—as house of Reps commences move to retrieve trapped fund
Forty-five account holders have had their funds, running to the sum of over N1.2 trillion, trapped in the Deposit Money Banks(commercial banks) over their failure to link the accounts to Bank Verification Numbers(BVN) and the Treasury Single Account policy of the Federal government.
However, the House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee on Unclaimed Funds in the Commercial Banks and Infractions by the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN) has commenced a process to free the trapped funds from the strong rooms of the concerned banks.
The House had on January 26, 2022, resolved to set up the committee to investigate the “suspicious and unclaimed funds” sitting with various accounts.
The House had mandated the committee to also investigate the unremitted funds collected on behalf of ministries, departments and agencies of the Federal Government by the banks.
The House had further mandated the committee to look into the alleged “several infractions by the Central Bank of Nigeria against the provisions of the enabling Act and Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the good people of Nigeria, especially in the area of intervention projects and programs.”
The committee is to report back within eight weeks for further legislative action.
These resolutions were based on a motion moved by a member, Dachung Bagos, titled ‘Need to Investigate Unclaimed Funds in Nigerian Commercial Banks and the Infractions by the Central Bank of Nigeria,’ which the lawmakers unanimously adopted.
Moving the motion, Bagos noted that the Bank Verification Number was introduced by the CBN in 2014 to the Nigerian banking system as a way of checking and combating money laundering, illicit financing and duplicitous ownership of bank accounts used for fraud.
He also noted that about seven years after the introduction of the BVN, about 45.85 million bank accounts across Nigeria are yet to be linked to BVNs, as data released by the Nigerian Inter–Bank Settlement Systems on June 23, 2021, disclosed that the total number of bank accounts in Nigeria, as of May 2019, was pegged at 122.071 million and the active accounts, as of May, 2020 stood at 72.936 million.
On Monday, the committee was inaugurated with several invited ministries, departments and agencies of the Federal Government as well as banks in attendance.
Unyime Idem, chairman of the committee, after representatives of the MDAs made their remarks, said, “For commercial banks, this resolution stipulates that you submit documents that would help us recover unclaimed funds in about 45 million accounts that are not linked to the BVN.
“About 45 million accounts are what the House has been able to discover through the recent reports. Those accounts are not linked to BVN. So, money in those accounts, we want to know the positions, whether you have refunded the FG or what happened to the funds. You are going to give us documents to back these investigations.”
According to Idem, the committee’s assignment is “enormous, crucial and sensitive, given what the country is facing economically.”
He said, “We believe that the outcome of it (probe) would help the country to recover a very substantial part of the unclaimed funds that have been hanging in some of the Nigerian commercial banks and other unauthorized hands.
“Money meant for the Federal Government is not supposed to sit with unauthorized hands for a very long time. Any money that was disbursed or meant for the Federation Account, if the contract has failed or was not executed, the proper thing is for the money to be refunded to the same source it came from.
“But unfortunately, whether out of oversight or deliberate; for whatever reason, so much money, based on the recent discovery, has been tied down somewhere. That is what informed the National Assembly, precisely the House of Reps, to commence this investigative hearing.”
The lawmaker also read a riot act to the stakeholders, saying, “For commercial banks and other agencies that are sitting on these funds that belong to the Federal Government, that are not willing show cooperation and not willing to refund; for banks that are collecting funds on behalf of the government, I think this House would not have a choice but to stop you from collecting funds on behalf of the government if you don’t show cooperation.
“But if you do, it would be a win-win. When we look at your books and then you check the one that belongs to the government and refund it appropriately, there would not be any issue.”
Earlier while declaring the event open, Ahmed Wase, deputy speaker of the House, noted that the motion stated that about N1.2tn was not paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund. He said the probe was necessary “so that we can improve the infrastructure deficit and other challenges in our nation.”
In his remarks, Ben Akabueze, Director-General of the Budget Office, who represented Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, noted that over years, there had been circulars from government authorities to those concerned to enforce the TSA and BVN policies.
Akabueze said, “When we received this invitation that talked about unclaimed funds in Nigerian commercial banks, basically, my initial reading of this was that it was related to inactive accounts, dormant accounts; because the extant regulation guiding the management of these issued by the CBN, in October 2015, provides guidelines for the management of inactive accounts, dormant accounts and unclaimed funds.
“Those guidelines obligate any bank to have notified the Federal Government of the existence of any such funds belonging to it. If they had, I am sure that those funds would not be there. I hope, without prejudice to the work of this committee, that the CBN would also do the job of enforcing its own guidelines.
“As the work of the committee progresses, whatever other specific information required of us as a ministry, we would be able to provide.”
Breaking: Tinubu sacks Emefiele as CBN Governor, appoints Cardoso, four other deputies
Cardoso is a former commissioner for budget and economic planning during the first term of Tinubu as the Lagos state governor Lagos.
The statement is titled, ‘President Tinubu nominates new CBN governor and management team for senate screening and confirmation.’
