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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

 Discos gross N2.4trn revenue in 5 years amidst power outage

The Electricity Distribution Companies (Discos) raked in a total of N2.4 trillion as revenue between 2015 and 2020, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has revealed.

According to the NBS, revenue generated by the DisCos in 2015 stood at N278.89 billion and rose to N303.03 billion in 2016, showing an 8.65 percent growth rate.

Also, in 2017, revenue generated by the Discos increased by 22.25 percent to N370.46 billion and further rose by 19.48 percent in 2018 to N442.63 billion.

It further increased by 9.03 percent in 2019, to N482.61 billion as well as a sustained positive growth of 9.15 percent when N526.77 billion was collected in 2020.

The statistical agency disclosed this in its June Electricity Report which presents statistics on electricity from 2015 to 2020.

The report focuses on customer numbers, metered customers, estimated billing customers, and most importantly, electricity supply and revenue collected under the reviewed period.

In the 2020 revenue receipt, the highest collection was by Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company (IEDC) with N102.10 billion. It was closely followed by EKEDC with N81.39 billion while the least collection was recorded in YEDC with N10.64 billion.

Nonetheless, electricity supplied to customers during the period of the review showed an unstable trajectory.

The NBS stated that in 2015, 20,337.40 Gigawatt hours (GWh) were supplied across Nigeria. This fell by 6.36 percent in 2016, when 19,044.30 GWh were supplied. Also, it rose in 2017 by 2.04 percent with 19,432.39 GWh and further rose in 2018 by 10.55 percent with 21,483.25 GWh.

In total, electricity supplied in 2019 stood at 22,450.67 GWh but declined in 2020 by 1.82 percent when 22,042.28 GWh were supplied.

The NBS pointed out that customer numbers under the reviewed period increased successively on a year-on-year basis, with the highest numbers recorded in IBEDC.

Generally, customers numbers rose from 6.99 million in 2015 to 10.37 million in 2020.

Similarly, the number of metered customers increased consecutively on a year-on-year basis from 3.15 million in 2015 to 3.80 million in 2019 but declined to 3.51 million in 2020.

In 2015, Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC) recorded the highest number, while IBEDC stood top between 2016 and 2019 while Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) recorded the highest in 2020.

The NBS said the estimated billing customer records also showed a year-on-year positive growth rate consecutively from 3.85 million in 2015 to 6.86 million in 2020.

It added that in 2020, the customer numbers were highest in IBEDC with 1,282,136 and lowest in Eko Distribution Company (EKEDC) with 269,022.

The Statistician-General of the Federation, Mr. Adeyemi Adeniran, said: “Today, with the overwhelming global demand for energy and the emphasis positioned by the Sustainable Development Goal (7) on access to energy for all places the need for statistics on electricity as a form of energy.

“Thus, electricity statistics remain a very useful tool for socio-economic planning and development, particularly for a developing economy like Nigeria. These numbers will provide an insight and shape policymaking on improving energy, specifically the electricity supply in Nigeria.”

The report further stated that the trajectory of metered customers had shown annual positive growth rates consecutively except in 2020.

In 2015, metered customers were 3.15 million and rose slightly by 0.23 percent in 2016. This also increased in 2017 and 2018 with 3.57 million and 3.58 million customers respectively.

Metered customers in 2019 stood at 3.80 million, showing a 5.96 percent growth rate, yet lower in 2020 when 3.51 million customers were metered.

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Economy

AfCFTA Secretary-General allays fears of turning Nigeria into dumping ground

AfCFTA Sec.Gen, Wamkele Mene
Eyewitness reporter
The Secretary-General of the African Continental Free Trade Area(AfCFTA), Wamkele Mene, has allayed the fears of Nigeria over the possibility of being turned into a dumping ground for goods under the continental trade agreement.
Mr Mene, who stated this during the visit of the AfCFTA secretariat to Lagos ports Wednesday, said adequate measures have been built into the trade agreement to safeguard the country and other African nations from being turned into dumping grounds for foreign goods.
It could be recalled that it took Nigeria’s President, Mohammed Buhari to sign the trade agreement owing to fears being expressed by the government that Nigeria, as the biggest market in Africa, could easily be turned into a dumping ground under the continental trade agreement.
However, the AfCFTA scribe said though such fears are real, the agreement has taken care of its possibility.
He said the issue of dumping is a serious one but the agreement has given each country under the agreement powers to deal with the situation when it arises.
According to him, the agreement is intended to create jobs and not job losses, as dumping could lead to job losses.
“On the issue of dumping, it is a very very serious issue. This agreement is intended to create jobs, not job losses.

