Unity Bank tackles Presidential panel over N7bn allegation

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Unity Bank Plc on Tuesday described the N7bn allegation against it by the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for Recovery of Public Property (SPIPRPP) as being biased and geared towards misinforming the public.

Recall that SPIPRPP had on Monday said it might charge Unity Bank with offences bordering on economic sabotage if the bank refused to return about N7bn it owed the Federal Government.

A statement by SPIPRPP’s Head, Media & Communication¸ Lucie-Ann Laha, said 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 the Treasury Single Account (TSA)’’.

The statement said the agencies from whose accounts the “excess and arbitrary charges” had been deducted by the bank were the Nigerian Ports Authority, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, the Nigeria Customs Service, the Kaduna Refinery and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency’’.

However, reacting, the bank in a statement by its management in Lagos, signed by Matthew Obiazikwor, Head, Corporate Communications, said report over the ongoing reconciliation of affected Ministries, Departments and Agencies’ (MDA) accounts, misrepresented the bank’s position and nil impact resolutions reached during the reconciliation engagements.

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

“Upon approaching the bank in 2018 to conduct investigations on the subject of the 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 sittings and investigation midway,’’ the statement said.

The bank emphasised that it cooperated fully with SPIPRPP and its consultants in the investigation process and it was proven beyond reasonable doubt that Unity Bank had all records to show all banking transactions, in compliance with extant banking regulations.

It noted that the bank, at no time levied charges on the MDAs that were outside what is contained in the Bankers Tariffs, which guide banking operations in Nigeria.

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