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$54.2m First Bank guarantee: Lensview, CBN battle over alleged fraud

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Lensview Consulting Services, a forensic and auditing firm, has  accused the consumer protection department (CPD), an arm of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) of bias, fraud, impersonation, and deliberate cover-up in its handling of bank guarantee charges refund involving First Bank’s guarantee transactions and its customer.

A bank guarantee refers to a promise provided by a bank or any other financial institution that if a certain borrower fails to pay a loan, then the bank or the financial institution will take care of the losses.

The consulting firm’s client had approached FBN to issue a bank guarantee of $54.2 million on its behalf to a Nigerian oil company, according to a letter dated June 25, 2015, obtained by Nigerian NewsDirect.

In a statement, Lensview Consulting said both parties (FBN and its client) had agreed to a bank guarantee fee of .50 percent for the transaction. But rather than taking the agreed fee, FBN took 1 per cent which translated to $554,570.68, leading to an overcharge of $227,235.34.

On the refusal of FBN to refund the excess of the amount agreed, based on a long standing offered rate at 0.50 percent, Lensview Consulting petitioned the CBN, who after a careful review of the matter, asked FBN to refund same to customer with accrued interest as a standing rule.

According to a letter dated September 17, 2021, titled, “Letter of Acceptance For Refund of Excess Bank Charges and Interest — USD 1,314,810.90,” both FBN and the client had accepted the refund of the over- charges.

However, the consulting firm said while its client was expecting to be credited, FBN submitted an email conversation allegedly between its staff and a representative of the client, claiming that a bank guarantee fee had been reviewed upward to 2 percent, though FBN charged 1 per cent.

As a result, the CPD reversed its decision and subsequently closed the case without giving reasons why it did so, rather than that the email from FBN sufficed to justify the bank and close the case.

“Please be informed that we have reviewed the letter and concluded that there are no new facts/information to warrant a change of our earlier position communicated to you vide emails dated 26th October 2021, 12th November 2021, and letter dated 24th May 2022,” the CBN department said in a letter dated January 5, 2023.

The CPD also alleged that it held an interdepartmental meeting between a representative of Lensview Consulting, “Mr. Polycarp, representatives of the governor’s department, legal services department and the consumer protection department in August 2022, wherein the unanimous decision was upheld that the position of the CPD in respect of this complaint is correct.

“…In light of the above, please be informed that this case remains closed and further correspondence would not be entertained,” it added.

Four days later, the department restated its decision in another letter dated January 9, 2023, but noted that the said Lensview’s representative (Mr. Polycarp) was an impostor arranged by the CPD to stand in for Lensview Consulting at the said interdepartmental meeting in August 2022.

Consequently, on January 20, 2023 Lensview Consulting wrote to the Governor of the apex bank on the “fraudulent perversion, impersonation, and miscarriage of justice” by CBN’s CPD.

It alleged that there was an impersonation of its person, fraudulent neglect and non-compliance on the part of the officers of CBN in the matter.

‘CPD made U-turn based on fraudulent email’

Faulting the CPD’s decision which was based on the email communication earlier mentioned, Lensview Consulting said FBN was aware that the said company’s representative did not have the powers or mandate to authorise such transactions.

“Where he may, it will require at least two authorised signatures over the company’s letter of acceptance on their letter head document and not via a chat on the phone between two mutual friends,” the consulting firm said in the statement.

“The transaction was a heavy one, FBN cannot claim ignorance they didn’t know that for any change to transaction fees to be effective, it must first be communicated to the customer with a letter with evidence of acknowledgement as a proof that the customer is aware of the change.

“Given the facts of the matter vis-a-vis the practice of banking in Nigeria, it’s surprising that the CBN after its earlier verdict that refunds be made, it made a sudden U-turn that FBN was justified by the fraudulent e-mail received from customer’s staff for it to conclude that the e-mail suffices as an authority for FBN to take the charge based on instructions from company’s staff without confirmation from company’s authorised signatories to the account.

