November 29, 2021

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Reps summon NNPC over $300m slush fund

The House of Representatives ad hoc committee investigating the status of all recovered loots and assets from 2002 – 2020 by agencies of the federal government has summoned the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to appear before it to explain the $300m alleged slush funds it deposited with the defunct Skye Bank, now Polaris.

Chairman of the committee, Adejoro Adeogun, handed the summon on Thursday when the Acting Managing Director of Polaris Bank, Innocent Ike, appeared before it during its resumed investigative hearing.

Polaris Bank’s MD had told the committee that the NNPC opened a current account with the then Skye Bank in January 2012 in which various deposits totalling $300 million were made over time.

He said the money that was in Skye Bank and subsequently Polaris was money deposited in normal business transaction as any other customer, saying it was not a slush fund.

“When the instruction was given by the federal government to transfer the money to the TSA, we simply could not pay because of the challenges the bank was having at that time.

“We engaged the various government agencies and we disclosed the amount to them.

“The liquidity issues really arose because 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 engagement.

“Somewhere along the line, precisely December 2018, the federal government through the now disbanded presidential investigation panel for the recovery of public property instituted a suit on this matter.

“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 entered as 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.

However, the committee told Polaris Bank that the NNPC in its recent letter, said it was yet to receive the said payment as claimed and therefore, directed the bank to furnish it with the evidence of repayments to the NNPC.

The committee also queried the NNPC over the rationale behind the deposit of such amount of public fund in the bank, adding that its management must appear before it at its next hearing to provide explanations on issues surrounding the fund.