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.”