A Federal High Court judge in Abuja who granted an order for bank accounts not linked to Bank Verification Numbers (BVNs) to be frozen has reversed his decision.
Justice Nnamdi Dimgba explained that he later learned that his October 17 order created an “awkward and unfortunate result.”
The reversal means that those who have not linked their bank accounts will now be able to do so at their convenient time.
Customers, however, won’t be able to withdraw funds from unlinked accounts, until such accounts are linked.
Mr. Dimgba granted the controversial orders while ruling on an ex-parte motion filed by the Attorney-General, Mr Abubakar Malami that under the Money Laundering Act (2011), bank accounts not linked to BVNs were suspicious and sought absolute forfeiture of all funds trapped therein.
A human rights activist and lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa has criticised the interim forfeiture order made by a federal high court for the forfeiture of funds in bank accounts that have not been linked to BVN.
According to Adegboruwa, the order is mindboggling and constitutes a serious setback for the war against corruption.
“This BVN thing is a great embarrassment to us as lawyers and people who love this government for the fight against corruption because, indeed, we support every effort to recover our (stolen) funds,” he said during an appearance on Channels Television’s Politics Today.
Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court in Abuja gave the interim forfeiture order following the application by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami.
But that decision has sparked a debate and Adegboruwa who is in the ‘against’ camp believes there is a need to separate public funds from private assets.
“Because the Constitution in Section 43, 44 grants every citizen the right to property. Those properties can be movable, they can be immovable. They can be cash, they can be buildings, they can be motor cars,” he said.
“For anybody to forfeit your rights to those assets, for anybody to acquire your rights in those assets, you must be heard (in court) and there must be allegations against you.”
Millions of accounts are expected to be affected by the order which also froze the accounts in question and which covers individuals, corporate bodies and government agencies without BVN across the country.
Beyond faulting the grounds for the decision, Adegboruwa is also concerned with the implication it will have if allowed to stand.
“Forfeiture is like a punishment and without an offence – written down, specified and passed on to the person who is concerned, you can’t take my money; it is my property, it is my vested interest, it is my asset,” he said.
“So, when you look at the circumstance of this case, for instance, the first plaintiff in the case is the Federal Government of Nigeria. The second plaintiff is the Attorney-General, the Attorney-General is the chief law officer of the federation. What is the business of the honourable Attorney-General in enforcing the policy of an agency of government like the Central Bank that is created by law as a corporation with its own powers?”
He argued that if a customer of a bank fails to comply with the policy of the Central Bank, it is not the Attorney-General that should pursue the case.
Forty-six million bank accounts have yet to be linked to Biometric Verification numbers and the funds in them will likely be temporarily forfeited to the Federal Government, the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Prosecution has said.
Mr Okoi Obono-Obla, who appeared on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics, believes the Federal Government will be justified should this happen.
His comments come in reaction to an order of interim forfeiture made by Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court in Abuja.
The judge had ordered a temporary forfeiture of funds and freezing of accounts domiciled in 19 Banks not covered by the Biometric Verification Number (BVN).
The BVN was launched in February 2014 and as of October 8, 2017, 30.5 million bank customers have been issued BVNs with 51 million accounts linked to the numbers.
But for Obono-Obla who is also the Chairman of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property, the number of accounts yet to be linked remain alarming.
“From Central Bank statistics, 46 million accounts are yet to be linked with BVN numbers after three years,” he said, stressing however that he doesn’t know how much money the accounts hold.
According to him, those who have not linked their accounts to BVN had violated a CBN policy had themselves to blame.
“Anyone who has not complied with that directive, it means that his account is fraudulent and so whatever is there should go to the government,” he said.
Despite criticism of the decision and arguments that it is drastic, the Presidential aide does not think it is that stringent, especially after the extension of deadlines over time.
For him, “Our laws are not even as strict as what we find in the U.S. In the United States, if you do not operate in a bank account for three years, all the money in that account goes to the federal government of the United States of America.”
