Unity Bank Plc has refuted alleged claims of N7 billion indebtedness leveled against it by the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for Recovery of Public Property (SPIPRPP).
In a statement made available to the public, Unity Bank vehemently clarified that the allegations of indebtedness are unfounded.
The backstory: According to an earlier statement signed by SPIPRPP’s Head of Media & Communication,¸ Lucie-Ann Laha, the presidential panel had threatened to charge Unity Bank with offences of economic sabotage if the bank refused to return the about N7 billion the bank was owing to the Federal Government.
According to SPRPRPP, the N7 billion represents the sum of $15,561,769.99 and N1,488,455,810.90, being excess and arbitrary charges on accounts of some agencies of government by the bank before the institution of Treasury Single Account (TSA).
The agencies from whose accounts the “excess and arbitrary charges” were supposedly deducted are the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), the Kaduna Refinery, and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
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The presidential panel had also stated that the bank had agreed on the amount earlier in February, this year, but “has neither proffered a payment plan nor demonstrated good faith by actually initiating payments”. The SPIPRPP statement further disclosed that the bank has since “has severed all communications with the Panel in this regard.”
Unity Bank’s Refutation: While refuting claims of owing N7 billion to the Federal Government, Unity Bank Plc clarified that in September 2018, a team from the SPIPRPP visited the Bank as part of “special” investigation into the banking transactions of the Government between 2009 to 2018. This culminated in a total of three (3) meetings held with the Panel on January 24, 2019, on January 31, 2019, and February 6, 2019, within the premises of the Federal Ministry of Justice, Abuja.
At the meetings, the Panel requested the Bank to provide certain information and solely relied on the information provided for the “special” investigation. Throughout the review, the Panel refused to invite the MDAs to any of the meetings to corroborate the Bank’s records neither was any ad-hoc investigative process initiated to validate the SPIPRPP findings.
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The Panel in an earlier letter requested the Bank to accept culpability and pay off a certain sum deemed outstanding which the Bank objected and insisted on completing the reconciliation exercise on the basis that the claims presented against the Bank were unfounded.
According to Unity Bank, instead, the Panel unilaterally halted the reconciliation exercise by refusing to admit further documentary evidence from the Bank, establishing that there were no balances kept in its books for the MDAs.
Unity Bank said its reconciliation team was made to sign a register of attendance at every reconciliation meeting, and at no time did the team admit to any liability because the process was still on-going and inconclusive.
Furthermore, while noting the constitutional power of Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Allocation Commission (RMFAC) as the sole agency of government to investigate, review, reconcile and collect revenue for the Government, Unity Bank said its co-operated fully with SPIPRPP and its consultants in the investigation process in demonstration of its non-culpability.
Unity Bank maintained that it has transferred all the balances of the MDAs in its books to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as far back as 2016, in line with the directive of the Federal Government of Nigeria.