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Finance ministry, CBN, others to assist Reps’ probe of unclaimed funds in commercial banks

The Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Office of the Accountant General of Federation, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), among others have expressed the willingness to assist the House of Representatives in recovering unclaimed funds in commercial banks.

The ministry and the agencies made this commitment at the inaugural investigative hearing of the House Ad-hoc Committee probing the matter in Abuja on Monday.

The House two weeks ago set up an Ad-hoc Committee chaired by Unyime Idem (PDP, Akwa-Ibom) to investigate the suspicious and unclaimed funds sitting with commercial banks and trapped government funds for contracts advanced payment after it adopted a motion moved by Dachung Bagos (PDP, Plateau).

Speaking for the Ministry of Finance, Ben Akabueze, director-general, Budget Office, said the Ministry would avail the Committee whatever specific information to its task.

Akabueze, while stating that the Federal Government has over the past years issued circulars to address the issue, said: “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’m sure that those funds will not be there.

Similarly, CBN acting director of Banking Supervision, Maxwell Okafor, assured the parliament of the apex bank’s support to accomplish the task before it.

“We want to assure that the CBN will cooperate fully to ensure that this job is done. We are going to help the Committee follow up whatever necessary to ensure that this job is done,” he said.

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Also speaking, Sylva Okorieaboh, director/coordinator, Treasury Single Account (TSA) collection, Office of the Accountant General of the Federation said the treasury will assist the Committee to unravel the existence of unclaimed funds in commercial banks.

“The TSA guideline we issued in 2015, on page 14 states that all collections must be swept to their individual federation account at CBN on a daily basis, the use of intermediary accounts is not allowed, so right from day one this is what we have always tried to enforce. So if any bank or MDA is not doing this that’s clearly an infraction and the work of this committee will help us unravel anything of that such,” he stated.

In the vein, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Executive Director, Finance and Administration, Chudi Offodile said the agency will cooperate with the Committee at any time it is required to submit any information that would aid the investigation.

“We welcome the work of the Committee and hope this will help the agencies recover some of their funds from those who have not been able to identify them. In our case, we have clear evidence where those funds are and who is in the custody,” he stated.

While declaring the public hearing open, Deputy Speaker of the House, represented by his Deputy, Idris Wase said the work of the Committee was in line with section 88, 86 of the Nigerian constitution among the powers of the National Assembly to conduct investigative hearings to expose corruption or waste.

“I believe from the body of the motion that about N1.2 trillion not paid into consolidated revenue so that we can improve the infrastructure deficit and other challenges in our nation. I believe it is important, hoping and praying for what was mentioned if it is true, it means then we have a lot to do. First to expose the corruption aspect of it. Secondly, to come out with interventions that would improve and mitigate the situation.”

Earlier in his remarks, the Committee’s chairman, Unyime, stated that 45 million accounts are not linked to Bank Verification Number (BVN) hence the resolutions of the House stipulated that commercial banks submit documents that would help the lawmakers recover the unclaimed funds.

He warned that commercial banks and other agencies that are sitting on the funds that belong to the Federal Government and are not willing to refund, will be suspended from collecting such funds.