Unity Bank refutes SPIPRPP’s N7b allegation

Unity Bank Plc on Tuesday faulted the allegation against it by the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for Recovery of Public Property over the ongoing reconciliation of affected Ministries, Departments and Agencies’ accounts.

The bank in a statement by its management in Lagos, signed by Matthew Obiazikwor, Head, Corporate Communications, said the report was geared towards misinforming the public.

It said the report misrepresented the bank’s position and nil impact resolutions reached during the reconciliation engagements.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that SPIPRPP on May 20 said it might charge Unity Bank with offences bordering on economic sabotage if the bank refused to return about N7 billion it owed the Federal Government.

A statement by SPIPRPP’s Head, Media and Communication¸ Lucie-Ann Laha, said the N7 billion “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”.

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

However, Unity Bank said it had conducted itself professionally by providing all evidence of customers’ instructions requested by the panel as it relates to all the MDAs in the ongoing investigation.

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.

The Bank said: “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 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.

The statement said: “The bank therefore maintains that the allegations of the SPIPRPP are superfluous, frivolous, ill-motivated and unfounded, as falsely presented in a press statement purportedly sent to the public.

“We hereby call on our customers and the general public to disregard the allegations which is subterfuge aimed to unnecessarily smear the image of the bank.”