…Meeting lasts for 3 hours as banks MDs promise to be patriotic
…’Buhari has blocked airports from illicit money into Nigeria’
Motolani OseniOver time, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has been campaigning against the increase in illegal inflows and involvements of some commercial banks in money laundering. This, however, took different dimension over the weekend when the acting Chairman of the commission, Ibrahim Magu, met with all the Managing Directors (MDs) of financial institutions operating in the country. The meeting which lasted for good three hours was borne out of the EFCC effort in ensuring politicians did not use the banks CEOs to launder money, as no country could control illicit financial flows, without the cooperation of financial institutions. Speaking in Lagos at a round table meeting with the financial institutions MDs, the EFCC boss accused 10 unnamed commercial banks of money laundering, while condemning the increasing wave of illicit financial flows and vote buying in the country. In our fact findings, The Daily Times discovered that some politicians have concluded all plans to start withdrawing huge illicit money through the commercial banks, and this development is one of the major reasons why the EFCC had to meet with the bank MDs before time. Also, there is a need to ensure that there is no vote buying during elections, because allowing such fund in the system will definitely encourage inducements during the exercise, and this would prevent credible candidates from running for political offices. According to the EFCC boss, in Nigeria, vote buying has reached an alarming proportion, to the extent that politicians have now spread their tentacles to election officials, security agencies, election observers and even the media. The Daily Times, also, discovered that Magu had to meet with banks chiefs before today, so as to let them know that their involvements in money laundering and helping politicians get money out of the system in an election period like this will undermine peace, security, and development in the country. Speaking with our correspondent in Lagos on Sunday, a supporter of a major opposition party in the country, who doesn’t want his name in the print, said, “Buhari and EFCC have blocked all avenue for our party’s presidential candidate to bring in money into the country. “For instance, look at what is happening in Nigeria airports, there is no way our candidate can bring in money from overseas and this is taken toes on us his supporters across the country because the party has failed in its financial promises to most of us. “I’m at the party meeting, where we expected money to be shared for us in preparation for the presidential candidate on Saturday 16 February, but we are disappointed to hear that the money is not available and will have to wait a bit longer”, he lamented. Meanwhile, statistics available to the EFCC has shown that out of about 28 commercial banks in Nigeria, 10 banks evacuated out of Nigeria through Travelex Nigeria Limited, the sums of GBP £50,832,560; USD $8,057,756; EURO #39,986,560 and RAND-7,500,000 in 2018. The EFCC acting chairman, over the weekend, said: “The reasons for these evacuations are still sketchy. We must note that the impact of illicit financial flows from the country undermines the stability and integrity of the financial institutions.” He expressed concern that the culture of large cash transactions was still being allowed in some banks, adding that there was no commensurate reporting of those transactions to the relevant agencies. According to him, the banks still operate accounts without Bank Verification Numbers (BVNs), and have remained complacent in reporting those accounts to the relevant authorities, or freezing them in accordance with CBN policy. “The banks are rather complacent in dealing with crypto-currency or bitcoins as the case may be and have not taken measures to monitor such transactions or put adequate surveillance on such accounts. The banks are observed to still hold customers’ accounts in their suspense accounts, making it difficult for law enforcement agencies to trace and have access to those funds”, he observed. According to him, intelligence reports have shown that banks are aiding their customers to receive foreign financial inflow to their accounts in neighbouring countries, where they have branches like Ghana, Republic of Niger and other West African countries. “The money is then couriered into Nigeria through the land borders to circumvent declaration and reporting,” he stated. He added that banks had the habit of under-reporting transactions in some cases while carrying out defensive filing of transactions after they had been consummated. Describing them as “gatekeepers”, Magu said no country could control illicit financial flows without the cooperation of financial institutions. He, therefore, charged the managing directors to join hands with the Commission to save the country from being hijacked by criminals. Magu, who spoke on the theme: “Roles and Obligations of Managing Directors of Banks in Nigeria in Curbing Vote Buying During an Election, Illicit Financial Flows and Other Related Matters in Nigeria,” recalled that the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, during a meeting with Bankers’ Committee, sometime in September 2018, made a commitment to work with the EFCC and the banks to curb this menace. He said illicit financial flows will reduce the amount of resources available to the government to provide critical social services to the citizenry. In their response, the banks CEOs pledged to be patriotic in the discharge of their responsibilities, as well as ensure that their institutions are not used as conduit pipe to launder money by unscrupulous persons.