Acting Managing Director, Polaris Bank Limited, Innocent Ike, was a guest of the House of Representatives’ Ad Hoc Committee on Assessment and Status of All Recovered Loots Movable and Immovable Assets from 2002 to 2020 by Agencies of the Federal Government of Nigeria for Effective Efficient Management and Utilisation.
The bank MD was grilled on Thursday
over an account belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation believed to have been hidden in the bank.
Over $200m was said to have been allegedly hidden in the account, which was opened in 2012.
Polaris Bank, formerly Skye Bank, said it forwarded the balance to the Central Bank of Nigeria in compliance with the Treasury Single Account policy of the Federal Government.
The committee, however, invited the NNPC to come forward and explain the circumstances surrounding the account, while asking the bank to forward evidence of the remittance within one week.
Chairman of the committee, Adejoro Adeogun, had noted that a special prosecutor to the defunct Special Presidential Panel for the Recovery of Public Property, Mr Tosin Ojaomo, raised the alarm over the alleged maintenance of an account with the Deposit Money Bank against the TSA policy.
Adeogun noted that several top government officials had been summoned and appeared before the committee to account for recovered loot.
He said, “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.”
Ike, in his presentation, recalled that the defunct Skye Bank was enmeshed in financial and administrative crises, making it difficult to meet its obligations.
According to him, huge credit facilities were granted to operators in the petroleum sector following there was a major crash in global oil prices.
He further recalled that the CBN, in July 2016, dissolved the board of the erstwhile Skye Bank and Polaris Bank took over the assets and liabilities of the erstwhile Skye Bank.
Ike noted that it was a normal banking service to the NNPC, adding that the account was opened before the TSA policy was introduced.
“Permit me to conclude that the money deposited at Skye Bank and Polaris Bank was at no time hidden from any government agency and, therefore, we do not believe that it should be classified as looted funds at all.
“At that same time, the bank, among other things, was unable to honour the directive to remit all government funds to the TSA, inclusive of the NNPC fund. So, when we came on board, it was one of the challenges that we had to deal with at that point in time.