House of Representatives, on Thursday, resolved to probe the alleged secret account being kept by the Nigerian Ports Authority with a balance of over $1billion.
The lawmakers took the decision following the unanimous adoption of a motion of urgent public importance moved by Hon Kolawole Lawal at the plenary and entitled, “The Need to Investigate the Alleged Illegal Secret Account Opened by the Nigerian Ports Authority in Unity Bank to Collect Revenue from Vessels.”
The House, therefore, mandated the Committees on Finance; and Ports and Harbours to “investigate these allegations and counter-allegations, determine if the Nigerian Ports Authority or any of their personnel committed any infractions.”
In moving the motion, the lawmaker noted the controversy generated by a whistleblower, who claimed that while acting in line with the whistleblower policy of the Federal Government, he duly informed, in confidence, the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation about a hidden or secret account operated by the NPA with Unity Bank to collect revenue generated from sea vessels.
The lawmaker said the whistleblower alleged that the information he gave to the OAGF led to the exposure of an illegal secret account in a Lagos branch of Unity Bank, where the sum of $1,034, 516,000 was kept, contrary to financial regulations and the Constitution.
He said the whistleblower also alleged that the information was verified and approved by the OAGF as qualified for financial reward, as prescribed under the whistleblower policy of the Federal Government.
Lawal noted that based on the advice of the OAGF, a written agreement was reached between a representative of the whistleblower, Mamman Maiyaki & Co. Legal Practitioners, and the office as evidence of the transaction.
The lawmaker also noted that the NPA, in response to the allegation, admitted it operates an account with a Lagos branch of Unity Bank with Account Number 0013670344 and a balance of $1,057,772,000.03 as of December 4, 2019, but denied the sum of $1,034,515,000.03 as alleged by the whistleblower.
He added that the NPA further admitted that the bank account had not been operated since August 27, 2010, due to a Garnishee Order Nisi given by the Federal High Court, which was subsequently affirmed by the Supreme Court eight years after, in the case of Aminu Ibrahim & Co VS Nigerian Ports Authority (Suit No. FHC/L/CS/ 582/ 2010).
He stressed that the NPA claimed that upon the determination of the case at the Supreme Court, the judgment creditors continued with the Garnishee process, which resulted in the payment of the sum of $1,057,772,000.03 from the account to the judgment creditor on December 4, 2019, in line with the Garnishee Order Absolute.
According to the lawmaker, “The House is concerned that the material particulars of the allegations by the whistle-blower have been contradicted by the NPA but since public fund is involved in the matter, it is imperative that the House intervenes in the crisis, with a view to establishing the true situation in public interest.
“The House is concerned also that the NPA may be operating from other accounts in similar situations.
“The House wonders if NPA or any Federal Government ministry, department or agency have authority to pay any public money to any judgment creditor in satisfaction of a judgment debt without obtaining the prior approval of the OAGF, in view of the clear provisions of Section 84 of the Sheriffs and Civil Process Act CAP 56 LFN 2004, which provides that the prior consent of AGF should be obtained before any MDA can transfer public funds to a judgment creditor in satisfaction of a judgment debt.
“The House also wonders if the NPA or any Federal Government MDA has authority to keep revenue generated in any commercial bank, in view of clear provisions of Section 162 of the 1999 Constitution, which provides all revenue collected by the Government of the Federation shall be paid into a special account called the Federation Account.”