Farm House Dialogue, Democracy and Social Justice
13th – 15th March 1992
The 21st Farm House dialogue took place as usual at the Obasanjo Farms Nigeria, Ota, from 13th to 15th March 1992.
In his welcome address, General Olusegun Obasanjo, Chairman, Africa Leadership Forum, emphasized that the participants should keep in mind the point of the dynamic interface between social justice and democracy. These two concepts, he reiterated, complement each other in the search for societal survival and progress. While reminding participants of the non-attributive nature of the Dialogue’s report, he urged them to be free, frank and fair in their contribution to the discussions. In the same vein, he enjoined the participants to be resourceful in proferring pragmatic recommendations, as recommendations from other editions of the Dialogue in the past have had significant input into policy formulation and articulation both at local and international fora.
The Dialogue Chairman, Ajie Ukpabi Asika thanked General Obasanjo for the warm reception and commended his initiative in establishing the Africa Leadership Forum. He dwelt at length on the problems of social justice in a democracy especially in developing countries. He maintained that the achievement of social justice must indeed remain one of the main goals of democracy.
With these two short remarks setting the scene, participants adopted the underlisted framework for the discussions ahead.
Conclusions and Recommendations:
The Dialogue reiterated its view that no serious experience and practice of democracy is possible without the enforcement of social justice. Consequently, constitutional provisions for human rights must be articulated fully, while special attention must be paid to minority rights and the rights of various special groups in the society.
The Nigerian society should be aware of the new international order that puts premium on democracy and that imposes, either directly or indirectly, a responsibility for its promotion on the nation-state. In response to this global development, Nigeria should evolve her own political culture, which will fulfil its needs for harmony and cohesion in the nation-state.
The Dialogue concluded that the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), as presently being pursued, could subvert the nation’s economy. This inevitably will threaten the culture of democracy and the social security inherent in social justice. There is thus a need for an alternative social and economic mode of development if the nation’s democratic process is to be secured.
Nigeria must encourage and put in place trust and confidence among the various communities that constitute the nation’s building blocks.
This will be possible only if social justice is made central to all national endeavours. Such entrenched social justice among communities also requires that individuals and groups be protected from the irresponsibility of the nation-state itself.
For democracy to thrive, there should be equal opportunity for all and sundry to participate in all aspects of political life, while the perversion of the democratic process by use of stealth, wealth or brute force should be resisted.
Social justice is inherent in the full enjoyment of the political franchise and democracy, when fully established, ensures peace, harmony and ample development both materially and morally for a nation.
Professional Seminar series:
“Ethics & Professionalism in Nigerian Banking Industry”
31st July - 2nd August, 1992
The First Professional seminar series to discuss the topic “Ethics & Professionalism In The Nigerian Banking Industry” took place at the Gateway Hotel Ota, from the 31st July to 2nd August, 1992. Welcoming participants to the seminar, General Olusegun Obasanjo, Chairman, Africa Leadership Forum remarked that the essence of the seminar which was the being of was among other things to promote an across the board vertical and horizontal interaction among the participants and to sensitize the sensibilities of the participants to the emerging trend of unethical practices and professional misconduct in the industry.
More importantly, given the pivotal role of banks in the economy it is necessary that the present upswing of fraudulent practices be nipped in the bud. Concluding his address, he wondered if the immoderate needs which breeds greed that bleeds the economy should be allowed to fester. He therefore enjoined participants to be forthcoming in proffering a workable agenda that imposes a duty and a responsibility on the individual professionals, the banking community, the banks, the government and the Nigerian society at large.
The Chairman of the seminar, Mr. Ola Vincent, in his opening address, noted that banks and other financial institutions constitute a formidable element in a modern economy, occupying a pivotal position in the credit and cash economy which Nigeria now operates. He remarked, that given the scarcity of resources, and the consequent allocation of these resources by banks in the execution of their primary function places them in a somewhat invidious positions and makes them vulnerable to suspicion.
He pointed to the common observation about the banking industry as a domineering economic and social institution hence the code of professional conduct and standard of ethics which the community demands is usually very high. Concluding his remarks, Mr. Ola Vincent identified greed, among other reasons as the causative agent for the high incidence of fraud and other unprofessional conduct in the Nigerian banking industry.
Delivering the keynote Address Mr. O. Olashore wondered if one can discuss the ethics and professionals in the Nigerian banking industry outside the level of the apparent moral laxity in the larger Nigerian society. He noted that in the case of the banking industry the situation has been further compounded by some bank officials who have attracted a lot of notoriety to themselves through vain publicity and large scale frauds usually caused by immodest carriage. This according to him include top echelon of the banking industry who are not real professionals.
He concluded his address by suggesting among other things the need for a reappraisal of the extent to which various institutions in the economy have contributed to inflation and the general economic adversity through their pricing system, and their styles of operation. He pointed out that most of the criticisms against the banks were unfounded as they were at times not as profitable as other non-bank business organizations. He therefore enjoined the Chartered Institute of Bankers to undertake necessary measures to correct the poor image of the banks.
While agreeing that most of the criticism against banks in Nigeria are usually based on impressionism, participants noted that the activities of Nigerian banks in recent times to an extent justifies some of the criticism leveled against the industry.
Participants reiterated the pivotal role of banks in the economic growth and development of the nation. It was noted that banking is most unlike other forms of business therefore, the terrain is usually different. Banks also have a social responsibility as their activities impinges on the well being of the economy. It was noted that the negative reaction of the public to the magnitude of profits made by banks is not altogether misplaced. However, it was agreed that profitability could be regarded as an index of efficiency as such banks need not be apologetic of their profit position. What is important is the need for the banks to improve the quality of their services.