Mr Obono-Obla also faulted the argument that it is not everyone that has an account which is not linked to a BVN that is fraudulent, saying that failure to comply with the BVN policy more than two years after it was implemented suggested that the accounts are fraudulent.
He added, “You don’t expect the government to sit back. Government must take action to ensure that these accounts are closed or government must take action to find out who are the owners of these accounts. Why have they not linked these accounts with BVN as directed by the Central Bank of Nigeria, the regulator?”
The Presidential aide also blasted banks for aiding corruption and financial crime, saying, “I will never absolve the banks from the endemic and pandemic corruption we have because the banks promote corruption. They know these accounts, they know people who bring money into these accounts and some of these accounts are fake.”
Kogi state government has uncovered 18,471 ghost workers and unintended beneficiaries in the state civil service and pension.
The Staff Review and Complaint Committee Chairman, Yakubu Okala, stated this during the reading of the final screening report in Lokoja the state capital.
He noted that the unintended beneficiaries have gulped over 2.6 billion Naira from the state government every month.
Judges, members of the state legislative arm of government, top government functionaries, staffs of agencies and parastatals, organised labour, APC members and supporters, all attended the official presentation of the final screening report at the glass hall of the government house.
While submitting the report to Governor Bello for implementation, the audience were all amazed as the committee chairman read out their findings.
Mr Okala also noted that his committee discovered quite a number of minors in the state and local government pay rolls, while some were earning double salaries from the state government’s pause.
Governor Bello commended the committee for a work well done and promised to implement all the committee’s recommendation.
He also promised to engage those who would no longer be included in the state pay roll.
The committee was set up on July 26, 2016 by Governor Yahaya Bello to look into what was described as a shoddy work earlier done by the General Okutimo (Rtd) and Dr. Jerry Agbaji committees.
They had the mandate to come up with a recommendation that would “re-position the state civil service and public service for optimal performance.
“To subject to scrutiny the list of staff that have been adjudged, identified and authenticated by the screening and verification committee.
“To receive complaints from staff and determine the genuineness or otherwise of their complaints to determine and set out criteria for accessing thoroughness among others.”
The Nigerian government is set to begin the restructuring and refocusing of the multi-billion Naira Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria (YouWin) programme.
Consultations with beneficiaries and other stakeholders on the restructuring has started with the objective of injecting new ideas for its sustainability, a statement by a director with the Ministry of Finance, Salisu Dambatta, said.
The Ministry, which has been running the programme from inception, has scheduled the consultation for July 22 in Abuja, where representatives of the beneficiaries drawn from the six-geo-political zones and other stakeholders would chart a way forward for the programme.
Under the programme, which took off under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2011, a total of 18, 000 young entrepreneurs have been trained in various aspects of Small and Medium Enterprises management and business skills.
At least 3, 900 of them, including 1, 200 women, were each given non-repayable take-off grants for businesses of their choice ranging from one million Naira up to a maximum of 10 million Naira.
The statement read: “The third edition of the programme, which is still running with 1,500 beneficiaries, has received the sum of 11.2 billion Naira in funding, and so far grants totaling 7.4 billion Naira have been disbursed to the awardees. In June 2016 alone, the sum of 1.687 billion Naira was paid to 638 awardees”.
The Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, said that as part of the change agenda of the current administration, the YouWin programme had to be restructured to ensure efficiency, transparency and accountability in investing the capital grants given to the beneficiaries by the Federal Government.
Mrs Adeosun confirmed that all government’s commitments under the YouWIN programme would be fully met, but stressed that due diligence would be carried out on every beneficiary, using tools like the Bank Verification Number (BVN), and before disbursements.
The Kaduna State government says it has identified over 13,000 suspected ghost workers in the state civil service.
The Head of Service, Mrs Alisabatu Dada-Onazi, disclosed this while briefing journalists at the end of the state executive council meeting.
She explained that the ghost workers were uncovered after series of verification exercises were conducted to ascertain the actual number of genuine civil servants on the Kaduna State government payroll.
