The federal government Task Force on the Implementation of the Failed Banks Act has commenced an intensive search for bank executives who fled the country in the wake of their investigation and prosecution over fraudulent practices.
The Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) confirmed wednesday that the task force had issued a notice to re-arrest for prosecution, directors and officers of licensed banks who had committed banking malpractices and had absconded.
Some of the accused bank executives, who fled Nigeria some years ago, were said to have sneaked back into the country in the hope that their prosecution might have been terminated or that investigations into their alleged criminal acts had ended.
It is against this backdrop, the NDIC said that the task force would go after the absconded suspects, with a view to bringing them to book to serve as a warning to other bank offenders.
"The task force would leave no stone unturned to ensure that erring bank offenders are apprehended and prosecuted," the Director of Legal Department, NDIC, Mr. B. A. Taribo, said in a statement.
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 17 cases involving 10 closed Microfinance Banks (MFBs) in which 15 former directors of the MFBs were involved.
It also reviewed two cases of closed commercial banks involving their former directors.
One of the closed commercial banks cases currently under prosecution, according to the NDIC, involved erstwhile directors of the closed Gulf Bank of Nigeria Plc, who were facing trial over banking malpractices involving N15.1 billion of depositors' funds.
The task force also reviewed about 16 criminal cases being prosecuted under the Failed Banks Act in which prosecution had been stalled because the accused persons had jumped bail and had absconded from the country in the heat of their investigation and prosecution.
The NDIC also said sureties of the absconded suspects had also disappeared.
The Failed Banks (Recovery of Debts) and Financial Malpractices in Banks Act 1994 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 NDIC 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 Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice constituted the Task Force on Implementation of the Failed Banks Act. The objective of the task force was to co-ordinate the different agencies involved in the 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 (EFCC).
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 banks cases from commencement of police investigation to ensure early arraignment of suspects before the tribunals.