A bill seeking 20 years jail term for fraudulent bank staff and yearly declaration of their assets has passed second reading in the House of Representatives.
If passed into law, those found guilty of defrauding customers of their deposits will liable to 20 years imprisonment and forfeiture of the excess asset or its equivalent in money to the Federal Government, upon conviction.
The House is also moving to provide for yearly declaration of assets by bankers in the country with a view to ensuring that ill-gotten funds from fraudulent activities are not laundered through asset acquisition.
The sanctions are stipulated in the proposed Bank Employee Declaration of Assets Act Amendment Bill, 2020 which scaled through second reading in the House of Representatives on Wednesday.
The Bill promoted by Hon. Francis Waive (PDP, Delta) seeks to make the punishment for fraud by bank employees more punitive so as to serve as deterrent to other bank staffers.
Lawmakers also proposed further amendments to the Bill to the effect that a holistic definition of bank employees should include CEOs, Chairmen of Boards and Board of Directors whom they said said are fond of taking loans without collateral only to decline payment, declaring same as bad loans, thereby wrecking the bank and putting it out of business.
It therefore intends to amend section 7(2) of the principal Act to provide that any employee guilty of fraudulent activities shall on conviction be liable to imprisonment for 20 years from the current 10 years and shall, in addition, “forfeit the excess asset or its equivalent in money to the Federal Government”.
The proposed legislation also seek to amend Section 5 (1) of the principal Act by substituting the existing words with new words which read: “The Chief Executive of every bank shall once in every year, but not later than 7th January submit to the appropriate authority a list of all employees who joined or left the employment of the bank in the immediate proceeding 12 months expiring on 31st December of the proceeding year.”
In a lead debate on the general principles of the Bill, the sponsor said it is meant to have updated data of staff for easy tracing of those involved in fraudulent activities and to increase their punishment to serve as deterrent to others.
Waive said: “We are in days when bank fraud has increased with Yahoo business that the young people are doing. The aim here is to increase punishment up to 20 years imprisonment to serve as a deterrent so that this upsurge we are seeing today in fraudulent activities in bank accounts is brought to minimum or eliminated completely.”
In his submission, Yusuf Gagdi (APC, Plateau) however called for the increase of the imprisonment period for offenders under the proposed amendment beyond 20 years, just as he called for the passage of the Bill to serve as a deterrent to bank officials that take the trust between them and customers for granted.
“Bank transaction between bank officials and customers is based on trust and everybody is aware of how some bank officials take that position of trust for granted. In different circumstances, bank officials suffocate and frustrate their customers for no reason because there is no legal framework that brings those officials to order.
“So, Mr Speaker, I think we should not even be interested in the 20 years. In my opinion, it should be more. If I keep my money in your bank, fraudulently some bank officials conspired with fraudsters to take money from customers accounts and again they are under oath but they disclose information regarding some customers that do not play their own cards,” Gagdi said.