By Elizabeth Chukwuma
Those who think that the next four years would be a rosy one for the Banks and non- designated financial Institutions would be disappointed. This is because the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC , and the Independent and Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC, have beamed their search light on the Institutions to unravel their underhand dealings over the years which had given Corruption a new face in the country.
Abubakar Malami, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, , Attorney General and minister of Justice may have spoken the mind of President Muhammadu Buhari when he declared on Thursday, August 23, 2019, that ‘’ Banks involved in Corrupt practices in the former and current Administration of the Katsina state born Nigeria President, would pay dearly for the dastardly roles they played and are still playing in encouraging and deepening Corruption in the country’’
The anti-graft agencies may have been emboldened to descend on the Banks to force them to do the right the right thing ,because of the several Investigations of Corrupt cases that had been linked to the Banks over the years ranging from the arms procurement fraud, INEC bribery scandal in the 2019 Presidential election and other high profile cases.
Malami, who could not hide his feelings was said to have told those who cares to listen that ‘’quantitative data available to the government abundantly shows that the financial institutions were directly involved in most of the major Corruption cases investigated by the Commission and the ICPC between 2015 and now.
Perhaps, what may have informed the planned ministerial probe of the Banks which was said to have received the overwhelming support of the Presidency was the United Kingdom, UK, Court ruling on August 6, 2019, which was said to be against the interest of the country. The UK Court had awarded a $9 billion cost in favour of Process and Industrial Developments Limited, a foreign firm,s by the government over unfilled business transaction.
An embittered minister had said that the UK Court ruling could not be justified because the 20 years old project of accelerated gas development in the country’s OMLs 67 and 123, was never executed by the Company.
Describing the British Court ruling as part of the consequences of the underhand dealings of the past Administrations, he had promised that the government would do everything within its powers to stop the execution of the Judgment.
The minister may have sent jittery down the spine of the government officials who facilitated the unexecuted $9 billion contract and their Banks Collaborators, as he had sounded it loud and clear that former and current officials of Present Administration, would be mad to face the full weight of the Law, an indication that Heads will roll in the ministry of Petroleum Resources and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, soon.
The ministerial decision may have forced the Banks to go back to the drawing board to e ensure that every areas of loopholes in their Operations were covered to avoid playing into the hands of the anti-graft agency personnel which may affect their business.
Many believe that the EFCC and ICPC may have this long to take the anti-Corruption war to the Banks to avoid giving room to the Banks , to take on the Banks,to play the spoiler’s role in Buhari re-election bid in the last Presidential election by refusing to release funds for the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, on demand to prosecute the election. The elections have come and gone, and the Administration has settled down for business of governing with the assigning of Portfolios to ministerial appointees, the anti-graft agencies, which determined to expose the bad financial institutions as deterrence to others which might still want to indulge in such frauds, have no option than to step their investigations of the Banks.
The Banks may have known that the EFCC and ICPC, are after them that they appear to have devised measures to whip the staff in line to avoid falling into the agencies trap. The Value News Magazine visited Access Bank, described as one of fastest growing Banks in the nation’s financial sector but was shocked at the cold welcome at the reception. The Bank Operations are completely Computerised from the reception to the Management Staff offices for easy Communication without speaking on the intercom facility, for visitors to hear.
The situation may have been made worse as the Bank officials may have adopted a culture of silence to avoid playing into the hands of the EFCC or ICPC, personnel , who may be looking out for incriminating information about the Banks in order to nail them.
Recall that Ibrahim Magu, a Commissioner of Police and acting Chairman, EFCC, had said last year that that there seems to be a readily available partnership between fraudulent elements in ‘’our society and the Banks’’ in order to perpetuate fraudulent activities and money laundering. It was a warning to the Banks that the no nonsense EFCC, boss, may soon descend on them but they did not take it serious , forcing the agency to continue its underground investigation on them.
The EFCC boss may have prepared the mind of the Officers sent on training at the agency Academy, Karu, Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory , FCT, on how to detect frauds in’’ digital Banking Operations and Investigations’’.
Recall that in 2016, the EFCC Operative had stormed stormed Sterling and Acess Banks to investigate their relationship with non-financial institutions. The Banks, according to sources, were said to have notified the Nigerian Stock Exchange, NSE, officials, about their Operations that may have led to the investigations by the Commissions.
The Banks were said to have prepared detailed financial Statements about the EFCC investigations into their activities. The Statements, a source confirmed , were made available to International Investors through the NSE official website.
It was gathered that the EFCC, Operatives who stormed Access, met the Bank Group Managing Director and the Chief Compliance Officer , of the Bank, who were said to have provided them with the needed information and documents to further enhance their investigations .
It is not surprising why Nigerians are waiting to see the outcome of the two anti-graft agencies planned investigations of the Banks as a way of sanitising their Operations as obtained in other global financial institutions.