By: Akin Akinremi
The Task Force on the Implementation of the Failed Bank Act has given notice to re-arrest for prosecution, directors and officers of licensed banks who had committed banking malpractices and had absconded.
The Task Force had at its 38th meeting held on 13th March, 2017 reviewed some pending investigations by the Police Financial Malpractices investigation Unit (FMIU) under the Failed Banks Act comprising seventeen (17) cases involving ten (10) closed Microfinance Banks [MFBs] in which fifteen (15) former Directors of the MFBs were involved. It also reviewed two (2) cases of closed Deposit Money Banks [DMBs] involving their former Directors.
One of the closed DMBs cases currently under prosecution was FRN vs. Prince Adekunle Adeyeba & Ors where the accused persons being erstwhile directors of the closed Gulf Bank of Nigeria Plc. were facing trial over banking malpractices involving N15.1 billion of depositors funds in that closed bank.
The Task Force also reviewed about sixteen (16) criminal cases being prosecuted under the Failed Banks Act in which prosecution had been stalled as a result of the fact that the accused persons in those cases had jumped bail and had absconded from the country in the heat of their investigation and prosecution.
The sureties that took them on bail had also disappeared.
The Task Force noted that some of those accused persons had sneaked back into the country in the hope that their prosecutions might have been terminated.
It is against this backdrop that the Task Force gave the notice that such accused persons would be re-arrested and prosecuted to serve as a warning to other bank offenders, adding that the Task Force would leave no stone unturned to ensure that erring bank offenders were brought to book.
It would be recalled that the Failed Banks [Recovery of Debts] and Financial Malpractices in Banks Act 1994 [Failed Banks Act] was promulgated to recover debts owed to Failed Banks which had remained outstanding as at the date the banks were closed or declared failed and to prosecute directors and officers of licensed banks who had committed banking malpractices.
In July 1995, the Inspector General of Police established a special Police Unit called the Failed Banks Inquiry to assist the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Central Bank of Nigeria implement the criminal aspects of the Failed Banks Act through investigation of criminal complaints referred to the Unit by the Regulatory Authorities.
On the 28th of December 1998, the Hon. Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice constituted the Task Force on Implementation of the Failed Banks Act, [The Task Force].
The objective of the Task Force was to co-ordinate the different agencies involved in implementation of the criminal aspects of the Failed Banks Act in order to achieve heightened police investigation and legal officers/ private legal practitioners’ prosecution of suspects under the Failed Banks Act.
The members of the Task Force comprised the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation as Chairman, the Federal Ministry of Justice represented by the Director of Public Prosecution of the Federation, the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Failed Banks Inquiry [ now Financial Malpractices Investigation Unit], the Special Fraud Unit of the Police and subsequently, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
In carrying out its objective, the Task Force reviewed the police investigation of suspects and the prosecution of accused persons by state counsel and private legal practitioners issued with the Fiat of the Hon. Attorney General of the Federation under the Failed Banks Act. Generally, the mandate of the Task Force was to superintend over the investigation and prosecution of failed bank cases from commencement of police investigation to ensure early arraignment of suspects before the Tribunals.