That EFCC Directive on Bankers’ Assets Declaration

Recently The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on 16th March, 2021 directed staff of all institutions in the Nigerian financial system especially bankers to declare their assets to the EFCC.

The Executive Chairman of the EFCC, Mr Abdulrashed Bawa said the directive of the EFCC is made pursuant to the Bank Employees, Etc (Declaration of Assets) Act, Cap B1 LFN 2004 and is meant to sanitise the nation’s financial system and block some of the loopholes currently being exploited by unscrupulous players in the sector to undermine Nigeria’s economy through money laundering and illicit financial flows.

Section 1 of the Bank Employees, Etc (Declaration of Assets) Act provides that every employee of a Bank shall within fourteen days of the commencement of the Act make a full disclosure of all his assets while section 4 provides that the assets declaration in section 1 shall be made every subsequent year and submitted to the appropriate authority. Appropriate authority is defined in section 14 to mean the Secretary to the Federal Government (SGF) or any person he may designate in that behalf by an instrument published in the Federal Gazette. The EFCC directive which seems to have appropriated to the Commission the power to enforce the provisions of the Bank Employees, Etc (Declaration of Assets) Act appears to have jumped the gun as the SGF will need to designate it in accordance with section 14.

A closer examination of the reason given by the EFCC for requesting assets declaration from bank employees is that it is to sanitise 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. The motive is unassailable yet approach curious – to resort a 35 year old scarcely used law to combat latter day tactics of criminals and their accomplices! What exactly is missing from the arsenal of the EFCC with its wide powers under the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, Cap E1 LFN 2004, the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 and the Advance Fee Fraud and Other fraud related Offences Act 2006 that incapacitates the Commission in achieving the stated purpose of sanitizing the nation’s financial system and checking money laundering and illicit financial flows. We think the provisions of those laws and other laws on financial crimes give the EFCC and the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) adequate powers to investigate and take measure required to combat laundering and IFF. The latter body by virtue of the provisions of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit Act, 2018 has the powers to receive reports on suspicious transactions and transactions above a certain monetary threshold from the financial institutions. These transaction reports are a more effective way to notice suspicious transactions and check the menace of money laundering and financial crimes than simply demanding an annual assets declaration by all staff of banks and related financial institutions.

The argument may be made that the provisions of the EFCC Act and Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act are targeted at customers of banks and other financial institutions while the new directive by the EFCC is targeted at staff of these financial institutions. But staff of banks are also customers of their employers or other banks. A cursory examination of the meaning of banks and employee of banks under section 14 of the Bank Employees Declaration of Assets Act raise the issue of duplicity and the capacity of the EFCC to manage such declarations. The Act gives an expanded meaning to “banks” to include the Central Bank of Nigeria, commercial banks, merchants banks, acceptance houses, discount houses, financial institutions or any other authorised dealer appointed under the Foreign Exchange (Monitoring and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act;

It also provides that  -

"employee" or "employee of a bank" includes the Governor (of the Central bank) , 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 institution of whatever title or designation, whether general or peculiar to the Bank; and for the avoidance of doubt, it includes a person engaged as a part‐time, casual or temporary worker and also any worker deployed to work in any branch or office of the Bank in or outside Nigeria

The Central bank is clearly a statutory corporation meaning the Governor and staff of the Bank are already public officers for the purpose of the Code of Conduct under Part 2 of the Fifth Schedule to the 1999 CFRN. In our view there is no need to subject such persons to an additional obligation to declare assets – after all Declarations that are in the custody of the Code of Conduct Bureau are accessible by law enforcement agencies.