Why Banks Should Not Be Left Out In The War Against Corruption

Source: thewillnigeria.com

SAN FRANCISCO, May 08, (THEWILL) – The anti-corruption crusade of President Muhammadu Buhari has continued to unearth startling revelations about banks' involvement in aiding corrupt public officials launder stolen and illicitly acquired funds.

Last year, it was reported of top managers of a commercial bank in Abuja Central District who assisted former Chairman of Pension Reform Task Team, PRTT, Abdlrasheed Maina, to hide billions of stolen pension funds.

The latest in banks culpability is Fidelity Bank, whose top executives have been accused of colluding with former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke in the lodgment and disbursement of $115 million to interest groups.

Also worthy of note is the role of Guaranty Trust Bank, GTB, in the corruption case against the Senate President, Bukola Saraki. Reports in public domain linked the act in the series of cash lodgment into accounts of companies solely owned by Saraki, while serving as governor of Kwara State.

Apart from GTB, intersecting inflow and outflow dealings implicated Saraki's personal accounts in Zenith and Access Banks to the alleged laundering. In similar circumstances, damning reports by EFCC have indicted at least 10 banks in money laundering cases involving former state governors, among others.

These are happening notwithstanding the extant Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, which forbids banks from accepting such huge transactions in cash without blowing the whistle.  Over time, banks have connived with corrupt elements to operate phony accounts for ghost workers in both federal and states civil service. This much has been revealed by the recently concluded conduct of banks verification number, BVN, as well as the implementation of the Treasury Single Account, TSA.

It is amazing that banks, which should help the state in guarding against illegal transactions, are the ones which cloak stolen funds in legitimate garments to evade detection. But they should be reminded of the popular maxim that the receiver of stolen goods is as guilty as the actual thief.

At a time when government is engaged in the arduous task of recovering stolen funds laundered abroad over the past years, it is amazing how banks continue to offer themselves to be used as conduits in raping the country. The conniving role of banks, which are supposed to be far removed from g overnment as a private entity, traverses virtually all segments. Unfortunately, the people who these monies are meant to cater for are left to suffer yet subjected to outrageous bank charges.

THEWILL therefore urges the anti-graft agencies to henceforth, charge indicted banks alongside their principals, with concomitant sanctions. That is one way to ensure that money laundering is not only discouraged but greatly reduced.   In view of the reinvigorated fight against corruption, we call on President Buhari to also focus on banks and other institutions involved in money laundering and other financial crimes.

We however advise that sensationally trying banks and their officials in the media should be stopped because of the sensitivity of the sector to the nation's economy.

The media razzmatazz which has surrounded the trial and investigation of high profile personalities over corruption charges should not be extended to the banking sector.

THEWILL requests anti-graft agencies to be highly professional and discreet in dealing with financial institutions found to be involved in corrupt and other sharp practices. This is in order not to erode the confidence of depositors and investors which would likely make affected banks go under.  We shudder to imagine what would become of customers deposits and jobs in that circumstance.

While acknowledging the innovative role the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Governor, Godwin Emefiele, has been playing in sanitizing the financial sector, the apex bank should be more alive to its responsibilities as a regulator. We call on all regulators of the nation’s financial institution to cue into the anti-corruption crusade of government since they are better trained and informed as regards putting the banks in check.

There is no doubting the fact that if the CBN and other regula tors have been up faithfully li ving up to their remit, the EFCC and the likes would not have been going after the banks in a manner that many fear will greatly affect the highly sensitive industry.