FirstBank, Keystone Deny Concealing TSA Funds

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Obinna Chima

FirstBank Nigeria Limited has denied reports that it failed to comply with the federal government’s Treasury Single Accounts (TSA) policy. The bank said this in a statement saturday.

Ten months after the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) suspended 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 Management Services (NAPIMs) fixed deposit account with Skye Bank.

But FirstBank in the statement explained “that it does not hold any funds due NPDC and NNPC that are TSA eligible as carried in recent media reports as the bank has since transferred all funds due to the TSA accounts in compliance with the policy directive.”
It added: “FirstBank remains a compliant institution and always abides by all extant regulatory rules and regulations.”

Meanwhile, the management of Keystone Bank Limited has insisted that the lender did not and has never hidden any fund belonging to the Federal Government or its agencies.

Justice Chuka Obiozor of a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos had recently ordered seven banks to remit the various sums allegedly being kept illegally in their custody to the designated Federal Government’s Asset Recovery dollars-account domiciled with the CBN.
The banks in question were United Bank for Africa, UBA; Diamond Bank Plc; Skye Bank Plc; First Bank Limited; Fidelity Bank Plc; Keystone Bank Limited; and Sterling Bank Plc.

However, some of these banks have disputed this allegation. In a statement, Keystone Bank also said: “In response to the news making the rounds that the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos had made an order directing Keystone Bank Limited to remit the sum of $17 million allegedly illegally kept in its custody to the TSA, we wish to state that Keystone Bank has never illegally hidden any amount of money belonging to the Federal Government or any of its agencies.

“Details of all Federal Government funds in custody of Keystone Bank had always been fully disclosed to all relevant federal government agencies and at no time did Keystone Bank collude or ‎conspire with any official of the Federal Government to disobey the Federal Government directives on the TSA. We are taking appropriate steps to respond to the issues raised in the Court Order,” the bank stated.