“The question is, if the e-mail content sufficed, why did FBN charge 1 per cent instead [of] 2 per cent of guarantee fee stated in the e-mail?

“Who negotiated it from 2 per cent to 1 per cent?

“Where is a copy of the letter from customer acknowledging the new rate, which they could have  negotiated or rejected if customer saw it?

“More worrisome is the CBN’s lack of explanations why the email chat between these mutual friends on behalf of their organisation sufficed as an authority to move such huge amount from customer’s very busy account in the books of FBN.”

Alleged cover-up by CBN’s CPD

Further speaking, Henry Foss, managing consultant, Lensview Consulting Services, said the engagement of one “purported Mr. Polycarp” to stand in for Lensview Consulting Services in the said August 2022 meeting was another fraudulent move by the CBN to cover for FBN in the open e-mail fraud.

“The CBN in one of their recent letters to Lensview Consulting solicitors,  wrote to say they have closed the matter based on the affirmation of the hired “impostor  consultant” they hired to kill the matter.”

Lensview Consulting  added that as soon as the CBN realised that it had erred by “engaging an impostor consultant to stand in for them” in the said August 2022 meeting, they quickly wrote back with efforts to withdraw their letter dated January 5, 2023, wherein the Mr. Polycarp in question was referred to.

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Ondo 2024: APC will remain party of choice — Sanwo-Olu

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…Receives congratulatory letter as Zonal Coordinator for APC South-West

…South-West APC leaders back Lagos Governor as Zonal Coordinator

Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on Sunday said the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the South-West Zone will continue to work with stakeholders to ensure the party remains the party of choice.

Sanwo-Olu stated this position as the preparation for the November 16 governorship election in Ondo state is in top gear.

According to a press release signed by the Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Publicity, Gboyega Akosile, Sanwo-Olu said members of the National Working Committee and Zonal Working Committee in the zone had resolved to intervene on issues and engage with critical stakeholders to ensure they were not only taken care of but also enjoyed the dividends of democracy.

Governor Sanwo-Olu who is the APC Zonal Coordinator for South-West pledged to live up to the responsibility by working with the entire team to reposition and strengthen the party in the South-West.

It would be recalled that the APC National Chairman, Dr Abdullahi Ganduje, inaugurated and presented letters to six governors at the party headquarters in Abuja on Wednesday, March 26, to coordinate party activities and reconcile aggrieved members of the party in each of the six geo-political zones.

The zonal coordinators are Governors Babajide Sanwo-Olu (South-West), Hope Uzodinma of Imo (South-East), Bassey Otu of Cross River (South-South), AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq of Kwara (North-Central), Mai Mala Buni of Yobe (North-East), and Uba Sani of Kaduna (North-West).

Speaking to journalists after a meeting with the APC National and Zonal Executive members from the South-West at Lagos House, Marina, on Sunday, Sanwo-Olu said the inaugural meeting with the party’s national and zonal executives was to deliberate and come up with far-reaching decisions that would put the party on its feet and the right pedestal.

Governor Sanwo-Olu, who was handed a congratulatory letter on his appointment as the Zonal Coordinator for APC South-West by the officials.

He said, “We are engaging in all the issues that we have in all our states and trying to bring all of us together. We are beginning to look at areas where we can indeed intervene as a zone, especially with critical stakeholders. We have identified students, youths, and people living with disabilities. We all have things we can do differently.

“We all have things from the South-West that we can continue to push into our national conversation to ensure that the stakeholders in the region are very focused and ensure that people feel the real dividends of democracy. And to generally put APC as the biggest party in Africa, the biggest party in the country, and to continue to remain the biggest party in the South-West.

“We have identified the places we need to work, and the work is continuous. We are working in Oyo State. We will continue to work in Osun State. We will continue to work in Ondo State. Ondo State has a unique issue because we have an election coming up that affects all parties.

