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Access Bank denies any wrongdoing in sale of customer’s goods

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Access Bank Plc has vehemently denied any wrongdoing in the alleged sale of a customer’s goods worth N2.5billion.

The Police Special Fraud Unit in Lagos had charged Access Bank Plc, its managing director and chief executive officer, Herbert Wigwe, and others with 21 counts of conspiracy, fraudulent disposal of trust property, fraudulent conversion, stealing and false representation before an Ogun State High Court.

Access Bank Plc , Mr Wigwe, Alawode Oluseye and Bayo Adesina are accused of conspiring and stealing 23,754.413 metric tonnes of steel billets valued at ₦2.5 billion belonging to BMCE Bank International Plc.

But in a notice to the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), on Monday, Access Bank however denied the allegations stressing that at no time did the bank or any of its executives or officers commit any of the alleged offences.

The statement reads:

“In 2015, Access Bank availed credit facilities to Metal Africa Steel Products Limited, to finance the importation of billets and machinery for the expansion of its factory. Consequent upon the grant of the facilities, the bank opened Form M and Letters of Credit (“LC”) to facilitate the importation of the billets for which the shipping documents were consigned to the bank. The facilities were secured by a Debenture Trust Deed over the customer’s assets shared with other lenders.

“Upon arrival of the billets, the bank released the shipping documents to the customer to enable it clear the goods. The bank subsequently discovered that the customer had cleared the goods from the port without payment of appropriate customs duty.

“The bank, in line with its duty to protect its depositors’ funds, reported the alleged crime to SFU which obtained a court order to take over the customer’s business operations. Furthermore, the bank petitioned Interpol, which is presently taking steps to repatriate the suspects involved in the alleged fraud from India. Subsequently, the beneficiary banks (including the bank) under the Debenture Trust Deed, appointed a Receiver/Manager who took over the operations of the customer’s business and paid the appropriate customs duty on the billets.

“The Receiver/Manager subsequently obtained court order from the Federal High Court and sold the billets and distributed the proceeds amongst the beneficiary banks (including the bank).”

The lender further said in the statement that it was “aware that the petitioner also laid claims to the same billets following which there were attempts at settlement between the petitioner and the Receiver/Manager. The petitioner subsequently filed a complaint at SFU following the failure of settlement.

“Based on the foregoing, we were surprised to be served with the charges by the SFU alleging, amongst others, that the bank stole the billets and forged the shipping documents covering the billets.

“We hereby state that at no time did the bank or any of its executives or officers commit any of the alleged offences. The bank has continued to maintain the position that it financed the importation of the billets and that the Receiver/Manager appointed by the bank and a syndicate of other lenders had the right to sell the goods. We are aware that there are civil matters in court on the same subject.

“We are also aware that there are on-going settlement negotiations between the Receiver/Manager and the petitioner. Without prejudice to the settlement discussions and the civil matter, we reiterate that the Receiver/Manager appointed by the bank and a syndicate of other lenders acted within its powers to sell the billets.

“We wish to assure our stakeholders that the bank will continue to take all necessary steps to protect its depositor’s funds in line with its fiduciary duties as well as extant rules and regulations.” The statement concluded.

 

 

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N7bn: Unity Bank refutes SPIPRPP’s allegation, says claim is frivolous, unfounded

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Unity Bank Plc has faulted allegation against it by the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for Recovery of Public Property (SPIPRPP) that it has refused to return about N7 billion it allegedly owes the Federal Government.

The presidential panel had said in a statement on Monday that the N7bn represents the sum of $15,561,769.99 and N1,488,455,810.90), being excess and arbitrary charges on accounts of some agencies of government by the bank before the institution of Treasury Single Account. The panel further alleged that Unity Bank had agreed on the amount earlier in February, this year, but “has neither proffered a payment plan nor demonstrated good faith by actually initiating payments”.

But in a statement by Unity Bank signed by its Head, Corporate Communications, Mr. Matthew Obiazikwor on Monday, the lender denied the allegation stressing that the report of the panel is geared towards misinforming the public and misrepresenting the Bank’s position and nil impact resolutions reached during the reconciliation engagements.

 

Read the full statement below:

Unity Bank has faulted the allegation against it by Special Presidential Investigation Panel for Recovery of Public Property (SPIPRPP) over the ongoing reconciliation of the affected MDA accounts, stating that the report is geared towards misinforming the public and misrepresenting the Bank’s  position and nil impact resolutions reached during the reconciliation engagements.

In the ongoing investigation, Unity Bank has conducted itself professionally  by providing all evidence of customers’ instructions requested by the panel as it relates to all the MDAs.

Unity Bank had earlier transferred all the balances belonging MDAs to their respective TSA accounts in Central Bank of Nigeria as far back in 2016.

