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CBN Seeks Shell Banks Abolished In Nigeria

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The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has called for the abolition of shell banks in the country, saying they serve as institutions for money laundering.

Shell banks are institutions that carry out activities where they are not licensed.

Mr Godwin Emefiele, CBN governor, made the request in Abuja on Tuesday at a public hearing organised by the House committee on Banking and Currency on a Bill to amend the Banking and Other Financial Institutions Act (BOFIA) and other bills.

He said that the shell banks, apart from being used for money laundering, distort the banking system and might pose a problem to regulatory agencies.

Emefiele, represented by the Director, Legal Services Department, Mr Johnson Akinwunmi said “we wish to propose the introduction of new subsections 3(6) and (7) for the proscription of shell banks in response to the latest recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on money laundering.”

Similarly, the CBN is also seeking additional powers to revoke licences of banks and “power to inject funds into a falling bank by way of equity participation up to a level that guarantees control by CBN”.

The additional powers, according to the governor, is to enable the CBN acquire equity investment institutions and its ability to ensure a sound financial system.

The CBN also backed the House of Representatives in imposing stiffer penalties and terms of imprisonment of certain offences on erring commercial banks and their staff.

But in his presentation, the Director of Legal/board secretary, Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), Mr Belema Taribo opposed the proposed fines saying they were too high.

“The NDIC, as a deposit insurer supports the passage of the bill into law as the current fine of N1000 does not meet contemporary realities.

“However, it is our submission that the proposed penalty of N200,000 is above 100 per cent increment from the current penalty. In view of the above, we propose a fine of N5000.”

On the issuance of licence, NDIC proposed that the CBN should seek its consent before granting an application for banking licence.

“This is to enable the corporation to have a prior evaluation of the applicants with regard to insurance of deposits.”

In his welcome address, Chairman of the House Committee on Banking and Currency, Rep. Jones Onyereri, said that increase in penalties to the bank operators would streamline the operations of such banks to conform to international best practices.

He said that the proposed amendments to the Bofia Act 2017 were initiated by three lawmakers, which include Reps. Daniel Reyeneiju (Delta-PDP), Betty Apiafi (Rivers-PDP) and Jones Onyeriri (Imo-PDP).

Some of the penalties in the proposed amendments to the BOFIA Act 2017 include a fine of N20 million on banks that fail to comply with the conditions of the licence, a fine of N20 million on any director that fails to declare any property he/she owns that runs contrary to the Act.

“A fine of N10 million against a director or manager that fails to keep a book of account and a fine of N2 million on banks that fail to publish its annual report of its general meeting in two reputable national dailies among others”

While declaring the public hearing opened, the Speaker, Mr Yakubu Dogara, said the House opted for stiffer penalties of millions of Naira as fine for commercial banks which engaged in an illegal deduction of spurious charges on customers accounts domiciled in such banks.

Dogara, who was represented by the House Deputy Minority Leader, Rep. Chukwuka Onyema, said that the process of law making was dynamic noting that bank customers have not stop compiling of spurious charges on their accounts.

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E-Financial

EFCC Accuses Access Bank Manager of Stealing N1.2Bn

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Mr Arthur Ezindu, an employee of Access Bank Plc has been arraigned alongside one Oyebode Oteyebi by officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for allegedly stealing money belonging to customers of the bank.

 

At the Ikeja High Court, Lagos, where he was arraigned, Mr Ezindu narrated how a former Account General Manager (RGM), Mr Olayinka Sanni, allegedly stole the sum of N1.2 billion from several accounts belonging to customers of the bank.

 

The suspect, who is battling with an 8 count charge bothering on stealing, forgery and uttering of forged document, gave his office address as Block 99C Damole, off Adeola Odeku, and testified as prosecution witness before the court.

 

While being led in evidence by Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, EFCC lawyer, Mr Ezindu claimed that Mr Sanni withdrew the said sum of money from different customers’ accounts without their consent and thereafter issued them a forged document of confirmation which he claimed emanated from the bank.

 

The employee told the Special Offences Court that Olayinka, who was his boss at the time of the incident, was a regional Executive, Lagos Mainland North at Intercontinental bank, now Access Bank.

 

According to him, “The bank received several complaints from several customers whose accounts were debited without their consent.

