The House of Representatives has passed for second reading, a bill to make it compulsory for workers in the banking, insurance and pension industries to declare their assets.

The proposed law will also bar staff members of banks and other financial institutions from operating accounts outside the shores of Nigeria. Their spouses and children may also be mandated to declare their assets when a bill presently at the House becomes law.

Also, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation would also be stripped of the responsibility to keep records of declared assets by Nigeria Customs Service and bank workers, and transfer it to the relevant regulator of each industry.

The lawmaker representing Iseyin/Itesiwaju/Kajola/Iwajowa Federal constituency in Oyo State, Mr Shina Peller, made these proposals in the Bank Employees, Etc., (Declaration of Assets)(Amendment) Bill 2021.

The legislation is titled ‘A Bill for an Act to Amend the Bank Employees, Etc., (Declaration of Assets) Act CAP. B1 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 to Reflect the Prevailing Situation in the Country.’

Leading the debate on the bill, Peller recalled that the Bank Employees (Declaration of Assets) Act CAP B1 Laws of the Federation 2004 was enacted on September 26, 1986, by the military regime.

He noted that the law was to make provisions for the declaration of assets by employees of banks operating in Nigeria and to empower the President to extend its application to other categories of persons.

The lawmaker said the Act was aimed at monitoring the activities of bank employees and customs officers to ensure that their lifestyle reflects their earnings and to discourage them from engaging in corrupt practices.

Peller said in part, “The Act applies to only employees of banks and customs service. However, the bill seeks to extend the application of the Act to employees of other financial institutions which have emerged as key players in the Nigerian financial sector over the years, i.e. pension funds agencies, insurance firms, stocks brokers, etc.

“In the Act, it is the Secretary to the Government of the Federation that is given the responsibility of keeping completed forms of Assets Declaration by employees of banks and Customs service. Then, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation combines the functions of the present Head of Service of the Federation and Secretary to the Government of the Federation.

“It is doubtful whether records of assets declaration were kept as prescribed by the Act. The amendment bill seeks to transfer this responsibility to the appropriate regulatory body of the financial institution to which the staff concerned belongs, i.e. Central Bank of Nigeria, for the bank employees; (National) Pension Commission for employees of Pension Fund Administrators; Security and Exchange Commission for stockbrokers, etc.”

He added, “It was also observed that the principal Act did not prohibit employees of banks from having foreign accounts. This omission may be exploited. The amendment bill expressly prohibits employees of banks from operating foreign accounts.”

Peller noted that with the coming into effect of the 1999 Constitution, all public servants including employees of the Nigeria Customs Service must declare their assets to the Code of Conduct Bureau.

“It would amount to duplication of duty if employees of the Nigerian Customs Service still declare their assets to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation as prescribed by the principal Act. This amendment bill addresses this anomaly by removing the employees of the customs service from employees which the Act applies to,” he said.

The lawmaker also stated that under the Act, it is only the assets of bank employees concerned which shall be declared in the form. He said the Act does not apply to the spouse and unmarried children under 18 years of the declarant.

“This is another loophole of the Act which may be exploited. To address this, the bill makes assets declaration by declarants to include the assets of their spouses and unmarried children less than 18 years old,” he said.

The Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Abdulrasheed Bawa, had earlier on March 16, 2021, said the commission would from June 1 be demanding the asset declaration forms of bankers.

Bawa stated that the decision was in line with the provisions of the Bank Employees Declaration of Asset Act.

However, Deposit Money Bank workers had said the EFCC should, instead, focus its asset declaration drive on the managing directors of banks and other agencies of government.

Reacting to Bawa’s notice, bankers, under the aegis of National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions Employees, said the EFCC should review its stance.

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