The Head of Service pointed out that the decision to embark on the verification exercise was informed by the disturbing amount of money being paid as workers’ salaries every month, whereby government spends all its allocation from the federation account on overhead costs.
She vowed that all those involved in the criminal act would be prosecuted accordingly.
Following the verification exercise, Mrs Dada-Onazi said that the number of workers in the state civil service has been reduced from over 88,000 to 75,726.
She, however, apologized to all who suffered hardship while the exercises lasted.
The Oyo State government has temporarily struck out the names of 16, 532 workers and pensioners from its payroll following their alleged involvement in collection of multiple salaries, elongation of retirement age and other infractions.
Those affected were drawn from a total 100,259 workers and pensioners screened from the ministries, departments and parastatals, as well as the teaching service, local government, Broadcasting Service of Oyo State, judiciary, Water Corporation and tertiary institutions.
The Secretary to the State Government, Olalekan Alli, disclosed this at a press conference held at the Parliament Building, Secretariat, Ibadan which had in attendance the state’s Head of Service, Mr Soji Eniade; Special Adviser on Communication and Strategy, Mr Yomi Layinka; and Senior Special Assistant, Print and Broadcast Media, Mr Akin Oyedele.
The SSG said that the decision was reached after a forensic verification exercise conducted by the renowned Nigerian Interbank Settlement Systems Plc revealed the likely existence of ghost workers within the system.
Alli said that the exercise was part of ongoing efforts by the state to clean up its payroll of fake workers and pensioners fleecing the state of its commonwealth.
He, however, clarified that the affected 16,532 people would have opportunity to clear their names when they appear before a four-member panel constituted by the government to authenticate findings by the NIBSS.
To erase doubts and allay fears of witch-hunting, he said that the panel would comprise representatives of the government, the consultants and the workers’ union, while the permanent secretary, Ministry of Finance, would serve as secretary.
After the forensic computerized data audit, he said that the consultants from NIBSS Plc found many instances of inconsistencies, variations and entry details that did not tally involving 16, 532 employees, out of a total 100,250 workforce analyzed.
The SSG listed revelations from the audit exercise to include multiple salary payments into single account, multiple salary payment to single name, employees that have passed retirement age, invalid BVN, invalid bank accounts and name details and employees with mismatched names.
He promised that findings by the proposed panel would be made public, stressing that any of the affected people found to have been wrongly categorized as ghost worker would be reinstated.
The Ogun State Government has said it would commence payment of workers’ salaries with the Bank Verification Number (BVN) starting from April.
The State Government on Friday, said that the plan would allow government have a grip on the number of workers in its pay roll.
The decision was part of the fall-out of a meeting with the state’s labour leaders which was aimed at finding an amicable resolution to some of the contentious issue which led to an industrial action by the state workers.
The meeting was attended by the Deputy Governor of the state, Yetunde Onanuga and the Secretary to the State Government, Taiwo Adeoluwa among others.
While giving the rationale behind the decision, Mr Adeoluwa maintained that the action was not to witch hunt anyone, but attempts to ensure accountability in government finances.
Speaking on behalf of the labour leaders who attended the meeting, the Chairman of the Joint Negotiating Council, Dare Ilekoya, seized the occasion to demand that membership of cooperative societies be made voluntary by the government.
Deductions from cooperatives is one of the issues in contention by the Labour Unions.
The Kwara State Governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed, says the ongoing Bank verification Number (BVN) process for civil servants in the state will enable the state fish out ghost workers and punish those involved in shady deals.
Governor Ahmed told Channels Television on Saturday that the first phase of the exercise had been concluded with some discoveries.
“Those who did not obtain their BVN will not get their salaries,” the Governor said.
He further assured residents of the State of the determination of his government to complete all ongoing projects.
The Governor also reiterated the readiness of the Federal Government to fix the Nigerian economy for the betterment of the citizens.
While addressing leaders of the All Progressive Congress across the 16 local government areas of the state, Governor Ahmed pointed out that since the local government election was close, efforts should be made to ensure that only those who have the interest of the masses at heart are chosen.