“There are candidates that have been thrown out; there are people who have aspired to be aspirants and will turn out to be candidates after the primary elections. We are all brothers and sisters; we will resolve all our issues in-house, and I want to assure you that APC will continue to remain the party of choice in Ondo State.”

Also speaking at the inaugural meeting, the national and zonal officers of APC in the South-West passed a vote of confidence in Governor Sanwo-Olu, saying the appointment of the Governor as zonal coordinator by the national leadership of the party is well deserved.

The APC national and zonal officers from the South-West, while presenting a congratulatory letter to Governor Sanwo-Olu during their inaugural meeting with the Governor, pledged their support and loyalty to the Zonal Coordinator as he leads the South-West of the party to strengthen and reposition it for the future.

Reading a communiqué after the meeting, APC National Vice Chairman (South-West), Hon. Isaac Kekemeke, said they have decided to ensure harmonisation and reconciliation in all the states in the South-West, particularly in Oyo, Osun, and Ondo State, where the party will participate in a governorship election later this year.

He said they also resolved to prioritise empowerment and engagement with students, youths, women, and persons with disabilities, amongst other initiatives.

The communique read, “After discussing the challenges facing the party in the South-West zone, the meeting resolved to immediately set up a zonal office of the party in Ibadan and also to immediately set up a liaison and operational office in Lagos since the zonal coordinator is the Governor of Lagos.

“The meeting also resolved, as part of engagement with the leadership, formal and informal, of the party, to convene a South-West Assembly of the All Progressives Congress in early June this year.

“The meeting also resolved that, under the leadership of Governor Sanwo-Olu, this forum will continue to engage with relevant stakeholders, to ensure their empowerment and productive engagement by the government of the federation and various governments in the South-West.”

Among the APC national and zonal executive members from South-West who attended the meeting are; National Secretary, Senator Bashir Ajibola; National Youth Leader, Mr. Dayo Israel; Deputy National Auditor, Hon. Femi Egbedeyi; National Ex-Officio Member (South-West), Hon. Olubunmi Oriniowo; National Vice Chairman (South-West), Hon. Isaac Kekemeke; Zonal Secretary, Hon. Vincent Bewaji; Zonal Organising Secretary, Dr. Lateef Ibirogba; Zonal Publicity Secretary, Chief Ayo Afolabi.

Others are Zonal Woman Leader, Hon. Yetunde Adesanya; Zonal Leader of People Living with Disability, Comrade Moshood Erubami and APC Chairmen in South-West states, Hon. Cornelius Ojelabi (Lagos), Chief Yemi Sanusi (Ogun), Chief Isaac Omodewu (Oyo),  Sooko Tajudeen Lawal (Osun), Engr. Ade Adetimehin (Ondo) and  Hon. Sola Elesin (Ekiti).

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Alleged misappropriation: EFCC recovers N32.7bn, $445,000 from Humanitarian Ministry amid corruption probe

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..Uncovers extensive fraud in COVID-19 funds, W’Bank loan, Abacha loot allocations

…Vows crackdown on Naira abuse, reveals several celebrities are under investigation

By Sodiq Adelakun

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has made significant strides in its investigation into alleged corruption within the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development.

According to a statement released by the EFCC’s Head of Media & Publicity, Mr. Dele Oyewale, the Commission has recovered a staggering sum of N32.7 billion along with $445,000 from the ministry.

This revelation comes amidst a flurry of commentaries, opinions, and assumptions surrounding the ongoing probe.

The EFCC emphasised the importance of setting the record straight, as misinformation and speculation have been rampant.

According to the statement, “EFCC has noticed the rising tide of commentaries, opinions, assumptions and insinuations concerning its progressive investigations into the alleged financial misappropriation in the Ministry Of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.

“At the outset of investigations, past and suspended officials of the ministry were invited by the commission and investigations into the alleged fraud involving them have yielded the recovery of N32.7billion and $445,000 so far,” Oyewale said.

