The House of Representatives Ad hoc Committee on Recovered Loots and Assets of Government, yesterday, heard of how $300 million belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was “hidden in a Polaris Bank account and remained unattended to for years.”
At the resumed public hearing of the panel in Abuja, the lawmakers sought to know from the financial institution the interest that accrued to the money from 2012 till date.
But the bank’s Acting Managing Director (MD), Innocent Ike, insisted that the fund was not hidden, but deposited appropriately by the national oil firm
But the complainant and former public prosecutor with the defunct Special Presidential Investigative Panel (SPIP) on government assets and loots recovery, Tosin Ojaomo, disagreed.
Maintaining that the transaction was shrouded in secrecy, the ex-prosecutor stated: “The bank did not disclose anything, it secretly kept the money. It was when the presidential panel got wind of the hidden money, arrested the bank managers, interrogated and started prosecuting them that they admitted that the money was with them.”
“Upon discovery, the NNPC petitioned the House in its quest to recover the money having failed to cause the bank to release it on the corporation’s request,” he added.
The MD also told the committee that the money did not generate interest during the period, stating that current accounts do not yield returns.
According to him, the whole money has been paid to the corporation in tranches, but failed to tender documented evidence to back up his claims as requested by the legislators.
Documents available to the committee showed that about $32 million of the lump sum remained unaccounted for.
The bank chief executive equally denied that the money was dormant in the account, clarifying that his organisation lent out the deposit to oil and gas companies and power sector operators to boost the economy.
In a unanimous resolution, the panel adjourned to another date to enable the bank tender concrete documents backing the payment to the NNPC.
As the committee moved to investigate another fraud petition by Ojaomo against the Nigerian Export Import (NEXIM) Bank, the petitioner disclosed of how funds running into billions of dollars missed from the coffers of the export credit agency.
He said individuals and corporate bodies sitting on the bank’s funds under the guise of loans and other intervention schemes had pledged to refund them and had started actually redeeming their pledges following the intervention of the then SPIP.
Ojaomo alleged: “But unfortunately, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation sat on the case file, (thus) frustrating the efforts of the panel.”