TSA: $21.3m trapped in Heritage Bank, NPA tells Reps

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About $21.3m of Federal Government’s funds held for the Nigerian Ports Authority by Heritage Bank had been trapped in the vault of the lender since 2016, the NPA told the House of Representatives in Abuja on Wednesday.

The Managing Director, NPA, Hadiza Usman, who made the disclosure, said efforts to get the bank to remit the money into the Treasury Single Account had so far met a brick wall.

She appeared before an ad hoc committee of the House investigating compliance with the TSA policy by government agencies.

The committee is chaired by a member of the All Progressives Congress from Kano State, Mr. Danburam Abubakar-Nuhu.

The NPA boss stated that a series of interventions by the Central Bank of Nigeria to retrieve the money had failed.

According to Usman, Heritage Bank’s reason for not remitting the money is that “if such a huge withdrawal is allowed, it will have stress on the bank.”

“We wrote the CBN a number of letters and they promised to provide a guarantee. Up till date, they have not given us the guarantee,” she stated.

The MD further informed the committee that another sum of €6m kept by First City Monument Bank for the NPA was suddenly seized by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

Usman said the bank was operating the account for the NPA on its cargo tracking services operations before the seizure by the EFCC.

“The EFCC suddenly moved the €6m from FCMB to their own account; they just unilaterally swept the money,” she added.

When the committee asked why the anti-graft agency seized the money, the NPA MD replied that no clear reasons were given.

However, she said it might be connected to investigations being conducted by the EFCC, but which the NPA did not have the details of.

The committee subsequently summoned the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, to appear before it to explain why the money was confiscated.

Usman, who also answered questions on the relationship between the NPA and Intels, said the parties resolved their differences after Intels agreed to comply with the TSA policy.

She stated that effective from November 1, this year, Intels had started remitting all revenues collected on behalf of the NPA into the TSA.

However, she disclosed that Intels had not remitted an outstanding revenue of over $130m, which it collected for 10 months prior to November 1, 2017.

“They collected $13m monthly and for over 10 months, out which NPA gets 30 per cent,” she informed the committee.

Usman also admitted before the committee that the NPA owed Intels up to $700m for services the firm had rendered.

However, she explained that by the TSA policy, Intels must first remit all money outstanding against it into the TSA, while the NPA would later reimburse the firm.

Meanwhile, SystemSpecs, which provides the Remita platform for operating the TSA, told the committee that so far, it had not been directed to capture foreign transactions done by government agencies.

The Managing Director, SystemSpecs, Mr. John Obaro, while responding to a question by Abubakar-Nuhu, said, “As of today, we are not aware that the accountant-general gave a directive for the activation of the foreign component of the TSA.

“It’s only the local component that is done on our platform. What we are aware of is that in February this year, there was a circular that the MDAs will be notified when it (capturing of foreign transactions) will be done.”

The committee commended SystemSpecs for its innovations, but warned against abuses that could defeat the aim of the TSA.

The committee grilled officials of the United Bank for Africa Plc over the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation’s $80m, which it had held since 2005.

The bank claimed that the money was a guarantee for a court case filed by a client of the NNPC overseas.

When asked whether it paid interest on the money, UBA said it paid full interest.

The bank was said to have paid 2.2 per cent interest annually till 2007 when it suddenly reduced it to 0.5 per cent.

When the committee sought to know why the percentage was cut to 0.5, UBA blamed it on “market forces.”

But, not satisfied with the explanations, the committee summoned the NNPC to produce all the documents relating to the account.

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