A House of Representatives committee on Thursday threatened to direct the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to take over the operations of Heritage Bank over alleged debt to the Federal Government.
The ad hoc committee who is investigating the status of all recovered loots, movable and immovable assets from 2002 to 2020 said this at its sitting on Thursday.
While speaking at the sitting, Adejoro Adeogun, chairman of the committee, said the committee would not hesitate to invoke constitutional powers on the bank if it fails to appear next Wednesday.
“I need to send this message to Heritage Bank that we are not comedians here and we are not joking here. If Heritage Bank is owing Nigeria more than its share capital, we will not hesitate to ask the national assembly to write to CBN to take over Heritage Bank,” Adeogun said
“They cannot be owing more than their share capital, sit on it and feel too big to respond to invitations from the national assembly. Clark, you have to write to them, giving them till Wednesday next week. That is the last time we are going to give them.”
The committee also threatened to issue a warrant of arrest on the managing director of Polaris Bank for non-appearance to account for over $32 million unremitted funds it owed the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
A representative of Polaris bank who identified himself simply as head of legal services had told the committee that the money was remitted to the government and evidence of payment tendered to the CBN.
But Umar Ajiya, chief financial officer of NNPC, denied this and said it is yet to receive any payment from the bank.
The chairman of the committee subsequently accused the bank of “falsehood”.
“You can’t stand for Polaris. We can’t stand your falsehood; your bank has been constantly failing to appear before this committee,” Adejoro said.
“You can’t keep government funds, and you will be playing games with it. NNPC has written to us that they have not received the remittance. You can’t speak for your bank. If your bank continues with this level of unseriousness, I will issue an arrest warrant against the MD.
“You did not tender any evidence, you wrote letters to NNPC saying that you have directed CBN to make payments. Directing CBN does not mean you have paid the money.
“You directed CBN to use your reserve and if they make that payment from your reserve, it will fall below the regulatory requirements and so, CBN has rejected your advice. If you keep acting like you are bigger than the National Assembly, we will issue warrant of arrest against your MD. I think we are getting to that.
“We don’t accept this gentleman’s representation, and we are going to adjourn your (Polaris) hearing to Wednesday next week. Get your MD to come.
“You are owing $32 million; this money is supposed to be remitted to the federation account to fund the 2022 budget and you can’t continue to hold on to the federal government’s money. You have between now and Wednesday next week to appear here with evidence of payment, not instructions to CBN that has not been honoured”.
The panel has also given the accountant general of the federation, NNPC, Unity, Sterling, Keystone and Fidelity banks one week to appear before it.
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