*I’m surprised at FG’sindifference to fraudulent payments – Lawyer
*Condemns non-paymentof clients under Whistleblower Policy
By Malachy Uzendu
The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice (AGF), MallamAbubakar Malami (SAN) and his Finance counterpart, Hajia Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed,have kept sealed lips on the exposed $25billion fraud in the nation’s oilsector.
The deals were carried out under the pretext of JointVenture Cash Call
(JVCC) payments to some international and local oilcompanies, with curious bank accounts and irreconcilable statements of accountsby the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigerian National PetroleumCorporation (NNPC).
The fraudulent activities, The AUTHORITY learnt have been onsince 2016 and are suspected to have been carried out by
yet-to-be-identifiedstaff members of the CBN and the NNPC.
It was captured through an analysis of the officialstatements of account of the CBN and NNPC.
In digging further into the mess, The AUTHORITY unearthedcorrespondences addressed to the AGF and the Finance Minister by Barr. EdwinAgbu of Bluewhales & Co (Legal Practitioners and
Consultants) which weredated and received in the two ministries on
October 12 on the subject matter.
The law firm said that they “were solicitors for Black Wealth Nig Enterprises” on whose behalf and instructions it wrote the letters.
The letters were titled: “Irregularities in CBN Managementof ‘CBN JVCC USD Account’ No 01270145650 with Standard Chartered Bank, London; NNPC Joint VCCP Account No 0230157141134 and Operation of Fictitious JVCC Accountsby the CBN and NNPC with the Connivance of International Oil Companies (IOCs),United Bank for Africa (UBA) and the First Bank of Nigeria: Whistleblow Thereof.”
According to Agbu, “our clients desire to make full use and benefitof the Freedom of Information Act, LFN and the Whistleblower Protection Act,LFN and divulge information over suspicious fraudulent transactions in therunning and management of CBN JVCC (Dollar US)
Account No 01270145650,operation of secret/fictitious JVCC accounts
with the knowledge and /orconnivance of the major oil companies and some few banks, unknown to theFederal Republic of Nigeria all along.”
Citing 23 instances, the law firm alleged that they hadcontacted all
the oil companies and banks they had traced such fraudulent
transactionsto either confirm or deny the existence of the accounts
but none of them hasresponded to the letters till date.
“Also, we wrote letters to NNPC and CBN over the issuesraised in this
petition for them to clarify their position on theview/suspicion of
our client and yet, none of them has responded to the duediligence
inquiry put forward to them,” he said.
They stated that “apart from having reasons only known to theCBN and
NNPC for operating a JVCC through private commercial banks instead of
throughthe CBN, our clients reasonably believe that the accounts under
the cover of‘JVCC Accounts’ are not only fictitious, but used as a conduit pipe throughwhich Nigeria’s monies are being fraudulently siphoned for at least the pastsix years, leaving Nigeria in financial comatose.
“The fraud under consideration in this financial sleaze isover $25 billion, covering a period of five years, commencing from 2013 to 2017,”he said.
According to the law firm, “these amounts are recoverableand our clients are entitled to their fees on actual amounts recovered, under the law.”
Agbu continued: “I am surprised none of the ministers hasresponded to the letters I wrote to them on behalf of my clients. They haveuncovered fraud of such monumental level which I have not seen or heard ofsince I was born.
“The basic intent of my clients is that they have uncoveredsuch level of fraud. If the government is trying to celebrate or support cover-up,it is up to the government, but my clients are entitled to be paid according tothe Whistleblower Policy,” he said.
Last Thursday, The AUTHORITY published some aspects of this financial sleaze in the oil sector.
The report revealed that the bank accounts into which suchfraudulent
monies were paid into were either eight, nine, 11 or 13 digit bankaccounts, contrary to the 10 digit bank accounts legislated by the CBN beforethe introduction of Bank Verification Numbers (BVN) for all account holders inthe country, including private and corporate accounts.
For example, it was curious to discover that on 23rdSeptember, 2015 CBN paid N6,858,148,250, which was classified as “JVC Cash Call Payment to NNPC/SPDC/EPNL/NAOC Joint Venture for September 2015, into accountnumber 00102463574, purportedly domiciled at the First Bank of Nigeria Plc”leaving a balance of N176,170,466,478.50 in the said account at that time.
The above stated account number is curiously an 11 digital count number, and definitely illegal at the time of the transaction.
Also, on the same day, the CBN statement of account listedpayment of the sum of N3,290,045,700.00 “being JVC Cash Call Payment in favour of NNPC/MOBIL Joint Venture through account number 201024355, which it equallyclaimed was an account domiciled in First Bank of Nigeria Limited, with abalance of N13,880,420,778.50 then.
This purported FBN account number unfortunately, has ninedigits, which
raised serious suspicions of fraud.
An aspect that confounded The AUTHORITY was monies said tohave been
made to a company called OGIDIGBEN, with account number 16868437.
This eight digit account number received six payments ofequal amount of N31,293,855 on March 13, 2015, totalling N187,763,130.
This particular transaction has no bank name mentioned as the recipient in the CBN Statement of Account.
Further discoveries showed that this same amount ofN187,763,130 was
withdrawn from the CBN Dollar Cash Call Account domiciled inJP Morgan Bank on 7th March, 2015, as $957,975.15 and credited to the Naira Cash Call Account on 18th March, 2015 as N187,763,130.
Another suspicious bank account operated by the CBN/NNPC racket purportedly at the UBA Port Harcourt Branch on 5th January, 2015 in favourof “NNPC/NAOC/POCNL Joint Venture” with account number 03900030000230, was usedto fleece the sum of N39,351,094,500, but paid out in dollar equivalent of$235,635,296.40, at an exchange rate of N167 per dollar.
Interestingly, this payment is into 13 digit account numbersaid to be “Cash Call Arrears for the period 2008 to 2011”.
Curiuosly, our check at the UBA Plc, Port Harcourt branchdid not show any bank account with any such 13 digits within the period.
As a matter of fact, all the UBA branches operating in PortHarcourt
within the period had only 10 digit BVN-linked bank account numbers.
Part of our findings also showed that CBN paidN26,746,091.90 on 19th
January, 2015 to a company named G.C. Ltd,through account number
1007155607 (a 10 digit account number), at the same UBAPlc, Port Harcourt branch, where it claimed it had operated a 13 digit account number.
The AUTHORITY tried but without success in making cash lodgement into the said 13 digit account number as our reporters were told that theaccount number did not exist.
According to ENI through a letter with reference number LF/MD/199/ABJ/2018signed by Lorenzo Filrillo, Vice-Chairman/Managing
Director, dated 11thOctober, 2018, the company never had any such bank account.
According to Filrillo, “from our records, there is nothingindicating
that NAOC ever opened the captioned accounts.”
First Bank through one Silas Nwaulune, who signed on behalfof the General Counsel, First Bank and Subsidiaries, in a letter dated 15thOctober, 2018, emphatically denied operating any of the referenced bankaccount.
“We hereby advise that the bank account mentioned underreference does not exist in First Bank of Nigeria Ltd,” he stated.
At the time of filing this report, neither the CBN, NNPC, EFCC,nor the
oil companies mentioned as beneficiaries in the CBN statement of account, responded to our enquiries on the issue.