One issue that immediately came to fore was the somewhat frivolous manner with which banks dishonour cheques. It was remarked that in most cases the actions are taken in the interest of the bank and its customers. Moreso given the somewhat dynamic and volatile incidence of fraudulent practices in society in general and the banking industry in particular. The seminar noted that the social milieu of banks in themselves is pervasively tainted and thus has serious consequences for the banking industry. It was however noted that this should not be an excuse as the profession of bankers devolve on them a modicum of leadership responsibilities and vanguard role. However, participants decried the practice of government employing non-professional managers into critical positions in the industry aggravates the sliding ethical standard and undermines the degree of professionalism in the industry.
The Legal Framework of the Banking Industry
with Particular Reference to Ethical Conduct
Professor Akanle in his paper highlighted existing legal framework for ethical conduct in the banking industry. He argued for the need to overhaul the existing legal provisions to render them more effective to serve as both punitive and deterent measures. In addition, he believed that it has become evidently necessary to devolve the investigation and prosecution of economic crimes on a body other than the Nigerian Police Force. He was convinced that the Central Bank and the Chartered Institute of Bankers are the two organizations whose effective functioning and interaction with banks could engender an efficient enforcement of penalties against fraudsters and other economic criminals.
There is no gain saying the fact that law is central to the regulation of human conduct. The above observation was generally agreed to be true and fundamental. However, the possibility of achieving an improvement in the existing particular purpose before the revetment of new ones to avoid wasteful duplication. Particularly aspects of laws regarding ethical and professional conduct in the banking profession that they are of failure interests are the amendments of the law relating to the forfeiture of ill-gotten assets. There must be restitution also including tracing to identify third party beneficiaries.
There is a high incidence of unethical and unprofessional conduct in the banking industry. It is was generally held that this is sweeping generalization inspite of the insertion that a substantial proportion of the country’s foreign indebtedness were incurred in respect of goods never delivered and services never rendered. And that this was made largely possible because of the manipulation of the banking system. It would be unfair and wholesome to isolate the banks in this respect even through the fact that a start has to be made somewhere is recognized.
The Banks Employees (Declaration of Assets Decree)
This decree has been kept mostly in the breach. A visit in year later, in one particular instances showed that completed assets declaration forms were simply stacked without any interest of the information contained there in ever being.
Only the possible problems could be the identification of the Secretary to the Federal Government as the appropriate authorities for the purposes of ensuring compliance used.
Even though it was argued that information contained in the assert deregulations could be useful in establishing failure isolated cases of crime. It was the consensus that the provision of the decree is for now, better ignored.
The suggestion that the habit of appointing Central Bank directors as banks chief executive has tended to undermine the effectiveness with which the banking Supervision Department discharged its responsibilities and therefore should be discontinued was criticized and not adopted. Members were not convinced of the cause and effect relationship here achieved. And in any case, the incidence of this development is for too few.
For customers, at the moment, there is only, one incident of such nature. The Central Bank should also consider the advertisement of incident of bank sanctions as a further deterrence.
The Nigerian Police
The present arrangement whereby the police investigates and prosecutes crimes is grossly inadequate. Such arrangement gives ample scope for abuse and corruption. Often the approach adopted by the police is to enquire regarding any suspects. Once any body is suspected, he or she presumed guilty and treated as such contrary to the stipulation of the criminal code. In the light of the inadequacies of police force as now constituted to prosecute crimes expeditiously and effectively, the recommendation of the establishment of a special economic crimes agency was generally up-held.
The Attorney General of the Federation
The stipulation of the law that required the Attorney General to give his consent waiting before any product can be undertaken on any violations of the provisions of the Banking Act is not retained in BOFID. It was a fact that this provision saves a useful purpose and should therefore be restored at the callous opportunity of a review of BOFID.
The Chartered Institute of bankers (CIBN)
The suggestion that all Bank employees at least of beyond a certain level should be member of the CIBN and that the CIBN should keep a register of dismissed members or those whose appointments were terminated to avoid their re-engagement by another bank were noted to be part of the requirements the existing chance that gave the Institute its Charter:
Burden of Proof
The argument that a heavy burden of proof is demanded of the prosecution particularly for malpractice involving unjustifiable secretion of wealth was extensively disbudded. The view is that in such instance, the burden of profit could be shifted to the accused. It is required that this amendment is contrary to the stipulations of the existing examine code. And therefore for this amendment to be effected, the relevant section of the criminal code must be amended.
Review of the Laws
It is observed that changing circumstances facilitated by sophistication and advances in technology have rendedered the existing legal provision otiose. In addition to the forfeiture requirement in the event of a successful prosecution must be concluded, restitution and tracing. Because of the general leniency of the courts in imposing sanctions, there is no reason why minimum stipulations of penalty should be now made. Consideration should also be given to the imposition of times which is multiplier of the amount involved as is the case with the violation of some tax laws to serve as a further deterrence.
An Agenda of Action
Participants reasoned that the enhancement of professionalism and ethical conduct by the banks must be seen within the context of the larger society. It was reasoned that not much is to be expected in a situation wherein there is an obvious inversion of societal values. Participants were convinced that as a prelude to improving the ethical conduct of bankers it has become imperative to inculcate in the nation the concept that the acquisition of wealth without regard to the means by which it is acquired is morally wrong and should be discouraged.