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Sterling bank boss in N20bln mess as EFCC wades in

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has interrogated Abubakar Suleiman, the Chief Executive Officer of Sterling Bank Plc, and two other senior executives of the bank over the ‘hidden’ N20 billion reportedly belonging to the Kogi State government.

In August 2021, the EFCC stated that it had credible intelligence that funds alleged to be proceeds of illicit activities were in an account named Kogi State Salary Account with account number 0073572696 at Sterling Bank Plc.

The money was supposed to be a rescue fund for the state to pay workers’ salaries, but it was allegedly moved to an interest-bearing account as state employees moan in poverty.

The state government, on the other hand, categorically disputed the allegations. The EFCC, on the other hand, claimed that the diverted funds had been recovered and remitted to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), a transaction that the apex bank had apparently acknowledged.

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According to the EFCC, the apex bank informed the executive chairman of the EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa, that the money had been received in a letter titled DFD/DIR/CON/EXT/01/099 and dated November 9, 2021.

“We refer to your letter of November 5, 2021 on the aforementioned subject with Ref. No: CR:3000/EFCC/LS/CMU/REC-STE/VOL.4/047 and desire to confirm the following information of the receipt of the amount: The commission stated, “Bank: Sterling Bank Plc; Amount: N19, 333, 333.36; Date of receipt: 04 November 2021.”

ENigeria Newspaper reports that even though the money is in the CBN coffers, the Kogi State government has continued to insist that it neither authorized the opening nor operated the bank account, an assertion confirmed by Sterling Bank.

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“Let it be known that the Kogi government has disbursed its bailout loans for the purpose of which it was granted as at October 2019,” said Kogi State commissioner for Information and Communication, Kingsley Fanwo.

“There is, therefore, no hidden bailout funds/loan belonging to Kogi that is capable of being returned to the CBN or frozen by order of court. The EFCC knows this, which is why it withdrew the suit it filed in court on the bailout fund.”

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The Kogi State House of Assembly had also summoned the CEO of the bank to appear before it in person for clarification on the N20 billion bailout fund.

However, Sterling Bank had admitted that Kogi State Bailout Account exists in its record and “categorized under the account type ‘Intervention Fund,’” even though it was not opened by the state government or at its instance.

According to inside source, rising from this development, the EFCC invited and interrogated the Sterling Bank boss, Abubakar Suleiman alongside two other officials of the bank for several hours to get the true picture of the circumstances around the said account. Abubakar Suleiman and other officials were released after intense interrogation and they were to return anytime the EFCC needed them on the matter.

It was however gathered that Abubakar Suleiman has allegedly made a useful statement to the commission while investigation is still on.

“The bank’s officials were grilled for several hours by the EFCC on the matter and going by their statements, heads may roll soon,” a source said.

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Speaking further, the source divulged, “If the bank says the account was not opened and operated by the Kogi State government, then something is fishy and the bank must answer to it.”

“Who authorized the opening of the fixed deposit account and when? Who are/were/was the signatory to the account? How much had been withdrawn from the account since 2019? And who is keeping the N666.7 million which made up the balance of N20 billion initially said to be deposited into the bailout account? These are some of the questions the EFCC is trying to unravel.”

Recent events have however placed the Abubakar Suleiman led Sterling Bank nulli secondus with scandals. The troubled lender is responsible for everything from fraud to sloppy balance sheets and other nefarious acts, making it almost impossible to bank with the supposed “One Customer Bank” with both eyes closed.

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Benin pipeline dispute: Niger stops oil exports to China

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Benin pipeline dispute: Niger stops oil exports to China

Niger has stopped exporting oil to China through its pipeline to Benin’s coast.

Oil Minister, Mahamane Moustapha Bako, disclosed this on Thursday, escalating an ongoing standoff between the West African neighbours.

Also read:Oil earnings rise by N450bn in two months, says FG

At the Agadem oilfield in eastern Niger, Bako supervised the shutdown of a section of the 2,000-km (1,243-mile) pipeline, which was meant to transport oil to China as part of a $400 million agreement with China National Petroleum Corp, according to Africabriefing.

