the President fully supports the EFCC chairman on this directive.

Mr Bawa, according to information gathered, was in Abuja yesterday to discuss this issue with him and by informing State House Correspondents of the development shows that he has the full banking of Mr Buhari.

President Buhari has not hidden his desire to clean up the country of corruption. In fact, it is one of the key targets of his administration and he has been fighting corruption vigorously since he assumed office in 2019.

Dipo Olowookere is a journalist based in Nigeria that has passion for reporting business news stories. At his leisure time, he watches football and supports 3SC of Ibadan. Mr Olowookere can be reached via dipo.olowookere@businesspost.ng

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Banking

London Stock Exchange Lists Ecobank $350m Sustainability Bond

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ecobank retail bank

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

The $350 million sustainability bond issued by Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI), the parent company of the Ecobank Group, has been listed on the main market of the London Stock Exchange (LSE).

The green bond was admitted on the LSE on Wednesday at a virtual ceremony to open the market for the trading day and celebrate the successful listing of the tier-2 environment-friendly notes, the first by a financial institution in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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The bond, which matures in June 2031, has a call option in June 2026 and was issued with a coupon of 8.75 per cent with interest payable semi-annually in arrears.

An equivalent amount of the net proceeds from the notes will be used by Ecobank to finance or refinance new or existing eligible assets as described in the bank’s Sustainable Finance Framework.

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The tier-2 issuance is the first to have a Basel III-compliant 10NC5 structure outside of South Africa in 144A/RegS format.

It was gathered that investor interest for this sophomore Eurobond issue was global, including the United Kingdom, the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa, achieving a 3.6x oversubscribed order book of over $1.3 billion at its peak.

The joint lead managers and book runners in the transaction were Citi, Mashreq, Renaissance Capital and Standard Chartered Bank.

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“The strong global interest in our issuance reflects investors’ confidence in Ecobank’s strategy and our commitment to sustainable financing.

“We thank the LSE for hosting ETI today and look forward to value creation for all our stakeholders,” the Group CEO of Ecobank, Mr Ade Ayeyemi, said.

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Banking

CBN’s Digital Currency Will Deepen Financial Inclusion—FDC

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Summon CBN Governor

By Adedapo Adesanya

Financial Derivatives Company (FDC) Limited has lauded the proposed plan by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to introduce a digital currency, saying it will deepen financial inclusion in the country.

In a new report, FDC explained that most central banks had indicated keen interests in developing their digital currencies in response to the threats and limitations of cryptocurrency, including poor regulation, price volatility and facilitating illicit financial transactions.

The report said, “Nigeria is set to follow the global trend as it plans to launch its digital currency by year-end. Unlike crypto, digital currencies are regulated by central banks, thus giving them some level of control over the financial system.

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“On a positive note, virtual currencies would facilitate smooth financial transactions and eliminate bottlenecks associated with the use of cash (mutilated notes, forgery, cash handling charges, shortages). It will also deepen financial inclusion and increase the velocity of circulation.”

The analysis highlighted the rising concerns of distrust in the government and its policies, cybersecurity and inadequate digital infrastructure.

“All these could limit the launch and widespread use of the digital currency in the country,” it said.

According to the report, the drop in inflation rate in May for the second straight month contradicts market reality following the report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) which disclosed that the country’s inflation rate fell to 17.93 per cent in May from 18.12 per cent in April.

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FDC said contrary to analyst expectations, the decline in consumer price inflation seemed to be more of a trend than a blip.

It said the headline inflation fell again in May primarily due to a fall in the food sub-index to 22.28 per cent from 22.72 per cent in April.

This is coming as the CBN last year issued a circular asking commercial banks and other financial institutions to close accounts transacting in, or operating on, cryptocurrency exchanges.

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All deals involving cryptocurrency are now prohibited with severe regulatory sanctions awaiting erring outfits.

The apex bank also asked commercial banks to identify persons and or entities transacting in or operating cryptocurrency exchanges within their systems and ensure that such accounts are closed immediately.

But since the apex bank announced its intention to introduce a digital currency for the country, it has been applauded.

Apart from the FDC, other analysts have submitted that the proposed CBN’s digital currency would benefit the nation, especially as the digital asset is becoming widely accepted across the globe.

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Banking

CIBN to Revamp Banking Practice in Nigeria With A-TEAM Initiative

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CIBN A-TEAM Initiative

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

A strategic initiative aimed to revamp banking practice in Nigeria has been introduced by the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN).

The new plan with the acronym A-TEAM means Accelerated Development; Technology and Digital Enhancement; Engagement for Growth; Accountability and Transparent Leadership and Membership Drive for Value.

As part of efforts for its successful implementation, the CIBN is seeking collaborations with financial institutions in the country.

Recently, the President/Chairman of Council, CIBN, Mr Bayo Olugbemi, visited Ecobank Nigeria and he said the A-TEAM initiative will benefit stakeholders in the banking sector.

He applauded Ecobank’s consistent support for the institute over the years to ensure the realisation of its mandate of determining the standards of knowledge and skills development for those seeking to become members of the banking profession.

“We applaud Ecobank Academy as the first corporate member to become a member of the Global Business School Network and for the consistent support for the realisation of the institute’s mandate of determining the standards of knowledge and skills to be attained by persons seeking to become members of the banking profession.

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“We, therefore, seek Ecobank’s collaboration and enlistment in our Endowment/Prize Awards in any subject of interest; support towards the renovation of Abuja Bankers’ House; support for the establishment of banking museum by donating artefacts and other relevant materials; and to participate actively in training programmes of the institute,” Mr Olugbemi said.

Further, he congratulated Ecobank Nigeria and the Ecobank Group on winning several International awards, which includes the Best Retail Bank in Nigeria by Asian Banker; Africa’s Best Bank for Corporate Responsibility by Euromoney (Ecobank Group); African Bank of the Year (African Banker); Innovation in Financial Services Award from African Banker (Ecobank Group); EMEA Finance African Banking Awards 2020.

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Responding, the Managing Director of Ecobank Nigeria, Mr Patrick Akinwuntan, pledged more support and collaboration with the institute, restating that Ecobank will continue to contribute to the efforts of the organisation to become top class and remain relevant globally.

“For us at Ecobank, we are extremely proud CIBNs efforts at ensuring public discourse on the future of the Nigeria economy and the banking and finance industry.

“This is not in isolation of the ethics, professionalism, accountability, transparency, good corporate governance without losing focus of harnessing the opportunities technology has provided in the new world order. Be assured of our maximum support and collaboration at all times,” he said.

Mr Akinwuntan also identified with the efforts of the institute to raise the bar of competency and capacity building in the industry, stressing that with sound professional conduct, every banker will be held in high esteem.

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He said Ecobank was working assiduously to ensure a majority of its staff become members of the institute, adding that the bank will also provide more mentees and mentors in its mentorship programme.

“We have a medium to long term programme to ensure all Ecobank Nigeria staff become chartered members of the institute.

“At Ecobank, we take human capacity development very seriously. Some of our staff that wrote the last examinations are now chartered members of the Institute.

“We will also ensure bulk subscription of our staff. We will be nominating 30 mentors and 100 mentees to participate in the second mentorship programme,” he assured.

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