…EFCC uncovers extensive fraud in COVID-19 funds, Abacha loot allocations

The EFCC revealed that its discreet investigations have uncovered additional fraudulent activities related to COVID-19 funds, the World Bank loan, and allocations from the Abacha recovered loot designated for poverty alleviation initiatives within the ministry.

These investigations have also established links between the alleged financial malfeasance and several interdicted and suspended officials of the ministry.

The EFCC also said the investigation did not focus on individuals but on the ministry as a whole.

“It is instructive to stress that the commission’s investigations are not about individuals. The EFCC is investigating a system and intricate web of fraudulent practices. Banks involved in the alleged fraud are being investigated. Managing directors of the indicted banks have made useful statements to investigators digging into the infractions. Those found wanting will be prosecuted accordingly.

“Additionally, the EFCC has not cleared anyone allegedly involved in the fraud. Investigations are ongoing and advancing steadily. The public is enjoined to ignore any claim to the contrary,” the statement added.

On the issue of the works of the commission against Naira abuse, dollarisation of the economy and the enforcement of all extant laws relating to them, the EFCC said it appreciates the avalanche of public awakening, support and involvement demonstrated so far.

“Increasingly, members of the public are drawing the attention of the commission to video recording of abuse of the Naira by Nigerians from all walks of life. These gestures amply demonstrate rising consciousness of the public to the sanctity of our national currency and the need for collaborative engagement to sustain the tempo,” Oyewale said.

He stressed that the commission will always investigate and prosecute anyone involved in the abuse of the Naira, saying old videos being exhumed and flying around for the attention of the Commission are noted as the Commission is sensitive to the fact that its Special Task Force against Naira Abuse and Dollarization of the economy commenced operations on February 7, 2024.

“However, going forward, new videos of such infractions will be investigated and prosecuted.

…EFCC vows crackdown on Naira abuse, reveals several celebrities are under investigation

At the moment, “the commission is investigating several celebrities involved in Naira abuse. Many of them have made useful statements to the commission and many more have been invited by investigators working on the matter,” the Commission said.

The EFCC has also committed to maintaining its unwavering stance of holding all accountable, without exceptions. It warns the public to remain vigilant against violating laws related to this crime.

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Junior Pope: NSIB commences investigation into boat accident

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The Nigeria Safety Investigation Bureau (NSIB) has commenced an investigation into the devastating boat accident that claimed the life of actor, Junior Pope.

Junior Pope was found dead following an accident last week on the Anam River in Anambra State while shooting.

Among the victims were Abigail Frederick, Precious Oforum, and Joseph Anointing.

In an official statement released on Sunday, NSIB’s Director of Public Affairs and Consumer Protection, Bimbo Oladeji, confirmed the initiation of the investigation.

The objective of this inquiry is to uncover the circumstances surrounding the accident, pinpoint any contributing factors, and propose preventative measures to avert similar tragedies in the future.

The accident occurred when a speedboat, transporting twelve film crew members and a boat operator, tragically collided with a canoe on the Anam River.

In the statement, NSIB Director General, Captain Alex Badeh, said an investigation team has been dispatched to the accident site, and an inquiry has begun.

He said, “The investigation scope includes, but is not limited to, examination of the wreckage from both vessels involved in the collision, interviews with surviving crew members and eyewitnesses, review of operational procedures for the commercial speed boat, analysis of weather and environmental conditions at the time of the accident, and assessment of compliance with relevant safety standards and regulations for inland waterway transportation.”

The NSIB, according to its DG, will collaborate with the Anambra State Police Command’s Marine Police section, maritime authorities, and industry experts to investigate the recent boat accident on the Anam River.

The investigation will produce both preliminary and final reports, aiming to provide recommendations for preventing similar accidents in the future.

The DG said, “The NSIB extends its deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives in this heartbreaking accident.”

“We share in your grief and are fully committed to conducting a thorough investigation to determine the cause of this tragedy and prevent similar occurrences in the future,” he said.

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