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Economy

45 account holders abandon N1.2trn in Nigerian banks

Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning

—as  house of Reps commences move to retrieve trapped fund

 

Forty-five account holders have had their funds, running to the sum of over N1.2 trillion, trapped in the Deposit Money Banks(commercial banks) over their failure to link the accounts to Bank Verification Numbers(BVN) and the Treasury Single Account policy of the Federal government.

However, the House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee on Unclaimed Funds in the Commercial Banks and Infractions by the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN) has commenced a process to free the trapped funds from the strong rooms of the concerned banks.

The House had on January 26, 2022, resolved to set up the committee to investigate the “suspicious and unclaimed funds” sitting with various accounts.

The House had mandated the committee to also investigate the unremitted funds collected on behalf of ministries, departments and agencies of the Federal Government by the banks.

The House had further mandated the committee to look into the alleged “several infractions by the Central Bank of Nigeria against the provisions of the enabling Act and Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the good people of Nigeria, especially in the area of intervention projects and programs.”

The committee is to report back within eight weeks for further legislative action.

These resolutions were based on a motion moved by a member, Dachung Bagos, titled ‘Need to Investigate Unclaimed Funds in Nigerian Commercial Banks and the Infractions by the Central Bank of Nigeria,’ which the lawmakers unanimously adopted.

Moving the motion, Bagos noted that the Bank Verification Number was introduced by the CBN in 2014 to the Nigerian banking system as a way of checking and combating money laundering, illicit financing and duplicitous ownership of bank accounts used for fraud.

He also noted that about seven years after the introduction of the BVN, about 45.85 million bank accounts across Nigeria are yet to be linked to BVNs, as data released by the Nigerian Inter–Bank Settlement Systems on June 23, 2021, disclosed that the total number of bank accounts in Nigeria, as of May 2019, was pegged at 122.071 million and the active accounts, as of May, 2020 stood at 72.936 million.

On Monday, the committee was inaugurated with several invited ministries, departments and agencies of the Federal Government as well as banks in attendance.

Unyime Idem, chairman of the committee, after representatives of the MDAs made their remarks, said, “For commercial banks, this resolution stipulates that you submit documents that would help us recover unclaimed funds in about 45 million accounts that are not linked to the BVN.

“About 45 million accounts are what the House has been able to discover through the recent reports. Those accounts are not linked to BVN. So, money 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.”

According to Idem, the committee’s assignment is “enormous, crucial and sensitive, given what the country is facing economically.”

He said, “We believe that the outcome of it (probe) would help the country to recover a very substantial part of the unclaimed funds that have been hanging in some of the Nigerian commercial banks and other unauthorized hands.

“Money meant for the Federal Government is not supposed to sit with unauthorized hands for a very long time. Any money that was disbursed or meant for the Federation Account, if the contract has failed or was not executed, the proper thing is for the money to be refunded to the same source it came from.

“But unfortunately, whether out of oversight or deliberate; for whatever reason, so much money, based on the recent discovery, has been tied down somewhere. That is what informed the National Assembly, precisely the House of Reps, to commence this investigative hearing.”

The lawmaker also read a riot act to the stakeholders, saying, “For commercial banks and other agencies that are sitting on these funds that belong to the Federal Government, that are not willing show cooperation and not willing to refund; for banks that are collecting funds on behalf of the government, I think this House would not have a choice but to stop you from collecting funds on behalf of the government if you don’t show cooperation.

“But if you do, it would be a win-win. When we look at your books and then you check the one that belongs to the government and refund it appropriately, there would not be any issue.”

Earlier while declaring the event open, Ahmed Wase, deputy speaker of the House, noted that the motion stated that about N1.2tn was not paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund. He said the probe was necessary “so that we can improve the infrastructure deficit and other challenges in our nation.”

In his remarks, Ben Akabueze, Director-General of the Budget Office, who represented Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, noted that over years, there had been circulars from government authorities to those concerned to enforce the TSA and BVN policies.

Akabueze said, “When we received this invitation that talked about unclaimed funds in Nigerian commercial banks, basically, my initial reading of this was that it was related to inactive accounts, dormant accounts; because the extant regulation guiding the management of these issued by the CBN, in 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 am sure that those funds would not be there. I hope, without prejudice to the work of this committee, that the CBN would 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 would be able to provide.”