Upon approaching the Bank in 2018 to conduct investigations on the subject of MDAs, Unity Bank, as a responsible corporate citizen, cooperated with the panel accordingly. But out of its own volition, the panel refused to admit further documentary evidence from the Bank when it was obvious that the Bank has no balances kept in its books for the MDAs.

Instead, the panel suspended the investigation as apparently it could not fault any of the evidence presented by the Bank.

The Panel in an earlier letter requested the Bank to accept culpability and pay off a certain sum deemed outstanding which the Bank objected and insisted on completing the reconciliation exercise because the claims presented at this point against the Bank were unfounded and frivolous

It is therefore surprising for the SPIPRPP to turn back and issue a statement alleging sabotage when it abandoned its sitting and investigation midway.

Furthermore, it must be emphasized that, without prejudice to the constitutional power of Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Allocation Commission (RMFAC) as the sole agency of government to investigate,  review, reconcile and collect revenue for government,  the bank co-operated fully with SPIPRPP and its consultants in the investigation process and it was proven beyond reasonable doubt that Unity Bank has all records to show that it does its banking transactions transparently and in compliance with extant banking regulations and at no time took charges on the MDAs that were outside what is contained in the Bankers Tariffs, which guide banking operations in Nigeria.

The bank therefore maintains that the allegations of SPIPRPP, are superfluous, frivolous ill-motivated and unfounded as falsely presented in a press statement purportedly sent to the public.

We hereby call on our customers and the general public to disregard the allegations which is subterfuge aimed to unnecessarily smear the image of the Bank.

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NGE rejects NASS’ accreditation guidelines for journalists

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The Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) has rejected new guidelines for the accreditation of media organisations, journalists/correspondents covering the National Assembly, describing it as primitive, undemocratic and blatantly anti-press and anti-people.

The guidelines issued by authorities of the National Assembly (NASS) is due to become effective from June 11 2019.

It demands, among other draconian provisions, that a media organisation wishing to be accredited for coverage of NASS activities should submit a copy of its income tax return for the last two years.

Other requirements include “presentation of evidence of certificate of incorporation of the media organisation, evidence of membership of professional bodies for the journalists, maintenance of a functional Bureau in Abuja (staff strength not less than 5 Editorial staff) and daily circulation of 40,000 copies for the print media with evidence to support the claimed circulation figure.”

Finding the guidelines  vexatious, disrespectful and Draconian, and a scurrilous attempt to gag the press in a democracy, the Guild said it cannot stand.

“These guidelines run contrary to the grains of reason, democratic ideals and they are a clear affront on the letter and spirit of the Nigerian constitution which empowers journalists to freely practice their profession without any gag, muzzling and restriction.

“The NASS guidelines negate the constitutional principle of freedom of expression and run contrary to the African Charter on fundamental rights and the right of the people to know. The Guild strongly objects to these guidelines in their entirety as they serve no public good except the myopic interest of its chroniclers and purveyors.

“The Guild is disappointed that the same 8th National Assembly which benefited immensely from free press in its moments of trial has turned round to put the same press in shackles and chains. We reject this crude abrasion of our constitutional rights to freely disseminate information. It cannot stand,” the Guild said.

The Guild strongly urged all media houses across the nation to rise up and reject the medieval intrusion into the media space in the 21st century, much more in a democracy which Nigerian media doggedly fought for and for which some journalists paid the supreme price.

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FG declares May 29, June 12 public holidays

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Nigerian Government has declared May 29 and June 12 as public holidays to mark the transition to a new government and Democracy Day respectively.

Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohamed, disclosed this during a press briefing in Abuja on Monday.

Mohammed said that most of the activities formerly performed on May 29 as Democracy Day have been moved to June 12 and that the events slated for May 29, would be low key.

He said world leaders will only attend the June 12 events.

Until June 6, 2018, the Democracy Day was held annually on May 29, the day the military handed over power to an elected civilian government in 1999, marking the beginning of the longest continuous civilian rule since Nigeria’s independence from colonial rule in 1960.

It is a tradition that has been held annually, beginning in the year 2000.

On June 6, 2018, eight days after May 29, 2018, had been celebrated as Democracy Day, the President Buhari-led government of Nigeria declared June 12 to be the new Democracy Day.

Prior to the government’s declaration, Nigeria Senate last week passed the Public Holiday Act Amendment Bill to recognise June 12 as the country’s Democracy Day.

The bill was passed almost one year after Buhari announced that June 12 would replace May 29 for Nigerians to commemorate the return of democratic.

Although a few lawmakers protested the change in date of Democracy Day, it was, however, approved after a majority of the lawmakers supported passage of the bill.

The passage of the bill means the amendment to the Public Holiday Act has been effected in concurrence with the House of Representatives.

With the assent granted to the bill by President Buhari, Nigeria will observe May 29 and June 12 as public holidays annually.

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