Reps panel summons NNPC over ‘$223m hidden’ in Polaris Bank
Trait News reports that a house of representatives ad-hoc committee has summoned Mele Kyari, group managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, over the management of $223 million reportedly hidden in an account with Polaris Bank.
According to the report by TheCable, Tosin Ojaomo, the prosecutor of the dissolved special presidential investigation panel for the recovery of public property, alleged that the said amount was kept under the guise of NNPC operations account in Polaris Bank.
Ojaoma said the account is not linked to the Treasury Single Account (TSA) of the federal government, maintaining that it is a “stand-alone account”.
Following the allegation made in May, the ad-hoc committee investigating the status of recovered loots from 2002 to 2020 invited the bank to explain the status of the fund.
Speaking on Thursday, when he appeared before the panel, Innocent Ike, acting managing director of Polaris Bank, denied the allegation that the money was hidden in the bank.
He said the funds were deposited in the bank as a legal business transaction.
“We had made written submission stating clearly that the money in the then Skye bank was deposited in the normal course of business,” he said.
“The account relationship actually started early in 2012 with the first transfer of about $30 million, subsequently some more money actually came in, so it was a normal banking relationship.
“But then when TSA instruction was issued, the bank was not able to remit the money as directed because of liquidity issues.
“The liquidity issues really arose because the bank in the normal course financial intermission lent out money particularly to the oil and gas sector because of the challenges that the sector had gone through earlier on.
“So customers were not able to pay back all the money at the time it was required to enable the bank to return the money.
“We did explain this situation to the various committees and government agencies that we met, including the CBN who were of course copied in all these engagements.”
Adejoro Adeogun, chairman of the committee, accused the bank of concealing the money.
He said the bank only disclosed the fund after the presidential investigation panel sued it.
Ike, however, denied, saying the status of the fund was in public domain.
“There was never a time the existence of these funds were hidden from any government agency at all including the house committee on TSA,” he said.
“Since we got on board since the dissolution of the old board we had engagements with several government agencies — the presidential investigative panel, EFCC, SIP, senate committee — there has never been any time where the existence of this fund was hidden or never disclosed in writing”.
Ike further said the bank has fully repaid the money to NNPC.
“In 2019 February, in demonstration of our commitment to begin to repay that deposit, we made a proposal to begin to make an instalment payment of $10 million monthly, and we started that payment from that very month; And because the federal government found merit in our case and commitment to begin that payment.
“Subsequently, the government agreed that the monthly payment should be entered as consent payment, and it was so done.
“We started that payment as agreed and we have to state that as of today before this honourable committee, we have made a total payment of $224, 324, 958 and 75 cents, which was outstanding as of February 2019. Today, we, therefore, have nothing, not a dollar, not a cent outstanding in Polaris Bank in favour of NNPC.”
Adeogun questioned the bank over the interest of the money while it was still in its custody.
He ruled that the bank is given five working days to provide evidence and documents showing that the money was paid to NNPC.
The committee chairman also said NNPC should appear before the panel to explain the management of the funds.
“This committee has decided as follows; one — that Polaris Bank would present evidence that the fund has been totally repaid to NNPC and then a confirmation from NNPC and from CBN. We give you five working days to get it across to the committee,” he ruled.
“Secondly we are going to invite NNPC as well because there are questions for NNPC to answer, especially as the management of this fund, could you have deliberately left almost $300 million in an account, unmanaged for the number of years so we need to invite them.”