Reps Probe Polaris Bank over $300m NNPC fund

…summon NNPC, bankers

The House of Representatives has commenced investigation into the $300 million belonging to Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) domiciled with Polaris Bank for over 10 years.

Speaking during the investigative hearing, Chairman, House Committee on the ‘Assessment and recovered loot from 2002 to 2020’, Hon. Adejoro Adeogun who stressed the need for all the invited stakeholders to take on oath before proceeding with their presentations, explained that the presentations of various stakeholders invited to testify before the Committee will be subject to judicial interpretation.

In his presentation, Polaris Bank’s Acting Managing Director, Mr. Innocent Ike disclosed that in 2016 the CBN dissolved the Board of Skye Bank and floated Polaris to take over assets and liabilities of Skye Bank.

While noting that the bank had great liability issues and was not able to honour government’s Federal Government’s directive to transfer all public funds into Treasury Single Acciunt (TSA), Mr. Ike noted that the new management of the bank interfaced with EFCC, House of Representatives’ Committee on TSA, among others.

According to him,”Central Bank of Nigeria dissolved the board of the erstwhile Skye Bank and brought Polaris bank into being to take over assets and liabilities of the erstwhile Skye Bank, and the reason for that Intervention was because of breach in certain financial issues and corporate balance issues as well as the fact that the bank had liquidity issue

“At that same time, among what it was unable to honour the directive of the Nigerian Government to return all government funds to the TSA account inclusive of the NNPC fund

“So when the new board and management came into being it was one of the challenges that we have to deal with at that point in time

“We engaged the various government agencies to desk with the banks that were not able to honour that obligation at that point in time, including the EFCC, the House Committee on Treasury Single Account, House Committee on Banking as well as the Presidential Committee on recovery of stolen or looted funds”

“Submissions were made to all the above agencies and House Committees that “the money in Polaris Bank, then Skye Bank was the money that was deposited in the normal cause of business. The account actually started early in 2012, the first one was about $40 million and subsequently more money came in.”

While noting that both parties have banking relationship as at the time when the Federal Government issued the directive on TSA, he affirmed that “Bank was not able to remit the money as directed because of delivery issues and delivery issues arose” because the bank had lent the money particularly to oil and gas sector which was challenged earlier on.

According to him, since most of the debtors were unable to repay the debt as at the time when the directive was issued, the new Polaris Bank management explained the situation to the various House Committees and other Government agencies, including the CBN which was copied on all these engagements.

He explained that the Presidential Investigative Panel on recovery of public property had in December 2018 instituted a suit against Polaris Bank.

According to him, “however in 2019, we started the repayment of the deposit and made a proposal to begin to make an installment payment of $10 million monthly and we actually started payment from that very month. And because the Federal Government found merit in our case and that repayment, subsequently the government agreed that the monthly payment be entered as consent judgement

“We are glad today that as at today, as I sit before this Committee, we have made a total payment of $224,324,958.75 which was the outstanding as at February 20, 2019

“Today we therefore have nothing, not a dollar, not a cent outstanding in Polaris Bank in favour of NNPC or NAPIMS.”

He explained that the copies of consent judgement, evidence of remittances and payments to NNPC, letters to CBN to transfer money to NNPC as well as various presentations made to various Government agencies.

In his ruling, Hon. Adeogun said: “This committee has decided as follows: “One, that Polaris Bank will present evidence that the fund has been totally remitted to NNPC and we will like to have confirmation from NNPC and CBN, and we will give you fine working days to get it across to the committee

“Two, we are going to invite NNPC as well because there are questions for NNPC to answer most especially as per the management of this fund. Could you have deliberately left almost $300 million in an account and left it unmanaged for this number of years. We need to invite them

“So, I so rule on the two: that the NNPC be invited by the secretariat and that the Bank is given one week to give us evidence that they have made the payment.

“Those were the two parties we invited. The other parties that we invited wrote letters. Access Bank wrote a letter attaching that the issue for which they were invited is before a Court and since we have no reason dealing with an issue before a Court, we will put this aside for the time being.

“In the course of our ongoing inquiry, we did find out that there were depositions; they alleged that there were infractions by your bank and there were gaps in the records supplied by some of these agencies, and you have been invited to give your side of the story”.

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