 

“Some of these customers’ accounts include: the Falana Falana Chambers; Babington Junior Seminary; Viju Industries; Mechano Nigeria, PWU Nigeria; Elizade Nigeria; Murhi international Group.

 

“However, during the preliminary investigation, we noticed that all the complains were centered on our staff, Olayinka Sanni.

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“We invited him to the head office for questioning but he claimed that everything was under control. He told us not to bother investigating the matter on the grounds that there was more behind what was happening.

 

“So since he was our senior officer, being the AGM at that time, we decided to petition his case to the EFCC for proper investigation.

 

When asked how much was involved as at the time the bank petitioned for EFCC, Ezindu replied, “The total sum was about N1.2 billion.”

 

The prosecution thereafter tendered the petition dated September 2011 in evidence.

 

Meanwhile, the two defendants were also arraigned alongside a company, Sidaw Ventures Limited, which was allegedly used to transfer and cash out the stolen funds.

 

The employee further said: “During the preliminary investigation, the bank discovered that the company, Sidaw had Adamu as its signatory while Sanni indirectly manages the account.

 

“Some of the handwriting on the cheques belong to Sanni. He was the one indirectly signing and filling the cheques for Adamu.”

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CBN Begins Chinese Yuan sales

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The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on Friday launched the sale of foreign exchange in Chinese Yuan (CNY) signalling the consummation of the Nigeria-China Currency Swap Agreement.

The CBN acting Director, Corporate Communications, Mr Isaac Okorafor, said that the sale would be done through a combination of Spot and Short Tenored Forwards.

Okorafor added that the sale would be conducted through a Special Secondary Market Intervention Sales (SMIS) window.

He explained that the window would be dedicated to the payment of Renminbi Denominated Letters of Credit for raw materials, machinery and agriculture.

He said “due to the peculiarity of the exercise, CBN will not be applying the relevant provisions of its Revised Guidelines for the Operation of Inter-Bank Foreign Exchange Market, that is; the guidelines which direct that SMIS bids be submitted to CBN through Forex Primary Dealers.

“The CBN will also not be applying the guidelines which provide that Spot FX sold to any particular end-user shall not exceed 1 per cent of the overall available funds on offer at each SMIS session.”

On the bid period, Okorafor said authorised dealers were requested to submit their customers’ bids from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on weekdays.

He said that any bid received after the stipulated time would be disqualified.

On funding, he said that authorised dealers were to debit the customers’ accounts for the Naira equivalent of their bids.

He added that the CBN would debit authorised dealers’ current account on the day of intervention to the tune of the Naira equivalent of their bid request.

Okorafor explained that there would be no predetermined spread on the sale of CNY by authorised dealers to end-users under the Special SMIS-Retail window.

He said that authorised dealers would, however, be allowed to earn 50 kobo on the customers’ bids.

He advised customers who were not willing to accept the settlement terms not to participate in the Special SMIS – Retail.

He added that Forward Bids would be settled through a multiple-price book building process and would cut-off at a marginal rate to be disclosed after the conclusion of the Special SMIS Retail process.

He also urged customers who were not willing to accept the terms of the forward rate not to participate in the Special Chinese Yuan SMIS Intervention.

Okorafor said that the CBN reserved the right not to make a sale if it had the impression that the exercise did not provide effective price for the determination of the CNY to NGN exchange rate.

The Federal Government on April 27, signed a 2.5-billion-dollar Currency Swap Agreement with the People’s Bank of China.

The primary aim is to provide adequate local currency liquidity to Nigerian and Chinese industrialists and also assist both countries in their foreign exchange reserves management.

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Nigerians Bury Cash in Backyards as M/Money Stumbles

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Lack of confidence; issues around access and sundry matters have conspired to hobble mobile money services, dampening excitements, after initial hype touted mobile money as the next big thing.

 

As a result, most Nigerians still prefer keeping money at home rather than taking it to the bank as Bloomberg found in this report

 

According to Bloomberg, every few days, Tasiu Abdurrahman takes the money he makes from selling spices in Nigeria’s biggest northern city and buries it in his yard.

 

The 55-year-old closed his bank account eight years ago after growing disillusioned with standing in long lines for hours to deposit or withdraw cash.

 

Abdurrahman is one of about 50 million of the unbanked in Nigeria, which despite having Africa’s largest mobile-phone market, is only just opening up to the technology to bring banking to its estimated 200 million people.

