TSA: NNPC Denies Operating Hidden Accounts in Commercial Banks

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  • SkyeBank,UBA refute allegation of concealment of funds

By Chineme Okafor in Abuja and Obinna Chima in Lagos

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), yesterday denied reports that it colluded with some commercial banks in Nigeria to prevent the remit- tance of $793.2 million into the federal government’s Treasury Single Accounts, (TSA), saying such claims were untrue and misleading.

This is coming on the heels of the official statements by Skye Bank Plc and the United Bank for Africa Plc (UBA) refuting allegations of contravening government’s TSA policy as alleged by a Federal High Court in Lagos on Thursday.

The NNPC in a statement from its Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Ndu Ughamadu, in Abuja stated that it had earlier taken steps to inform the Presidency, Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF), as well as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) of the existence of the said accounts prior to the creation of the Asset Recovery Account by the government.

It explained that it would be totally out of place to move the funds to the Asset Recovery Account of the government because they are genuine funds that were disclosed to the government and not recovered funds as reported.

A Federal High Court in Lagos had recently granted an interim order for seven commercial banks in Nigeria to remit a total of $793.2 million allegedly hidden with them in violation of the TSA policy of the federal government.

After listening to an ex-parte application filed by counsel to the Attorney-General of the Federation, Professor Yemi Akinseye-George, presiding judge, Justice Chuka Obiozor, directed the banks to remit to the designated CBN Asset Recovery Dollars Account, various amounts allegedly kept in their custody illegally.

But reliable sources in the ministry of finance told THISDAY that the court action was filed by the office of the Attorney General of the Federa- tion (AGF) ostensibly to create the impression that the money was hidden from government and was been recovered from the banks when evidence in the public dormain went to the contrary.

In this regard, the NNPC noted that it would be illegal and uncalled for to pay any agent five per cent as commis- sion for the phantom recovery in line with the government’s whistle blowing policy on stolen funds.

Providing further breakdown on the lodgments, the NNPC said the amount included $174.4 million domiciled at Diamond Bank; $40.7 million in Skye Bank; and $16.7 million also kept in Keystone Bank, thus bringing the total to $231.8 million.

It explained that in line with the directive of the presidency, the CBN has assumed supervi- sion of the remittance of these funds to its TSA account, and has equally made great strides in this regard.

According to it, as an entity with fiduciary responsibility to the government and people of Nigeria, it was committed to transparency and accountability in doing its business.

Skye Bank, UBA Deny Concealing TSA Funds Meanwhile, Skye Bank Plc and the United Bank for Africa Plc yesterday officially denied contravening the federal govern- ment’s TSA policy as alleged by a Federal High Court in Lagos on Thursday.

The banks disclosed this in separate statements yesterday. Ten months after the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) sus- pended nine commercial banks from trading in the interbank foreign exchange (IFEX) market for failing to remit a total of $2.33 billion belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation/Nigerian Liquefied

Natural Gas Company to the federal government’s TSA, a Federal High Court in Lagos had Thursday ordered seven of the banks to temporarily remit a total of $793.2 million allegedly still domiciled with them in contravention of the TSA policy.

Justice Chuka Obiozor had ordered the seven banks – Diamond Bank, United Bank for Africa (UBA), FirstBank, Skye Bank, Fidelity Bank, Sterling Bank and the defunct Keystone Bank (acquired by Heritage Bank) – to remit the various amounts allegedly kept “illegally in their custody” to the designated federal government asset recovery dollar account domiciled with the CBN.

According to the court papers filed by counsel for the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Prof. Yemi Akinseye-George (SAN), a total of $367.4 million was illegally hidden by three government agencies in UBA, while the sum of $41 million was illegally kept in a National Petroleum Investment Manage- ment Services (NAPIMs) fixed deposit account with Skye Bank.

But, Skye Bank in a statement said: “The management of Skye Bank hereby states that it neither colluded nor unilaterally hid the reported sum or any other funds in its custody.

“On the contrary, the said funds are held with the full knowledge of the relevant Agencies of the government including the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the DSS, the National Assembly and the Inspector-General of Polices’s Special Investigation Panel, with whom we have engaged extensively over same.

“We wish to inform our numerous stakeholders that Skye Bank is a law abiding institution and will therefore, not conduct itself in breach of the laws or policies of the government, including the TSA policy. The bank will take appropriate legal steps in response to the ruling of the Federal High Court on August 8, 2017 when the substantive hearing is expected to come up.”

On its part, UBA in a state- ment by its Group Head, Marketing and Corporate Com- munications, Bola Atta, stressed that it had fully remitted all NNPC/NLNG dollar deposits since August 24, 2016.

“We hereby emphasise that none of such funds are currently in the bank’s books. Our action was further corroborated by a clearance memo published by CBN on its website on same date. We would like to thank all our customers, business partners and other stakeholders who have reached out to us on account of this judgement,” it added.