Lawyer kicks as FG fails to pay whistle-blower who exposed secret $223m NNPC account in Polaris bank
The Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation is currently enmeshed in a scandal after refusing to pay a whistle-blower (name withheld) his N1.8bn commission for exposing an account with $223m (N80.2bn).
Several documents made available to The PUNCH by a source in the AGF’s office, showed that the whistle-blower approached the AGF, Abubakar Malami (SAN), in June 2018 and informed him of an account named, ‘NNPC Brass LNG INV. Fund’ with number 1750027157 domiciled in Skye Bank (now Polaris Bank).
The bank was said to have failed to remit the money to the Central Bank of Nigeria in contravention of the Treasury Single Account policy of the Federal Government.
Bank documents showed that the account was opened with the sum of $328, 998, 818.24 on May 31, 2014, at the Asokoro branch of the bank
According to statement of account obtained by The PUNCH, about $50m was transferred from the account to the account of the National Security Adviser domiciled in the account of the Central Bank of Nigeria on May 8, 2014 while Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.) was still the NSA.
Investigations further revealed that after the Muhammadu Buhari-led government began the full implementation of the TSA and ordered that all government funds in commercial banks be transferred to the CBN, the aforementioned account continued to operate.
It was learnt that when the Bank Verification Number initiative was introduced and Maikanti Baru was appointed as the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, 14 persons (all NNPC officials) were listed as signatories to the account in contravention of banking practices.
Some of the names of signatories include: NNPC GMD, Maikanti Baru, with BVN 22169280709; NNPC Group General Manager, Babatunde Victor Adeniran, with BVN 22144631650; Head of Marketing, Mele Kolo Kyari, with BVN 22206528997; and Group General Manager, Research and Development, Surajudeen Bolanle Afolabi with BVN 22215178271.
Others include, Managing Director, Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, Yusuf Shimingah Matashi with BVN 22272006629; NNPC Secretary, Chukwudi Ogonna Momah, with BVN 22144111468; Group General Manager, CSR, Ohi Alegbe with BVN 22232395310; and Group General Manager, Group Insurance, NNPC, Modupe Bammeke with BVN 22190602006.
Upon reporting the matter to the AGF, the whistle-blower was said to have been referred to the Special Investigation Panel and briefed them on his findings.
He subsequently accompanied officials of the panel to the bank where top officials were arrested and made statements.
Members of the bank’s board were also invited by the panel where they were said to have complained that transferring all the money to the CBN in one fell swoop would affect the bank negatively and pleaded for the option of paying in instalments.
After playing his part, the whistle-blower signed a bond along with the AGF which was witnessed by Ladidi Mohammed, the Head, Asset Recovery and Management Unit at the AGF’s office.
A copy of the bond dated June 14, 2018 which was obtained by The PUNCH stated in part that, “any recovered amount from N5bn and above attracts a flat/definite reward of two and a half per cent of the recovered sum.”
It further stated the commission shall become due and payable to the whistle-blower ‘within 30 days’ of the receipt of the recovered/looted funds by the Federal Government and payment shall be made to the designated/nominated account provided in writing by the whistle-blower.
Checks by The PUNCH revealed that $30m was transferred from the said account to the CBN in three tranches on March 1, 2019, March 6, 2019 and April 25.
It was, however, learnt that 11 months after the agreement was signed, the Federal Government had failed to give the whistle-blower any money.
In a letter signed by the whistle-blower’s lawyer, Aliyu Lemu, which was addressed to the AGF, the whistle-blower lamented the failure of the government to honour the agreement.
He threatened to sue the Federal Government if he was not paid his commission within seven days.
The letter read in part, “We therefore on behalf of our client make a final demand for the immediate payment of the sum of N1, 829, 794, 676 being the reward due to our client as stipulated in paragraph (e) of the whistle-blower Reward Agreement executed with the Federal Government.
“Take notice that if the above final demand is not heeded within the period of seven days from the date of receipt of this letter, we shall explore all other social, public and legal remedies available to our client under the constitution of Nigeria without further recourse to your good office.”
When contacted on the telephone, the Head, Corporate Communications at Polaris Bank, Rasheed Bolarinwa, promised to get back to our correspondent but he had yet to do so as of press time.
Similarly, the AGF as well as his spokesman, Salihu Isah, did not respond to inquiries on Monday.
The PUNCH recalls that the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, boasted last week that the Federal Government had recovered N605bn through the whistleblower policy.
However, checks by The PUNCH showed that whistle-blowers were not always paid on time.
The PUNCH had reported in 2017 that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had recovered $43m, £27,000, N23m from a house in Ikoyi which belonged to the National Intelligence Agency.
However, it was only after pressure from the media eight months later that the Federal Government was compelled to pay the whistle-blower the sum which had been forfeited several months earlier.
The acting EFCC Chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, had a few months ago lamented the slow pace at which whistle-blowers were getting their commission and how it could undermine the success of the policy. Punch