Peoples Digest Online- The Chief Executive Officer of a commercial bank has said that he and his colleagues will be unable to obey the directive of the Federal Government to forfeit customers funds in accounts that are not linked to Bank Verification Numbers (BVN). The CEO speaking anonymously to ThisDay said there were huge holes in the legitimacy of the order given by the Federal Government.
According to the CEO, “What of a situation where somebody has died and the matter is in administration, what do you want the bank to do? To give government the money and face litigation? “What of Nigerians who are abroad and are still struggling to get their BNVs? What if we send the monies to government and we are sued by the customer(s)?
“And the 14-day time frame is very short. Why the rush? Why not give a time frame, maybe till 2018 for people to get their BVNs? These are the type of things that create uncertainty and instability in the market. We are just coming out of a recession and we try to discourage anything that would destabilise the system. “We are trying to drive financial inclusion, but there are many people who are not in the banking system that may not want to open accounts once they hear of such things happening.”
Human Rights Lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, said the order granting the forfeiture of funds in accounts without BVN was illegal. “I am very well concerned about how we deploy interim orders for permanent purposes, such as to forfeit valuable assets without any or fair hearing from the person(s) concerned,” the statement read.
“I think it is improper to obtain interim orders to freeze the bank accounts of estates that are in dispute between the beneficiaries, of estates of deceased persons that are still being contested, of profits of companies that are still subject to litigation or other disputes, just to mention a few examples of the arbitrariness of these orders.
“There is nothing in Section 3 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 that makes BVN a condition precedent for operating a bank account in Nigeria. Nothing at all. What the law requires is verifiable identity of the customer, such as name, address, photographs, identity cards, etc. “BVN is a policy decision of the Central Bank of Nigeria and a court of law should not base its orders on executive policies that are not backed by law.
“I get truly worried with the way we adopt ex parte applications to determine very serious and weighty issues of law. “The other point is the bindingness of an ex parte order upon the whole world and upon millions of bank customers in Nigeria, who are not directly parties to the suit. “How proper is it for a court to seek to determine the rights of parties in their absence, in view of the clear provisions of Section 36(1) of the 1999 Constitution and Article 7 of the African Charter?
“Why this desperation, if one may ask? I support that money suspected to be proceeds of crime should be traced, isolated and forfeited if the owner cannot successfully account for it. “But to proceed to seek to forfeit all monies in all banks meant for all customers in Nigeria on the grounds of absence of BVN is manifestly illegal.
“I therefore humbly urge the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation to review this case with a view to tempering the tenor of these rather outlandish orders. “The quest to scoop revenue for government should not be to the detriment of the constitutional and fundamental rights of the citizens. Which is why I have been praying that these orders are not real, but rather one of the usual social media gimmicks,” he said.