Major Fraud rocks CBN, NNPC Joint Venture payments

Critical stakeholders’ active involvement in mind-boggling fleecing of Nigeria’s hard-earned resources amounting to over N1trillion has been exposed.

The deals are made under the pretext of Joint Venture Cash Call payments to international and local oil companies.
The frauds, which The AUTHORITY learnt started in 2016, involves some yet-to-be-named staff members of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

To cover up the sleaze, they capture such deals in the official statement of account of the CBN, presenting such deals as genuine and without any blemish.

It was also discovered in the course of investigation that another set of frauds is carried out through foreign exchange deals, which have been discovered to be principally responsible for the downward slide of the nation’s economy, which led the country into recession two years ago.

After painstaking screening of copies of the Statement of Account of the CBN between 2013 and 2016, The AUTHORITY discovered worrisome financial sleaze involving payments into bank accounts that are patently fraudulent or do not exist at all.

In some instances, it was discovered that some companies were paid particular amounts of money by the CBN for upward of six times in one day.

It was further discovered that some of the bank accounts into which such fraudulent monies were paid into were either eight, nine,11 or 13 digit bank account numbers, contrary to the 10 digit bank account numbers legislated by the CBN before the introduction of the Bank Verification Numbers (BVN) for all account holders in the country, including private and corporate accounts.

For example, it was curious to discover that on September 23, 2015, the CBN paid N6,858,148,250, which was classified as “JVC Cash Call Payment to NNPC/SPDC/EPNL/NAOC Joint Venture for September 2015 into account number 00102463574, purportedly domiciled at the First Bank of Nigeria Plc” leaving a balance of N176,170,466,478.50 in the said account at that time.

The above stated account number is curiously an 11 digit account number, and definitely illegal at the time of the transaction, since the CBN 10 digit account numbers had effectively taken root in the banking sector.

Also, on the same day, the CBN statement of account listed payment of the sum of N3,290,045,700.00 “being JVC Cash Call Payment in favour of NNPC/MOBIL Joint Venture” through account number 201024355, which it equally claimed was an account domiciled in First Bank of Nigeria Limited, with a balance of N13,880,420,778.50 then.

This purported FBN account number unfortunately has nine digits which raised serious suspicion that it was deliberate, erroneous or outrightly fraudulent.

Also, there was this eleven digit account number 00102463574 purportedly domiciled with FBN to the benefit of NNPC/SPDC/EPNL/NAOC JVCC Account through which it is suspected money was fleeced over the past six years.

Similar suspicious payment was made the same day through what CBN called RTGS Transaction, “being JVC Cash Call Payment to NNPC/TEPNG Joint Venture” in the sum of N427,965,000.00, into account number 201024411.

This again is another nine digit account number said to be domiciled in FBN, with a balance of N10,981,341,778.50 in it.

An aspect of the payments which confounded our investigators had to do with that said to have been made to a company called OGIDIGBEN, with account number 16868437.

This eight digit account number received six payments of equal amount of N31,293,855 on March 13, 2015, totalling N187,763,130.

This particular transaction is the most intriguing because there is no evidence of any bank name mentioned in respect to this huge payment in the CBN Statement of Account.

This gave our investigators the lead that there was probably a ring of racketeers operating within the CBN, NNPC and the commercial banking sector, who fleeced the country of huge sums of money in bizarre circumstances.

Further discoveries showed that this same N187,763,130 was withdrawn from the CBN Dollar Cash Call Account domiciled in JP Morgan Chase Bank on 7th March, 2015, as $957,975.15 and credited to the Naira Cash Call Account on 18th March, 2015 as N187,763,130.

Another suspicious bank account operated by the CBN/NNPC racket purportedly at the UBA Port Harcourt Branch on 5th January, 2015 in favour of “NNPC/NAOC/POCNL Joint Venture” with account number 03900030000230 was used to fleece the country of the sum of N39,351,094,500, but paid out in dollar equivalent of $235,635,296.40, at an exchange rate of N167 per dollar.

Interestingly, this payment which passed through 13 digit account number was indicated in the transaction notification as “Cash Call Arrears for the period 2008 to 2011.”

However, only NAOC received the said payment within that period, raising suspicion as to whether other oil companies involved in the joint venture business received such arrears within the said period.

Incidentally, our check at the UBA Plc, Port Harcourt branch did not show any bank account with any such 13 digits within the period.

As a matter of fact, all the UBA branches operating in Port Harcourt within the period which we investigated had only 10 digit BVN-linked bank account numbers.

Part of our findings also showed that CBN paid N26,746,091.90 on 19th January, 2015 to a company named G.C. Ltd, through account number1007155607 (a 10 digit account number), at the same UBA Plc, Port Harcourt branch, where it claimed it had been operating a 13 digit account number.

When our reporters attempted to make cash lodgements into the said 13 digit account number, they were told that it does not exist.

After analysing the facts at our disposal, The AUTHORITY could not understand why only NAOC received the said payment arrears in Cash Call of over N39 billion and another Dollar Cash Call payment of over N7.9 billion (but which was converted to Naira equivalent at N179 per dollar exchange rate).

Another suspicious account number 40101717601 (eleven digit account) was purportedly opened in favour of Oilserv Limited. We are yet to ascertain how much was lodged into this account.

Of all the government agencies, oil companies and banks contacted for comment on the matter, only ENI and First Bank reacted, leaving us with no option than to leave our readers to make up their mind.

According to ENI through a letter with reference number LF/MD/199/ABJ/2018 signed by Lorenzo Filrillo, Vice-Chairman/Managing Director, dated 11th October, 2018, the company denied ever opening any such bank account under reference and that it did not receive any payment on such account number.

According to Filrillo, “from our records, there is nothing indicating that NAOC ever opened the captioned accounts.”

He, however, explained that “NAOC used to operate an account number 03900030000230 with UBA Plc as NNPC/NAOC/OANDO Joint Venture Account for the normal running of the said Joint Venture’s operations until when CBN mandated all banks to convert their operating account numbers in various digits to 10 digits.

“Following the said directive, the said account number was changed to a different account number under which the account is now being run.

“Therefore, currently, NAOC does not operate any account with UBA Plc numbered as 03900030000230. In any case, NAOC’s bank account is not being used to commit fraud against the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as the account is a normal Joint Venture bank account.

“With regard to Account number 201024411 indicated, we observe that the specified number of digits seems incomplete and consequently, the information you provided is not sufficient to enable us verify whether NAOC is a participant in the account or not”.

On its part, First Bank through one Silas Nwaulune, who signed on behalf of the General Counsel, First Bank and Subsidiaries, in a letter dated 15th October, 2018, emphatically denied operating any of the referenced bank account.

“We hereby advise that the bank account mentioned under reference does not exist in First Bank of Nigeria Ltd,” he stated.

At the time of filing this report, neither the CBN, NNPC, EFCC, nor other oil companies mentioned as beneficiaries in the CBN statements of account responded to our numerous enquiries.

 

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