Workers in the banking sector may be barred from operating foreign accounts as the House of Representatives passed for second reading a bill to amend Banks Employees Act.

On Tuesday, the lawmakers debated the bill that seeks to amend a decree promulgated by the Ibrahim Babangida military administration.

The proposed bill provides that bank employees and customs officers must declare their assets.

According to the principal Act, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation is the custodian of the asset declaration for bankers and customs officers.

Shina Peller (APC, Oyo), the sponsor of the bill, while leading the debate on it, said the legislation seeks to block lacuna in the principal act.

” It was 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.

“Under the Principal Act, it is only the assets of bank employee concerned which shall be declared in the form. 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.”

According to the lawmaker, the bill seeks to extend the mandatory asset declaration law to other financial institutions like pension funds agencies, insurance firms and stock brokers.

“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,” Mr Peller said.

He noted that the bill, if passed, will transfer the responsibility of keeping the assets declaration records from the SGF to the respective regulators of the sectors.

“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, Pension Commission for employees of Pension Fund Administrators, Security and Exchange Commission for stockbrokers.”

Furthermore, the bill seeks to rectify an inconsistency of the principal Act with the constitution.

Mr Peller argued that since customs officers are already declaring their assets to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), they should be removed from the Bank Employees Act.

READ ALSO: Bankers to start declaring assets from June 1 – EFCC

Following the debate, the bill was passed for second reading and referred to Committee on Banking and Currency.

EFCC and enforcement of the Act

Last month, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had announced that it will start enforcing the Act.

Abdulrasheed Bawa, the chairman of the commission, had directed enforcement of the law, starting from 1st of June

PREMIUM TIMES had reported that the EFCC had written to banks, demanding the asset declaration forms of their top executives.

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