The House of Representatives committee investigating the status of recovered loots has summoned the NNPC over $300million allegedly stashed in Polaris Bank.

It also gave the bank five days to provide evidence that it has paid back the money to NNPC as claimed.

These were the resolutions made by the committee on Thursday, following the appearance of the management of the bank before the committee.

PREMIUM TIMES had reported that Tosin Ojaomo, special prosecutor to the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for Recovery of Public Property, had accused NNPC of lodging stolen funds in the bank.

The committee, which is investigating the status of all recovered loots, had invited the bank to explain the status of the fund.

At the hearing, the Acting Managing Director of Polaris Bank, Innocent Ike, said the fund was not stolen, rather a normal business deposit in a current account.

Polaris Bank wall signage

He informed the lawmakers that the fund was deposited in tranches in the defunct Skye Bank before the Treasury Single Account (TSA) came into effect.

Mr Ike explained that the bank was unable to refund the money when CBN gave the directive to that effect, due to liquidity constraint.

The banker explained further that the bank had repaid the NNPC, following an agreement with the government after a court decision. He noted that the bank paid $224, 324, 958 and 75 cents to the account of NNPC.

“We had made written submission stating clearly that the money in the then Skye Bank was money that was deposited in the normal course of business. 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 arose because the bank in the normal course of 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.

“Somewhere along the line, precisely December 2018, the federal government, through the now-disbanded SPIPRP instituted a suit on this matter.

“We appointed the defence of Falana & Falana to handle the case and represent us in the process. However, in 2019 February, in demonstration of our commitment to begin to repay that deposit, we made a proposal to begin to make an instalmental 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 entered a consent judgement 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 cent which was the outstanding as of February 2019. Today, we, therefore, have nothing, not a dollar, not a cent outstanding in Polaris bank in favour of NNPC. We have fully repaid that amount of money, we don’t have anything outstanding in our books.”

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The Chairman of the committee, Adejoro Adeogun (APC, Ondo), asked of the total accrued interest on the fund.

Mr Ike responded that he will have to check the record of the account to know if NNPC negotiated interest on the fund.

The committee then gave the bank five days to supply the committee with more details on the account.

Mr Ojaomo, who filed the petition against the NNPC, was also at the hearing, and he was granted the privilege to speak.

He accused the management of Polaris Bank of concealing the funds from the government.

“I want to ask if the MD of the Polaris Bank is not aware. I’m informing him that they were arrested before they confessed to keeping this money with them. There is a case file on this issue. It was when members of the management were brought to the panel that they confessed that truly the money is with them, Mr Ojaomo said.

The chairman of the committee responded that the committee will “deal with only fact.”

Mr Ike also denied that the allegation of concealing the account.

He said, “There was never a time existence of these funds were hidden from any government agency at all including the House committee on TSA. Since we got on board since the dissolution of the old board we had engagement 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.”

The committee, following a motion moved by Isiaka Ibrahim (APC, Ogun), resolved as follow: “One, that Polaris Bank would present evidence that the fund has been totally repaid to NNPC and then a confirmation from NNPC and CBN and we give you five working days to get it across to the committee.

“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 almost $300 million in an account, left it unmanaged for this number of years. So we need to invite them.”

The investigation covers all recovered loots from 2002 to 2019.

Several heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA) had appeared before the committee, including the Attorney General, Abubakar Malami, Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed and others.

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