OrderPaperToday – The House of Representatives has resolved to investigate trillions of naira of unclaimed funds in some 71 million accounts held in commercial banks without the compulsory Bank Verification Number (BVN) as compulsorily required by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Consequently, the House resolved to set up an ad-hoc committee to investigate the unclaimed funds sitting with commercial banks, including trapped government funds for advanced payment for contracts.

The House further mandated the committee to also investigate the unremitted funds collected on behalf of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the Federal Government by commercial banks.

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The above resolutions were sequel to the adoption of a motion brought by Dachung Bagos (PDP, Plateau)

Leading debate on the matter, Bagos noted that the Bank Verification Number (BVN) 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.

Bagos disclosed that “almost seven years after the introduction of the BVN into Nigeria banking system, 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 (NIBSS) on June 23, 2021, disclosed that the total number of bank accounts in Nigeria as of May 2019 is pegged at 122.071 million and the active accounts as of May, 2020 stood at 72.936 million.”

The lawmaker said financial experts have held the position that there exist suspicious bank deposits detected after Nigeria adopted the BVN system running into trillions of naira left unclaimed in Nigerian banks because their owners had failed to register a BVN or link to existing ones where appropriate.”

He stated further that “the commercial banks in Nigeria have adamantly disobeyed and continue to hold on to the monies out of failed transactions more than necessary, against the directives of the Central Bank of Nigeria and to the detriment of Nigerians.

“Despite the introduction by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) of the Bank Verification Number

(BVN) to curb the menace in the financial sectors, about 71 million customers still use their accounts without the compulsory identification, per data from the Nigerian Inter–Bank Settlement Systems (NIBSS).”

He expressed concern over the “the lack of legal regulatory framework and political will to deal with the unclaimed assets especially funds abandoned and trapped in commercial banks will continue to put Nigeria behind so many countries in the world that have developed the legal framework to deal with these assets.

Bagos also noted that the “recent disclosure about the funds collected by Commercial Banks on behalf of some key Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the Federal Government to the tune of N1.2 trillion, in revenues they generated but failed to remit to the Federation’s account since 2016, as required by law,” adding that it is concerning that “some commercial banks have refused to remit to the government fees and levies collected on behalf of government agencies and departments in the last 10 years.”

He said “although the Central Bank of Nigeria has the statutory responsibility of regulating commercial banks in the country, they have failed in their responsibilities to carry out the necessary oversight on the commercial banks,” adding that the apex bank “has not been transparent in the implementation of its intervention programmes and projects, and have shown an almost zero level of accountability and transparency before the National Assembly in respect of funds generated both locally and internationally.”

The motion was passed when the presiding officer Femi Gbajabiamila put the question and it was referred to an adhoc committee to be chaired by Mr. Uyime Idem (PDP, Akwa lbom).

Recall that the House had also instituted a probe of unclaimed dividends although nothing was heard on that again.

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