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…bank to freeze the accounts of churches andmosques

A showdown is looming between the Central Bank of Nigeria
and Christian and Islamic leaders across the country over
the freezing of their accounts on the orders of the apex
bank.

CBN Governor, Lamido Sanusi, had two weeks ago directed
banks to commence the updating of the accounts of
designated non-financial businesses and professions with
evidence of registration.

The CBN circular, which was obtained by Saturday PUNCH,
stated that the DNFBPs include religious and charitable
organisations, dealers in jewellery, precious metals and
stones, cars and luxury goods, audit firms, tax consultants,
clearing and settlement companies, lawyers, notaries,
other independent legal practitioners, chartered
accountants and trust company service providers.

Others include hotels, casinos, supermarkets, real estate
agents, non-governmental organisations, Federal Ministry
of Trade and Investment or appropriate regulatory
authorities.

It said, “In consideration of some challenges encountered by
the Special Control Unit against Money Laundering as a
result of the number of persons seeking to enjoy late
compliance, the CBN has decided to further extend the
second deadline of April 30, 2013 by eight months to
December 31, 2013.”

The bank warned DNFBPs that were yet to register to
take advantage of the extension or risk losing their
accounts.

Under the new regime, the designated institutions are
required to fill forms listing their shareholders and
directors.

Religious organisations are registered under Act C of the
Companies and Allied Matters Act which is for non-
governmental organisations while the new regime has
placed them under Act F, which applies to businesses.

They are also required to get their forms endorsed by the
Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, as part of CBN’s
ongoing tracking of sources of funds for Boko Haram and
other terrorist groups in the country.

Sources said the Christian Association of Nigeria had
directed churches not to fill any form in any bank. It has
also asked affected members to forward evidences of the
freezing of their accounts to their respective state
secretariats for onward transmission to the national
secretariat.

CAN’s Public Relations Officer for the 19 Northern states
and Abuja, Mr. Sunny Oibe, confirmed the development to
Saturday PUNCH on the telephone on Friday.

He said, “We are preparing our grounds in CAN for that and
we will respond in a big way. What has the church got to
do with the issue of Boko Haram? Churches are not profit-
making organisations and so how can somebody now begin
to equate churches with business that doesn’t concern
them?
“They know those who are sponsors and financiers of
Boko Haram and the people through whom this money are
paid.

“We are therefore pleading with President Goodluck
Jonathan to caution the CBN Governor.”

When contacted, the media aide to the President of CAN,
Mr. Kenny Ashaka, said, “For now, we don’t want to make
any comment on the issue. We will act as at when due.”
The General Overseer, Evangelical Ministries, Lagos, Bishop
Steven Ogedengbe, described the CBN order as a
“distraction that will not last.”

Ogedengbe said his church’s account was not affected but
called on affected religious organisations to resist the
move.

The Secretary-General, Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic
Affairs, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede, said the organisation was
worried about whether bank officials and security agents
involved in the matter would be transparent, sincere and
avoid sentiments.

In a telephone interview with Saturday PUNCH on Friday,
Oloyede said, “I do not have any objection to it. I have seen
the form. It is not limited to churches and mosques. It has
a lot of people on the list.

“From what I see, it is for transparency. As far as Islam is
concerned, we do not do anything under the table so why
are we afraid? The only fear I have is those who are
involved and claim to be doing for the government or
security agencies should be transparent in the way they do
it.

“Except for fear of misuse by government agencies, I have
no reservation at all. The only problem I have is about
whether government or their agencies and security
agencies will be sincere and unsentimental in their issues..”
But the Director, Corporate Communications, CBN, Mr. Ugo
Okoroafor, told one of our correspondents on Friday that
the directive was not targeted at religious organisations
but was meant for all designated non-financial businesses
and professions.

He said, “The directive is expected to enable the regulator
check money laundering and other malpractices in the
sector. We want to know who is moving what at any point
in time. If you don’t fall under the financial institutions
category, then you must fall under another category.

“Churches are under what we call DNFBPs. All we told them
was that they should update their account information
with their banks. They are not the only ones in the
category. Besides, the directive has been extended by six
months so we have not frozen any account. This is the
second time we are extending it to allow for proper
registration.”

In a statement issued on Friday night, CBN said it had not
directed any bank to freeze the accounts of churches and
mosques.

It reads, “The attention of the Central Bank of Nigeria has
been drawn to some reports being circulated in the media
to the effect that the CBN had ordered the freezing of
the accounts of some religious organisations, citing alleged
suspicion of links with terrorist groups.
We wish to state as follows:

1. That the CBN has not ordered the closure or freezing of
the bank account of any religious body or any institution
whatsoever as alleged in the publications and posts. There
is, therefore, no iota of truth in these allegations.”

The statement by Okoroafor said the affected bodies are
expected to present certificate of registration showing
registration number with the Special Control Unit Against
money Laundering.

He also said the deadline was extended from February 2013
to June and finally to December 2013.

When contacted, EFCC Acting Head, Media and Publicity,
Wilson Uwujaren, said, “It is not a new thing; it is part of
anti-money laundering revolution in the banking system.
Banks are required to report any transaction that is above
$1000 by Designated Non-Financial Institutions to the Special
Control Unit against Money Laundering.

“It is not a special directive to churches; it is for all
Designated Non-Financial Institutions which include churches,
casinos, supermarkets, accounting firms and dealers in
jewelleries and precious stones, among others.”

On April 23, the SCUML arrested officials of a real estate
firm and two hotels in Abuja for non-compliance with
extant regulations mandating DNFIs to register with the
Unit in line with the anti-money laundering laws.

The special operation was conducted in conjunction with
the EFCC.

The Nigeria Bar Association is currently challenging the
regulation in court.

Reporting for NaijaGospel

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