“So, we have to make sure that we are very vigilant against the transshipment of goods, against fraudulent invoicing.

” Any goods that are coming in that are not part of AFCTA, we should not hesitate to take action against such goods.
“That is why we are working closely with the customs authorities in Africa.

“In the agreement, there are rules: anti-dumping measures, all these rules are meant to protect domestic economies.

“If you see there is the importation of certain goods from certain countries, the agreement allows you to take action against those goods in that country.

“So we have built into the agreement safeguards to make sure that we minimize these.

“Fraudulent invoicing, and transshipment, like any other crimes, those things will always be there, the issue is to mitigate and make it difficult” Mr Mene declared.

He disclosed that in order to mitigate the issue of dumping, the AfCFTA secretariat is working closely with customs authorities in Africa to check against this menace.
“So we are working closely with the customs authorities, that is why we have hosted them in Accra, five times so that we can jointly together confront these challenges of the possibility of dumping of goods.

“What I always find interesting is that many times, we are willing to accept goods from a country whose name I would not mention that is not on this continent., substandard goods, goods that don’t meet our own requirements, these are the things we have to be vigilant against because it is not a Nigerian market, a Malian market, a Ghanian market, it is AFCTA market.

The AfCFTA chief said that dumping will not affect one county alone but the whole of Africa and that is why the secretariat viewed the issue with all seriousness.

“We are now creating one market, so if there is dumping in Nigeria, it impacts all of us. If it is dumped in another country, it imparts on all of us.

“So I really appreciate the sensitivity of this issue of dumping and I understand it.

“I mentioned in the previous session that in Southern Africa, there is a sugar that is being dumped from another part of the world that is being brought here, displacing the local market in Southern Africa, and creating job loss.

.”So we have to work together to make sure that we prevent this scourge of dumping” Mene stated.

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Economy

Auditor General indicts MTN  over evasion of Customs duty since 2021

 

—–as House of Reps knocks FIRS over operational infractions

The Office of the Auditor General of Federation has indicted the telecom giant, MTN, over evasion of payment of Customs duties since 2021.

This was contained in the 2019 queries issued by the office of the Auditor General of the Federation which was made available to the House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts.
The committee also heard that the Federal Inland Revenue Service, (FIRS)  received capital allowances claims by taxpayers without the certificate of acceptance from the ministry of trade and industries in 2019.

Speaking at the resumed hearing of the investigations on queries issued by the office of the Auditor General of the Federation against the Ministries, Departments and Agencies, (MDAs) of the Federal Government, the Chairman of the committee Hon Oluwole Oluwole Oke, lamented the level of external borrowings by the federal government, saying that the committee’s probe of public funds was aimed at curtailing revenue leakages to boost government treasury.

His statement was coming against the backdrop of tax evasion by the telecom service provider, MTN whose current assets stand at N2.68 trillion in the country, yet does not have proof of customs duty over the years.

The lawmakers also decried the issuance of an assets certificate by the Ministry of Trade and investment to the telecommunication firm without first evaluating their assets.

Following the failure of the MTN representative to tender the relevant documents to buttress his position that the company was up to date, the committee resolved to write the Nigeria Customs Service, (NCS) to furnish it with relevant documents, including MTN duty permit so as to ascertain the total amount it owes government since 2001.

Hon Oke, therefore, directed the Clerk of the Committee to write to the Management of the Nigeria Customs Service on the financial indebtedness of the firm to the federal government.

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