 

“My business partners need cash,” said Abdurrahman as he juggled two mobile phones at his ginger and tamarind stand, one of many dotting the streets in Kano. “If they all opened bank accounts, I would be happy to.”

 

Financial inclusion in Nigeria — which vies with South Africa as the continent’s biggest economy — has gone backward as the regulator blocked network operators from applying for mobile-money licenses that would allow cash transfers without the need for a bank account. Between 2014 and 2017, the percentage of banked adults dropped nearly 4 percentage points to 39 percent, while the sub-Saharan African average increased more than 8 percentage points to 43 percent.

 

Bucking Regional Trend

Financial inclusion in Nigeria receded, while the continent on average saw gains

The Central Bank of Nigeria this month announced it is not on track to reach its target of increasing financial inclusion to 80 percent by 2020. It is now reviewing the path it took in 2012 with a “refreshed strategy” and has also signed a cooperation agreement with the Nigerian Communications Commission to improve the penetration of financial services using mobile phones.

Baby Steps

Less than 6 percent of Nigerians use their handsets to transact using mobile money, compared with 73 percent of Kenyans, where more than two-thirds of adults have a bank account, according to the World Bank. That’s even though there are more than two phones for every bank account in the West African nation.

Mobile First

According to Bloomberg Nigerians own twice as many mobile-phone lines as they do bank accounts

“We’re taking baby steps when we should be running,” Yomi Ibosiola, an associate director at Deloitte Nigeria’s data analytics practice, said in an interview in Lagos, the commercial hub.

 

Cellular phone operators would invest more if they were allowed to lead the way, said Emeka Oparah, a spokesman for Bharti Airtel Ltd.’s Nigerian unit, which has 40 million subscribers.

 

“Right now, we’re only providing a platform for some people to use, if it becomes our business, we will invest in it,” Oparah said. The government should adjust its policies “if it wants to move very quickly.”

Verification Details

Fidelity Bank Plc allows people to open an account using a mobile phone, said Chief Operations and Information Officer Gbolahan Joshua. It is also using agents to offer banking services, such as small payments and deposits, through informal branches, he said, adding the lender has 3.9 million customers.

 

“When you open an account on your mobile, you can receive money but you cannot make payments,” Joshua said. “You need a Bank Verification Number to make transactions on that account you opened on mobile. Since the targets for financial inclusion are people that don’t have BVN already, some infrastructure needs to be deployed, like mobile BVN.”

 

There are efforts being made to remove those obstacles. One includes issuing identity numbers to 70 million people by the end of next year and pulling together the government’s various identity verification systems into a centralized database, which will make it easier for people to plug into financial services.

India Inspiration

The central bank has said it’s taking inspiration from India, where a government-biometric database known as Aadhaar helped grow financial inclusion from 53 percent to 80 between 2014 and 2017, by cutting the cost for banks of identifying a customer.

 

Regulators in Nigeria also announced an initiative in March that will help to increase banking agents to 500,000 within two years, from 100,000, according to estimates by Enhancing Financial Innovation & Access, or EFInA, a research organization.

 

“One of the major issues for banks has been the cost of going to those unprofitable areas,” said Henry Chukwu, who focuses on broadening agent networks at EFInA.

 

Most of the biggest lenders are focused on business banking. Zenith Bank Plc, the country’s largest lender with the equivalent of $15.4 billion in assets, makes about 6 percent of its revenue from retail banking and about 58 percent from corporates.

Push-Pull

There are not enough incentives for people to open bank accounts, especially among the poor, said Ameya Upadhyay, a principal in the investment team of Omidyar Network Fund Inc., which has invested in Pagatech, one of Nigeria’s first mobile-money providers, and another company that gives loans to small- and medium-sized businesses. About 87 million Nigerians live on less than $1.90 a day, according to Vienna-based World Data Lab’s World Poverty Clock.

 

“You have to create a ‘pull’ to these accounts and that happens when those accounts are meaningful to people’s every day lives,” he said, such as increasing the number of merchants with pay points or offering more insurance, savings or lending products. “People don’t eat accounts.”

 

Abdurrahman, the Kano spice merchant, agrees and remains unconvinced about using his phone to transact.

 

“I may decide to go for mobile money if more of my suppliers have it,” he said. “But for now I am very comfortable keeping cash at the shop to pay for supplies and keeping the rest at home.”

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