Tinubu also approved the nomination of four new Deputy Governors of the Central Bank of Nigeria, for a term of five years at the first instance, pending their confirmation by the Senate.
They include Mrs. Emem Usoro, Mr. Muhammad Dattijo, Mr. Philip Ikeazor, and Dr. Bala M. Bello.
“In line with President Bola Tinubu’s Renewed Hope agenda, the President expects the above-listed nominees to successfully implement critical reforms at the Central Bank of Nigeria, which will enhance the confidence of Nigerians and international partners in the restructuring of the Nigerian economy toward sustainable growth and prosperity for all,” the statement added
Dr. Yemi Cardoso is a financial and development expert with over thirty years of experience in the private, public and not-for-profit sectors.
He is a member of the Belgian-based Cities Alliance Think Tank which aims to shape and influence policy and decision-making on urban development in Africa and has strong relationships with key international donor agencies.
He has his first degree from the University of Aston, United Kingdom and his second degree from Harvard University, USA.
In 2017, he was awarded an honorary doctorate degree in business administration by his alma mater, Aston University, in recognition of “his outstanding contributions to business and society.
Customs, 62 government agencies may lose revenue- collection functions to FIRS.
He emphasized that many MDAs, which were not originally designed for revenue collection, have been burdened with this task, diverting their focus from their core functions that are essential for economic facilitation.
“The objective is to enable organizations like Customs to concentrate on trade facilitation and border protection, and regulatory bodies like the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to focus solely on telecommunications regulation.
” This realignment will enhance efficiency, decrease collection costs, and promote transparency in revenue management.”
He acknowledged that there might be resistance from stakeholders who currently benefit from the existing process, but underscored the committee’s intention to ensure that revenues are directed to the government as intended.
Olawepo- Hashim foresees economic boom under Tinubu’s multi- pronged reform programmes
A stakeholder in Nigeria’s Energy Sector and a former Presidential Candidate, Mr. Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim, has predicted a phenomenal economic rebound in Nigeria owing to the current financial and economic reforms embarked on by the newly inaugurated administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu in the past one month.
The 2022 trade surplus of only $2.85 billion dwindles in comparison to 2014’s $54.1 billion.
Also, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into Nigeria’s economy fell from $2.2 billion in 2014 to $0.47 billion in 2022, while budget deficit rose by 370.54 percent from 2016 to 2023.
Total public debt as of June 2013 was N7.93 trillion. It’s now at around N77 trillion.
But in the last one month, the President has announced two major economic reforms.
The petrol subsidies, experts agree, have strained Nigeria’s public accounts, contributing to a situation where higher global oil prices hurt, rather than help the economy.
Addressing journalists in Abuja, the nation’s capital on Monday, Olawepo-Hashim noted that the current policy reforms have eliminated distortions in the foreign exchange management on the one hand; and the removal of the corrupt system of oil subsidies on the other hand.
Before now, in Nigeria, there are four foreign exchange (FX) markets: the Interbank FX market, the Investors and Exporters (I&E) window, Bureau De Change (BDC) window, and the Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) window.
However, due to the limited FX supply from exporters and foreign investors, the CBN played a significant role in supplying FX (in this case, USD) to these windows.
Olawepo-Hashim however stated that the policy to unify the exchange windows should have a long-term positive effect on foreign exchange rate and free flow of capital in the country while also yielding a positive impact due to increased confidence in the new government.
According to him, the removal of the subsidies regime in the pricing of Petroleum products is expected to lead to more investment in Mid and Downstream sub sectors of the oil and gas sectors with a net effect of the creation of value-added needed jobs.
He stressed that the new law on decentralization of electricity generation, transmission, and distribution, if properly implemented with concomitant policies, is capable of attracting about 300 billion US dollars over 5 to 7 years into the electricity sector from local and foreign financing sources.
Olawepo-Hashim equally explained that Nigeria per capital comparison with South Africa needs to generate, transmit and distribute about 200,000 MW of electricity, adding that “we can if we stay steadfast to needed reform.
“Nigeria recorded that feat before with liberalization of the telecom sector as she moved from a nation of 400,000 telephone lines in 1999 to a nation of 222 million active lines now.”
While stressing the importance of a naira exchange rate based on market indicators and informed projections to settle around 660 Naira to 1 US Dollar in the exchange market within the next 6 to 9 months, he urged the government to pay attention to immediate deployment of relevant social intervention programmes to cushion the effect of inflation on the burgeoning numbers of the poor.
He also emphasized that “our economic growth expectations must be inclusive and must not leave the majority of our people behind.
“It is a great season of hope and confidence for Nigeria. The nation is steadily on to an assured future as an economic powerhouse and great nation.”
Olawepo-Hashim argued that “Nigeria with the right policy mix will exceed the projection of Price Water Cooper that Nigeria will be the 9th largest economy in the world by 2050 adding that “we are capable of hitting the great economic Milestone predicted by PWC much earlier and climbing higher on the ladder.”
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