The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Monday explained that its directive to bankers to declare their assets was not a “witch hunt” but aimed sanitizing the banking sector.
EFCC Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, made the clarification in Abeokuta at the opening of a two-day capacity building workshop for security agencies organised by the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC).
“The theme of the workshop is “Effective Investigation and Prosecution of Banking Malpractices in Nigeria”.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the EFCC had in March directed all bank executives to declare their assets latest by June 1.
EFCC had said that the directive was in line with the Bank Employees, ETC. (Declaration of Assets) Act 1986, enacted to ensure adequate measures in sanitising the nation’s financial system.
Represented by Mohammed Ghali, EFCC Lagos Zonal Commander, Bawa said that the clarification became necessary because many people had misconstrued the measure for a “witch-hunt”.
“Knowing the rots that permeate the nation’s banking sector, the directive was born out of efforts to sanitise the banking sector, but it was received with mixed feeling.
“It is obvious that those who kicked or are still kicking against the directive, are ignorant of the unmistakable details of the Bank Employees Declaration of Assets Act.”
“Unlike the claims in some quarters, it is not a witch-hunt; rather, it is part of measures to sanitise the country’s financial institutions,” he said.
Bawa declared that in carrying out the responsibility of ridding Nigeria of corruption, as mandated by the EFCC Establishment Act, he had realised that “there is a slew of corrupt practices going on in the banking sector”.
He, however, reiterated the agency’s commitment to ridding the banking sector of the malpractices.
He explained that the situation had prompted the EFCC, under his watch, to intensify engagement with bank executives, more than ever before.
“We are aware of the different shades of fraudulent activities going on in our financial institutions, particularly in the banking industry sector.
“The nation cannot afford to go through another serious crisis in the banking sector, and this explains the constant intervention by the EFCC,” he said.
He assured that the anti-graft agency, through its Bank Fraud Section, would continue to prevent fraudulent practices in the banking sector and prosecute perpetrators of such fraud.
Bawa described the EFCC and the NDIC as co-runners on the anti-corruption tracks, racing to improve the image of Nigeria in the international community.
He assured that the activities of the two agencies would create an economically enabling environment that would boost foreign investors’ confidence in the country.
Earlier in his opening address, the Managing Director of NDIC, Mr Bello Hassan, noted that the “human element is the greatest culprit in bank failure”.
”It has been said over and over, that banks do not on their own fail, rather, they are destroyed and brought to their knees by acts of officers entrusted to look after the institutions.”
Hassan, therefore, stressed the need to bring such culprits to book to serve as a deterrent to others.
“It is against this background that the regulators/supervisors and the law enforcement agencies must collaborate and ensure that those who contributed to the demise of banks are thoroughly investigated and if found guilty, are prosecuted accordingly.
“This annual workshop affords the corporation the opportunity to share ideas with the law enforcement agencies on developments within the banking landscape that will enhance their skills in the discharge of their responsibilities,” he said.