The management of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, has responded to a request by a request by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, for the identities of bank customers laundering money through the banking system to fund the extremist Boko Haram sect.
Following recent revelations by Australian negotiator, Stephen Davis, that sponsors of Boko Haram insurgent activities were known patrons of the country’s banking system, SERAP, on September 15, wrote to the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, demanding the identities of such persons.
In the letter, SERAP requested the CBN to provide it with information about persons or offices involved in alleged money laundering activities for Boko Haram through the CBN, including information on the exact nature and duration of any such transactions.
After waiting for a month without any response to its request, SERAP followed up with a legal application at the Federal High Court, Lagos seeking the order of the court to compel the CBN to respond to its request.
The executive director of SERAP, Adetokunbo Mumuni, said its suit sought, among other things, for the court to determine whether, by virtue of the provision of Section 4(a) of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2011, the CBN was under any obligation to provide it with the requested information.
However, the CBN in its reply to SERAP conveyed in a letter dated October 16, 2014, denied knowledge of the identities of any of the alleged sponsors, distancing itself from allegations that it was being used to finance Boko Haram insurgent activities.
The CBN’s response came after SERAP had already gone to court.
The response, with reference, LSD/ACL/GEN/SRP/02/090, and signed by O.A. Ogundana, on behalf of the Director, Legal Services Department, called SERAP’s attention to the bank’s framework for combating money laundering and financing of terrorism.
Mr. Ogundana stated that the CBN did not maintain or operate accounts for individuals, officers or offices. He said after a thorough investigation across its departments dealing with payments, it “could not find any information pertaining to persons involved in money laundering through the CBN to fund the activities of Boko Haram.”
As the banker to the Federal Government, the CBN pointed out, its only responsibility was to maintain accounts for and on behalf of the government, its ministries, departments and agencies as well as deposit money banks and other financial institutions in the country.
The CBN said it can only make payments on behalf of these institutions and government agencies based on authorised mandates.
Hearing on SERAP’s court application has not been fixed.