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Access Bank, CBN, Others Culpable in Subsidy Fraud

Access Bank, CBN, Others Culpable in Subsidy Fraud

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Published by: PremiumTimes NG on Jul 18, 2012
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EXCLUSIVE: Access Bank, CBN, othersculpable in subsidy fraud
By: Idris Akinbajo
Access Bank financed the importation of about 40 per cent of the petrol broughtinto Nigeria in 2011 and received, into accounts at its branches, a similarpercentage of the N2trillion the FG paid as subsidy during the period
  Access Bank and other Nigerian banks played major roles in the fuel subsidy scandal of 2011 and have several questions to answer, a PREMIUM TIMES investigation hasshown.Sources at Access Bank, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), and the oil industry saythat although there is no apparent focus on the role of Nigerian banks in the wholescandal, some of them, particularly the major players like Access Bank helpedperpetrate the fraud.While N240billion was approved in the 2011 budget as petrol subsidy, Ngozi Okonjo-
Iweala, Nigeria’s finance minister last week told the Nigerian Sena
te that the FederalGovernment actually paid 2.19 trillion as subsidy to petrol importers.Following pressure on the administration by civil society and other Nigerians over theimplementation of the recommendations of the House of Representatives committee,which probed the fuel subsidy payment for 2011, the government set up two
 
committees. A technical committee was first set up by the Finance Ministry, followed bya presidential committee, set up to review the work of the technical committee. Bothcommittees were headed by Access Bank's Group Managing Director, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede.
Investigating himself
 Though Mr. Aig-Imoukhuede headed the two probes, Access Bank, which he heads, financed thebiggest chunk of fuel importation for the 2011, which was characterised by large-scalefraud, our investigation has shown.Sources at the CBN and documents have shown that the bank financed close to 40 per cent of the petrol imported to Nigeria, and for which subsidy was paid, in 2011.
“Access Bank financed abo
ut 40 per cent of the deals in 2011," a top Access Bank staff familiar with the deal said. "So, if there was fraud in the 2011 subsidy scheme, thencompanies finance by access bank, even our bank or senior officials, perpetrated or benefitted from 40 per c
ent of the fraud.”
 PREMIUM TIMES learnt that about 400 cargoes of petrol was imported into Nigerian in2011 with almost 160 of them financed by Access. Some of the importers financed by Access bank include Sahara Energy, Eterna Plc, and Spog Petrochemicals Limited.Eterna and Spog are two of the companies indicted by the House of Representativescommittee in its report. Eterna was indicted for tax evasion; while Spog, owned by
controversial Jide Omokore, a major financier of President Goodluck Jonathan’s
election and beneficiary of various government largesse including juicy oil blocks,acquired in questionable manners, was indicted for getting approval to import petroleven before it was registered by the PPPRA. How that was done is difficult to decipher.But Access is its long-term financier.Mr. Omokore is also married to Angela Jones, a senior official of Access Bank, who iscurrently in charge of Wealth Management at the bank. Ms. Jones, alongside Aig Aig-
 
Imoukhuede, younger relative of the Access Bank GMD, also sits on the board of another company, Marina Securities.The younger Aig-Imoukhuede is a co-owner of Ice Energy Petroleum Trading CompanyLimited which was also indicted by the Lower House. Another company owned by Mr. Omokore, Ceoti International Limited, defaulted in itstax payment, the House committee discovered.
Validating Spog
 Spog Petrochemicals which was alleged in a petition to the Attorney General of theFederation in 2011 to have imported 3000 metric tones of petrol despite receivingsubsidy for 13,000 metric tonnes early 2011, came highly recommended by Mr. Aig-
Imoukhuede’s Access Bank.
 In a letter addressed to the executive secretary of PPPRA, dated May 31, 2011 andsigned by Tope Ogunfusika and Ojeifoh Okosun, Access Bank stated that it had had agreat relationship with Spog since 2006.
“We recommend the company (Spog) as being suitable for normal businessengagements with your company (PPPRA),” the bank told PPPRA, in order to
strengthen the company's application to participate in the subsidy regime.PREMIUM TIMES learnt that that letter helped shore-up the image of Spog which atthat time was almost blacklisted by PPPRA over suspicion of underhand dealings.
Access Bank made no reports
 Investigations show that Access Bank, into whose accounts the Federal Governmentpaid about 40 per cent of the N2trillion subsidy, never reported any marketer either tothe CBN or the PPPRA for underhand dealings.
“The bank was just interested in its money. As long as the marketers could get the
money,
even through subsidy, we (Access Bank) didn’t see a reason to report them tothe CBN. Though we knew many of them were not selling any products,” our source
stated. Access wouldn't comment on its role in the subsidy regime. Our reporter triedconsistently for a week to get the bank's reactions to the facts at our disposal. Itsspokesperson, Segun Fafore, demanded an email enquiry on Thursday last week. ByThursday evening, Mr. Fafore, after receiving our emailed enquiry, called to say that thebank would respond to our enquiry on Friday. After failing to respond on Friday aspromised, Mr. Fafore did not answer subsequent calls from our reporter.
Covering-up the banks
 

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