DID YOU KNOW? Drivers, cleaners working in banks are to declare their assets by law

Author:
Femi Owolabi

There is an act mandating all employees of banks to declare their assets upon employment — even messengers, cleaners and drivers.

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Surprised?

Well, you are not alone.

According to the bank employees’ declaration of assets act, 1986, employees expected to declare their assets include board members, the managing director, general managers, clerks, cashiers, messengers, cleaners, drivers, and any other category of workers — whether part‐time, casual or temporary.

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The act, which has been in existence since 1986, became a subject of discourse on Tuesday when the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) ordered bank employees to declare their assets.

Abdulrasheed Bawa, the EFCC chairman, had explained that the move is aimed at making it difficult to stash illegitimately acquired funds in banks.

“Let me just put this, we understood that at the tail end of every financial crime is for the criminal to have access to the funds that he or she has illegitimately gotten and we’re worried about the roles of financial institutions,” he had said.

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Setting June 1 as the deadline, Bawa said he hopes that all financial institutions will comply.

WHAT DOES THE ACT SAY?

According to the act, every new employee, “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”.

On completion of the declaration of assets form, the employee is expected to submit the form to the chief executive officer of the bank within the time prescribed in section 1 of the act.

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The chief executive is then expected to submit the forms to the appropriate authority.

Employees are mandated to go through this process on an annual basis.

10 YEARS IMPRISONMENT FOR OFFENDERS 

In section 7 of the act, it is an offence for an employee of a bank to own assets in excess of his/her legitimate, known, and provable income and assets.

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“Any employee guilty of an offence under subsection (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,” parts of the section read.

In determining the assets of an employee, the act states that “any gift, bequest, donation or fraudulent, fictitious or artificial transaction made by the employee during the relevant period” shall be treated as forming part of his/her assets.

“For the purposes of this section, the income and assets of an employee shall include salaries, allowances, returns on investment, gifts, donations and bequests received by him.”

The act also prescribes a 10-year jail term for any employee who fails to declare assets or gives false information.

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‘NEVER BEEN PROPERLY ENFORCED’

Before now, what is commonly known to many Nigerians is the declaration of assets by public officials — and the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) is vested with the power to oversee the process.

But in 2016, citing the rising cases of fraud in the banking sector, the federal government had asked bank workers to declare their assets.

A senior bank official who spoke with TheCable said while his organisation had always complied, he does not think “enforcement of the act can work”.

“Who even comes to confirm what has been declared?” he asked.

Also commenting on the matter, Inibehe Effiong, a Lagos-based lawyer, told TheCable that “this particular act is more or less a dead letter law because it has never been properly enforced”.

According to the lawyer, it would have been more appropriate for the directive to have come from the CCB since it is the most relevant legal institution that is empowered to receive assets declaration forms and enforce compliance.

“If the EFCC chairman is really serious about fighting corruption, he should pay greater attention to corrupt politicians who are stealing public funds mindlessly. If asset declaration is taken seriously, most public officers in Nigeria, and particularly political office holders, will rot in jail,” he said.

The lawyer also expressed doubts about the EFCC’s technical capacity to receive assets declaration forms from all bank employees in Nigeria.

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