The Federal Government has commenced moves to take over an account with N53.4 billion purportedly operated by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) without its knowledge.
Consequently, the government has initiated a legal process for a permanent takeover and final forfeiture of the account domiciled in the First Bank of Nigeria.
The details: In the documents filed at the Federal High Court in Abuja, the federal government said it derives its powers from the Recovery of Public Property (Special Provision) Act to apply for takeover of the account.
- The Special Presidential Investigation Panel (SPIP) which acted on behalf of federal government, said it stumbled on the account while “investigating a petition against a ‘slush’ funds held in a fictitious account named: NNPC/NOAC IPP Security Account, suspected to be proceeds of corrupt practices.”
- SPIP provided details of the bank account which include: First Bank of Nigeria Plc; currency type: Nigerian naira; account number: 2006367288; account type: current account and account name: NNPC/NOAC IPP Security Account.
A brief into the investigation: Basically, SPIP is empowered by the Recovery of Public Property (Special Provision) Act and the Rules of the Federal High Court to apply for takeover of assets suspected to be proceeds of corrupt practices, including the billions domiciled in the account. The SPIP in an affidavit revealed that:
- Account holders are unidentifiable persons and/or public officers, who disguised themselves in the name and style of NNPC/NOAC IPP Security Account, which is fictitious and did not follow any known due process in account opening; and
- Account being operated with the first defendant (First Bank) is reasonably suspected to be a diversion of public funds, hidden in the account for the private use of the unidentified persons operating the account.
Meanwhile, First Bank and the Nigerian Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS) have responded to the suit and denied any wrongdoing.
- While explaining the status of the account, First Bank claimed that the account was not being used for unlawful activities and that the President exempted it from the Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy.
- The NIBSS also denied knowledge of all activities in the account.
First Bank added: “The NNPC/NOAC IPP Security Account (2006367288) is a security account for the Joint Venture between the NNPC, Agip Oil Company Limited and Philips Oil Company (Nigeria) Limited for payments in respect of power generated to the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The balance in the account is not being dissipated as it is a security account. The forfeiture application is a breach of the President’s approval to exempt the account from TSA.”
On the other hand, NIBSS said it lacks the capacity to monitor inter-banking transactions and adding that it did not engage in banking operations whatsoever.
“NIBSS lacks the capacity by virtue of its scope of operations, to monitor electronic inter and intra-banking transactions, but processes all inter-bank payments in order to remove potential bottlenecks associated with inter-bank funds transfer and settlement.
“NIBSS is not a money bank and that, by its operations does not have direct access to funds and does not engage in banking operations whatsoever,” the agency said.
While controversies surround the ownership and source of the funds in the anonymous NNPC account, the court has said it would rule on the forfeiture suit filed by federal government on the matter on October 9.