Whistleblower Lied, Our Bank Account With Unity Bank Is Frozen – NPA

A section of the media was awash last week with news of a whistleblower, one John Okupurhe, who had written a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari accusing the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), of refusing to pay him his reward after he had exposed over $1 billion hidden in Unity Bank Plc.

Okpurhe, through his lawyer, Aliyu Lemu, in a letter dated June 22, 2020, had alleged that the said account was secretly being operated by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to illegally collect revenue to the tune of the S1bn from vessels.

He added that upon discovery, he informed the Office of the AGF, in line with the whistle blower policy, of the secret account and an agreement was signed on how he would be entitled to a reward if the information he had provided turned out credible. The whistleblower further alleged that after playing his own part, the AGF’s office “began to play games.”

Following the said allegation, the House of Representatives, in a motion of urgent national importance during plenary last Thursday, gave its committees on Finance and Ports & Harbours a marching order to investigate the secret account allegedly being operated by the NPA with Unity Bank plc.

Investigation by our correspondent revealed that the NPA was not the owner of the said account number 0013680344, which was cited by the whistleblower, Mr. Okpurhe. It was discovered that the NPA was actually operating an account with Unity Bank Plc with account number 0013670344 and the account had a total sum of $1,057,772.03 by December 4, 2019 and not $1,034,515,000.00, as alleged by the petitioner.

Further probe into the allegation revealed that the account number 0013670344 had been frozen since August 27, 2010 due to a suit number FHC/L/CS/582/2010 filed against the NPA by Aminu Ibrahim & Co and Anor, which went from the Federal High Court to the Supreme Court over a period of eight years.

The said amount had accrued over time since 2003 when thecNPA contracted a consultant to, among others, carry out the following assignments:

1. Identify the various contracts subsisting (or expired) between the NPA and Intel Services Limited. A reconciliation of the financial interest of the NPA in line with contract agreement was to be established and any other payment due to the NPA highlighted.

2. Same as (1) above for NLNG/MOBIL/NPA joint venture projects for the capital and maintenance dredging of Bonny Channel.

3. Consultants to verify contracts between the Authority and some of its joint venture partners, namely Intels, Mobil and NLNG.

4. Reconcile NPA amortization payments in respect of capital dredging and maintenance dredging of Bonny Channels in the NLNG/MOBIL/NPA joint ventures.

5. Check accounting ledgers of the NPA in respect of the projects above to ensure that a true reflection of the state of financial affairs is made for each of the projects.

6. Identify any concessions granted (but which expired) and are used to the detriment of the NPA.

7. Identify any other areas related to the above projects/transactions and make recommendations, and

8. The assignment is on a no-cure, no-pay basis and the fee is fixed at 18 per cent. Not satisfied that money had not been paid, the consultant approached the court praying it to compel the NPA to pay.

The NPA had, in a letter to the AGF dated January 22 and 23, 2003, with reference numbers HQ/GM/1A/AD/COM/045 and HQ/GM/1A/AD/CON/046, drew the AGF attention to the terms of agreement as stated above.

The plaintiffs, while in court, claimed that they carried out the assignments diligently and submitted their bills for payment, but the Authority failed, refused and or neglected to pay their professional fees.

Worried by the twist of event, the NPA filed its defence, which was predicated on the ground that the Authority did not agree to pay the sums claimed by the plaintiffs as there were discrepancies in the report submitted by the plaintiffs, which made same unreliable for the use of the Authority.

It was observed that the NPA further contended that the subject matter of the suit was being investigated by the federal government vide the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and that the payments of all contracts awarded during the period had been suspended by the EFCC.


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