Nigerians That Are Prohibited From Having Foreign Bank Accounts.

Nigerians That Are Prohibited From Having Foreign Bank Accounts. Daily Law Tips (Tip 704) by Onyekachi Umah, Esq., LL.M, ACIArb(UK)

 Introduction: 

If man is naturally selfish, then fraud and abuse of public fund is natural to man. With this, the few men that will be voted into power or promoted into public offices to manage the affairs and resources of man, must be people that are not naturally made or people that are diligently supervised by a system to stifle their natural tendencies to fraud, abuse and agreed. This is part of the logic behind the restriction placed on public office holders, politically exposed persons and other persons mingling with public resources. This work reveals the persons that are constitutionally prohibited from owning, maintaining or operating any bank account in any country outside Nigeria. 

Thieves’ Paradise: 

Most corrupt leaders and looters across the world, safekeep their stolen wealth outside their countries of theft. There are countries (mostly western countries) that promote and protect all funds including blood money. All it takes is to get a good lawyer/financial adviser, create a Trust or an offshore company and then an ill-gotten wealth becomes exempted from tax and even from any attempt to recover it by any person, law enforcement agency or country. While many small islands and some western countries are popular options, the safest locations are even some states in the United States of America. Names of the said locations are intentionally withheld in this work.

Tracing and recovering stolen funds become easy and fast when conducted in the country of the concerned recovery agent and if there are supporting legal pathways.  So, looters are always innovating better means of transferring and protecting their loots across border. By the way, it is very expensive to recover loots across border. To stop Nigerians from sending their loots across borders, the Constitution of Nigeria listed out some persons that should never own or operate a foreign account. 

Constitutional Prohibition On Foriegn Bank Accounts: 

The drafters of the Constitution of Nigeria are obviously not new to the offshore options for protection of stolen public funds. So, the most logical approach was to prohibit the keepers, managers and mixers of public offices and funds, from having foreign bank accounts. Well, the drafters at that time couldn’t have imagined the effect, dynamics and backdoors that will be created by cryptocurrency in decades to come after the year 1999. It is good that the Central Bank of Nigeria and federal legislatures are filling the gaps. 

By the way, it is important to point out that the Constitution of Nigeria is the greatest of all laws, regulations, policies, religions, traditions, logics, practices, reasons and even yet to be imagined contractions in any part of Nigeria. So, nothing (no person or institution, group, government or process) can invalidate, contradict or overwhelm the Constitution of Nigeria. The Constitution is all knowing, ever perfect and ever binding!  

The Constitution of Nigeria has clearly listed persons that cannot own, operate or maintain any foreign bank account for any reason whatsoever. It is part of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers. So, there is no exemption or reason for such persons to have or attempt to have a foreign bank account. The persons that cannot have a foreign bank account in Nigeria includes; 

1.The President of the Federation.

2. The Vice-President of the Federation.

3. The President and Deputy President of the Senate, Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives and Speakers and Deputy Speakers of Houses of Assembly of States, and all members and staff of legislative houses.

4. Governors and Deputy Governors of States.

5. Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justices of the Supreme Court, President and Justices of the Court of Appeal, all other judicial officers and all staff of courts of law.

6. Attorney-General of the Federation and Attorney-General of each State.

7. Ministers of the Government of the Federation and Commissioners of the Governments of the States.

8. Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Naval Staff, Chief of Air Staff and all members of the armed forces of the Federation.

9. Inspector-General of Police, Deputy Inspector-General of Police and all members of the Nigeria Police Force and other government security agencies established by law.

10. Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Head of the Civil Service, Permanent Secretaries, Directors-General and all other persons in the civil service of the Federation or of the State.

11. Ambassadors, High Commissioners and other officers of Nigerian Missions abroad.

12. Chairman, members and staff of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Code of Conduct Tribunal.

13. Chairman, members and staff of local government councils.

14. Chairman and members of the Boards or other governing bodies and staff of statutory corporations and of companies in which the Federal or State Government has controlling interest.

15. All staff of universities, colleges and institutions owned and financed by the Federal or State Governments or local government councils.

16. Chairman, members and staff of permanent commissions or councils appointed on full time basis.

17. Any other public officers or persons as the National Assembly may by law prescribe (this is where every other public officer falls under, especially those engaged by agencies and offices that were created after the enactment of the Constitution of Nigeria in 1999). 

Conclusion and Recommendation: 

The Constitution of Nigeria is very clear. It has clearly listed out certain persons in Nigeria that should not have a foreign bank account (ie, a bank account outside Nigeria). The law does not care if the foreign bank account was for children school fees, medical support, travels, investment or charity. The simple law is do not “… maintain or operate a bank account in any country outside Nigeria”. 

If a person has foreign bank account before becoming a public officer holder, the law expects the person to close the foreign bank account and desist from maintaining and operating the foreign bank account. It is a price for the few that mingle with public resources (tax payers funds) and privileges to pay. It is in line with an Igbo adage, that says, “wefu iji, la ebe ewu loo” which means “keep away yam tubers from a goat’s shed”, since that is a sure way to stop a goat from consuming the yam. 

 If any person so much desires a foreign bank account, such a person must avoid being a public officer and if already a public officer, such public officer should exit public office. There is no restriction on foreign bank accounts that a non-public office holder can own, maintain or operate. 

My authorities, are:

  1. Sections 1, 2, 3, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 66, 107, 150, 172, 173, 174, 195, 209, 211, 292, 318 and 319 and the 5th Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.
  2. Onyekachi Umah, “When To Sue An Annoying Public Officer In Nigeria .” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 5 December 2018) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/daily-law-tips-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-tip-242-when-to-sue-an-annoying-public-officer-in-nigeria/> accessed 24 November 2020
  3. Onyekachi Umah, “Right To Demand and Know How Much Government and Government Officers Spend In Nigeria.” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 29 August 2018) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/daily-law-tips-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-tip-172-right-to-demand-and-know-how-much-government-and-government-officers-spend-in-nigeria/> accessed 24 November 2020

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