…also to probe N1.2trn unpaid govt funds
he House of Representatives on Monday started an investigative hearing on unaccounted N1.2 trillion allegedly held by deposits money banks on behalf of ministries departments and agencies of government without remitting same into the consolidated revenue account with the Central Bank.
TheNewsGuru.com, (TNG) reports the House also disclosed that a total of 45 million bank accounts have been found not to be linked to bank verification numbers otherwise known as BVN, in different commercial banks in the country, funds that have now become trapped due to inability of the account holders to withdraw them.
The deputy speaker, Ahmed Idris Wase, who declared open the probe on Monday expressed hope that the exercise would throw up positive outcome that can enhance government efforts at closing infrastructure deficit in the country.
“We hope this assignment would improve our system in terms of value addition. This assignment is line with section 88, 86 of the Nigerian constitution among the powers of the National Assembly to conduct investigative hearing either to improve on the loss or to expose corruption or waste.
“This I believe from the body of the motion that about N1.2 trillion not paid into consolidated revenue, so that we can improve the infrastructure deficit and other challenges in our nation. I believe it is important, hoping an praying what was mentioned if it is true, it means then we have lot to do. First to expose the corruption aspect of it. Secondly to come out with interventions that would improve and mitigate the situation.
“I charge my colleagues to do their work with the fear of God, diligent and commitment and above all with the fear of the Almighty. I pray God will give you the determination to carry this important function,” he said.
Chairman of the Adhoc Committee investigating the status of unclaimed funds in commercial banks and possible infractions by the CBN, Hon. Unyime Idem (PDP, Akwa Ibom), stated that deposit money banks must assist the panel with information about unclaimed funds in their possession.
“For commercial banks, these resolution stipulates that you submit document that would help us recover unclaimed in about 45 million accounts that are not linked to BVN. About 45 million accounts is what the House has been able to discover through the recent reports. Those accounts are not linked to BVN. So monies in those accounts, we want to know the positions, whether you have refunded the FG or what happened to the funds. You are going to give us documents to back these investigations”, he demanded.
Director General Budget Office, Ben Akabueze representing minister of finance, Zainab Ahmed, noted that “from the opening remarks of the committee Chairman, it will appear that this is focused on unearthing the federal government’s balances that may still be hanging in any of the commercial banks”.
“I believe that over the past several years there have been circulars of government seeking to enforce this. Because otherwise when we received this invitation that talked about unclaimed funds in Nigeria commercial banks, basically my initial reading of this is that it’s related to inactive accounts, dormant accounts, because the extant regulation guiding the management of these, issued by the CBN, on October 2015, provides guidelines for the management of inactive accounts, dormant accounts and unclaimed funds.
“Those guidelines obligate any bank to have notified the Federal government of the existence of any such funds belonging to it, if they had I’m sure that those funds will not be there. I hope that Without prejudice to the work of this committee that the CBN will also do the job of enforcing its own guidelines. As the work of the committee progresses, whatever other specific information required of us as a ministry we will be able to provide,” the minister said.
A representative of Office of Accountant General of the Federation, Sylva Okorieaboh, as well as Director/ Coordinator Treasury Single Account (TSA) said while they were unable to prepare for the hearing due to lack of details in the invitation letter, they however agreed that government funds are likely still being held by commercial banks.
“…there’s good likelihood that substantial amount of Federal Government funds might still be lying with commercial banks despite the presidential directive of 7th August 2015, and the circulars and efforts made to compel the commercial banks to comply with those directives.
“On the 14th of December 2021, the minister of finance inaugurated new TSA implementation structures and she alluded to the fact that there’s a likelihood that substantial amount that federal government fund are still lying with commercial banks and directed the banks to return those funds or they will be reported to anti corruption agencies.
We believe that there are still federal government funds with commercial banks but we can’t say specifically how much and where, so to that extent we welcome the efforts of this committee”, the TSA office added..
The Central Bank which is at the centre of the investigation with regard to enforcement of its own guidelines to commercial banks pledged to cooperate with the committee with a view to finding solutions to the issue.
Other commercial banks are scheduled to appear on the 15th of February when the investigation resumes.