Juris Law honours Access Bank chief, Herbert Wigwe, at judges’ conference

The Juris Law Office, in collaboration with the National Judicial Institute, on Tuesday, in Abuja, honoured the Chairman of Body of Bank Chief Executives and Group Managing Director of Access Bank plc, Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe, with the Juris Law award.

The award was given to Igwe to recognise his support towards the development of law for economic growth in Nigeria.

Also honoured was the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Godwin Emefiele.

The occasion was a two-day workshop organised for judicial officers on the recent reforms of the banking financial services sectors in Nigeria.

The workshop was titled: ‘The Role of the Judiciary in Financial System Stability in Nigeria’.

Receiving the award, Wigwe canvassed support for the newly established Special Tribunals for the Enforcement and Recovery of Eligible Loans in the country to encourage private sector lending in the medium to long term even as he applauded various new provisions in the Bank and Other Financial Institutions Act (BOFIA 2020) recently signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The Group Head, Corporate Communications of Access Bank Plc, Amaechi Okobi, who physically represented the MD/CEO Access Bank Plc received the award on behalf of his boss while Wigwe delivered his goodwill message virtually.

Speaking at the occasion, Wigwe said: “The theme of this Workshop is particularly crucial this time considering the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on the economy of the country. The Workshop will consider the important provisions of the Act under different topics.

“The BOFIA 2020 was assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari on 12th November 2020, repealing the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act, 1991(as amended) and introducing important provisions which sought to deepen the regulation and improve the efficiency of the country’s banking and financial sector.

“The Act also expanded and improved on the CBN’s regulatory oversight and discretionary powers over the sector. Major legislations in the banking and financial sector were outdated, resulting in operators and participants exploiting loopholes to perpetrate abuses and other unethical conduct.

“The banking industry crises of 2002 and 2008 and their impact on the economy are still not forgotten. These and other factors led to the enactment of the BOFIA as championed by the CBN and supported by key actors in the sector.

“The Act deals with licensing and operations of banks by the CBN, the duties of banks, books and records of accounts of banks, rescue tools for failing banks, supplemental provisions, and miscellaneous matters in respect of banks.

“The Governor may transfer the bank or only part of the banking business of a failing bank to third-party private purchasers or employ any other intervention tool as the CBN may deem fit.

“The CBN can also acquire the shares to ensure its control of the bank. CBN may revoke the license of the bank. The consent of the CBN Governor is needed for any change in control, transfer of significant shareholding, sale, disposal or transfer of whole or part, amalgamation or merger, restructuring, reorganization or reconstruction of banks in Nigeria.

“The Act further regulates Specialized Banks and other Financial Institutions. The Act recognizes Fintechs and Microfinance Banks – a fast-growing sector of the banking and finance industry that fall under the regulatory power of the CBN.

“The Act requires Fintechs and Microfinance Banks (MFBs) to be registered. The acquisition of Paystack (a Nigerian Fintech company) by Stripe, an American Fintech giant for over ₦76.6 billion, shows the great opportunity and importance of this sector to the Nigerian economy.

“Its regulation, amongst others, is a welcome development. The Act gives the CBN general regulatory power over banks.

“The power to make regulations and guidelines regarding the corporate governance of banks and other financial institutions in Nigeria. I am a firm believer in corporate governance, and I wholly welcome this development.

“The CBN can also designate a Bank as an important systemic bank in Nigeria. The Act further regulates the activities of agents of banks. The Act gives the CBN the power to make regulations and guidelines for banks and other financial institutions to address cybersecurity issues in the delivery of financial or banking services.

“The recent Covid-19 outbreak has increased the need for and use of cyber technology by banks, specialized banks and other financial institutions and the attendant threats. This provision seeks to tackle those threats.

“BOFIA 2020 also provides that account balances in banks which have not been operated for a year or period specified by CBN should be transferred to a special register in a bank. Where such funds remain unclaimed after ten years, they are to be transferred to the CBN.

“However, the banks are required to try to notify the account holder by various means, including placing an advert in two national newspapers, before transferring the funds to the CBN.

“Chapter four provides for Resolution Fund and the power of the CBN to impose penalties.

“The BOFIA 2020 establishes a banking sector resolution fund (“the Resolution Fund”), which will function like a bridge bank. This will help to stabilize the banking and financial sector in Nigeria.

“The Act also retains the power of the CBN to apply to freeze accounts with banks, specialized banks and other financial accounts that may be involved in any criminal activity under any law.

“The power of the CBN is not limited to financial offences. The CBN can now investigate the infraction if it relates to the provisions of BOFIA or any other enactment administered by the CBN.

“The Governor also has the right to determine and increase penalties for breaches of the Act.

“The Act establishes the Special Tribunals for the enforcement and recovery of eligible loans.

“It states the composition, constitution, jurisdiction of the Tribunal among other things.

“The Tribunal has jurisdiction in matters relating to enforcement and recovery of eligible loans among other things.

“The Tribunal will, therefore, encourage private sector lending in the medium to long term, which is necessary if the much-needed growth in the Nigerian economy is to be achieved.

“While courts guide their jurisdiction jealously, it is our hope that the Tribunal will be supported to achieve its goals,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Muhammad, same day, said that the timely dispensation of justice would enhance financial stability in Nigeria.

He made the remarks while declaring open the two-day workshop for the Judicial Officers