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Economy

Nigerians to groan under fresh fuel scarcity for another two weeks- Independent Petroleum Marketers

The Eyewitness Reporter 
The current fuel crisis in the country may not go anytime soon as the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) has warned that the situation may likely persist for the next two weeks.
Speaking against the fresh fuel scarcity in the country, the IPMAN’s Public Relations Officer, Chinedu Ukadike disclosed that there is no petrol product available for supply in the country.
Ukadike, in a statement, said there is a breach in the international supply chain, adding that fuel is not available even for Nigeria’s sole supplier, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NPCL).
This follows an ongoing turnaround maintenance of refineries in Europe.Ukadike explained that once there is a breach in the international supply chain, it will have an impact on domestic supply because they depend on imports.

“The situation is that there is no product. Once there is a lack of supply or inadequate supply, what you will see is scarcity and queues will emerge at filling stations.

“On the part of NNPCL, which is the sole supplier of petroleum products in Nigeria, they have attributed the challenge to logistics and vessel problems.

“Once there is a breach in the international supply chain, it will have an impact on domestic supply because we depend on imports.

” I also have it on good authority that most of the refineries in Europe are undergoing turnaround maintenance, so sourcing petroleum products has become a bit difficult.” IPMAN spokesman said.
According to him, “NNPC Group CEO has assured us that there will be improvement in the supply chain because their vessels are arriving”.“Once that is done, normalcy will return. This is because once the 30-day supply sufficiency is disrupted, it takes two to three months to restore it.

“We expect that by next week or so, NNPC should be able to restore supply and with another week, normalcy should return,” he said.

Ukadike further stated that “NNPC has said the marketers who have not been able to renew their licences will not be allowed to remain on their portal which has been shut for some time now.

” Because of this, we have not been able to request new products”.

 “At this nascent period of deregulation, you will discover that this leads to scarcity, even when the product arrives.

“As it is now, even by their data, out of 15,000 marketers that are on the portal with licences, only 1,050 renewed their licences.

“The requirement for renewal by NMDPRA is so much. Marketers are facing a hostile environment. NNPC placed a deadline of April 15, 2024, for marketers to renew their licences.

“We are, therefore, appealing to NNPC to extend this deadline and also to NMDPRA to hasten the release of licences of marketers who have completed their processes, and also reduce bottlenecks around licence renewals.”

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Economy

CBN sells $15.830m at N1.021 per dollar to 1,583 BDCs

CBN Governor, Olayemi Cardoso
The Eyewitness Reporter 
In its ongoing effort to ensure liquidity in the foreign exchange market which is expected to ease the pressure on the naira, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on Monday disbursed the sum of $15,830,000m to 1,583 licensed Bureau De Change Operators at $10, 000 each.
In a letter dated April 22nd, 2024 and addressed to the President of the Association of Bureau De Change Operators of Nigeria and signed by Dr Hassan Mahmud, the Director, Trade and Exchange Department of the CBN, the beneficiaries are mandated to sell allocated forex to eligible end users ” at a spread of not more than 1.5 percent above the purchase price.
The CBN said the sale of forex to the BDCs will meet market demand (retail-end) for invisible transactions.
The apex bank however advised all the BDCs to continue to abide by the rules and conditions as stipulated in the operational guidelines.
The beneficiary BDCs have trading locations at Lagos, Abuja, Akwa and Kano.
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Economy

News Alert! CBN revokes operational licenses of 4,173 Bureau De Change operators for breach of regulatory guidelines

CBN Governor, Olayemi Cardoso

The Eyewitness Reporter

In its continuous efforts to sanitize the foreign exchange market and halt the frightening slide of the naira in exchange for the dollars, the Central Bank of Nigeria has revoked the operational licenses of 1,173 Bureau De Change operators.

In a press release issued Friday, March 1st, 2024 and signed by Mrs. Sidi Ali Hakama, the Acting Director, Corporate Communications, the apex bank said the axed BDCs failed to observe at least one of the following regulatory provisions which include payment of all necessary fees, including license renewal within the stipulated period in line with the Guidelines, rendition of returns in line with the Guidelines, compliance with guideline, directives and circulars of the CBN, particularly Anti-Money Laundering(AML), countering the Financing of Terrorism(CFT)and Counter-Proliferation Financing(CPF) regulations.

The apex bank said it relied on the powers conferred on it under the Bank and Other Financial Institutions Act(BOFIA)2020, Act n0.5 and Revised Operational Guidelines for Bureaux De Change 2015(the Guidelines).

“The CBN is revising the regulatory and supervisory guidelines for Bureau de Change operations in Nigeria. Compliance with the new requirements will be mandatory for all stakeholders in the sector when the revised guidelines become effective.

‘Members of the Public are hereby advised to take note and be guided accordingly”, the statement concluded.

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