Relations between Niger and Benin have been tense since May when Benin blocked crude exports through its port, insisting that Niger’s junta reopen the border to Beninese goods and restore normal relations.

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Earlier in the month, Benin authorities detained five Niger nationals for allegedly entering the Seme-Kpodji pipeline terminal under false pretenses—a charge Niger rejected, stating the group was supervising crude loading per their agreement with Benin.

“We can’t just sit back while our oil is stolen by other people, because we’re not there where it’s loaded,” Minister Barke Bako told workers, justifying the halt in oil flows, according to a state television broadcast.

Tensions stem from a coup in Niger in July 2023, which prompted the regional bloc ECOWAS to impose strict sanctions for over six months. Although trade was expected to normalize after ECOWAS lifted the sanctions, Niger has continued to keep its borders closed to goods from Benin.

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Naira Falls to N1,476.24/$1 at Official Market

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The Naira performed badly against the United States Dollar in the in the Nigerian Autonomous Foreign Exchange Market (NAFEX) after resumption of trading activities following the Democracy Day holiday observed on Wednesday.

Yesterday, the value of the Naira weakened by 0.17 per cent or N2.58 to sell at N1,476.24/$1, in contrast to Tuesday’s closing price of N1,473.66/$1.

Also read: Dollar supply rises to $11bn, naira closes 1,572/$

However, the local currency appreciated against the Pound Sterling in the official market during the session by N7.23 to wrap the session at N1,876.39/£1 versus the preceding session’s N1,883.62/£1 and against the Euro, it gained N11.84 to trade at N1,580.19/€1 versus N1,592.03/€1.

The mixed trading outcome happened as FX supply to the spot market depreciated by 75.9 per cent or $239.23 million to $92.68 million from the $385.91 million recorded in the preceding session.

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In the black market, the domestic currency depreciated against the American currency during the trading day by N10 to settle at N1,490/$1, in contrast to the preceding session’s rate of N1,480/$1.

Meanwhile, in the cryptocurrency market, the benchmarked tokens recorded depreciation as the US Producer Price Index (PPI) print for May came in lower than expectations across the board, showing inflation to be losing steam. Technically a positive sign for risk assets and crypto, the latter offered a cool reaction to PPI.

Solana (SOL) slumped by 4.6 per cent to trade at $148.06, Cardano (ADA) dropped 3.5 per cent to close at $0.4226, Binance Coin (BNB) went south by 2.9 per cent to finish at $601.18, and Dogecoin (DOGE) recorded a value depreciation of 2.6 per cent to sell at $0.1419.

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In addition, Ethereum (ETH) slid by 2.4 per cent to finish at $3,481.39, Ripple (XRP) fell by 2.3 per cent to settle at $0.4794, and Bitcoin (BTC) recorded a 2.1 per cent loss to sell for $66,926.75.

However, Litecoin (LTC) recorded a 0.9 per cent rise to close at $79.23, while the US Dollar Tether (USDT) and the US Dollar Coin (USDC) remained unchanged at $1.00 each.

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Oil mafia tried to stop our refinery, says Dangote

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The founder of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, has revealed that both local and international criminal organisations, which he described as “mafia”, made repeated attempts to sabotage his $19bn refinery project located in Lagos.

Speaking at the Afreximbank Annual Meetings, Dangote likened the oil cartels to a mafia stronger than the drug mafia hell-bent on maintaining their grip on the industry.

 

Also read: Dangote refinery gets valid operating licence soon – FG

 

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“Well, I knew that there would be a fight. But I didn’t know that the mafia in oil, they are stronger than the mafia in drugs. I can tell you that. Yes, it’s a fact,” he said.

Dangote, who described himself as a fighter, said they “tried all sorts” to stop him.

“But I’m a person that has been fighting all my life. You know, so I think it’s part of my life to fight,” he said.

He added, “As a matter of fact during the COVID period, some of the international banks really were looking forward to making sure that they push us into default of our loans so that the project will just be dead. And that didn’t happen with the help of banks like Afreximbank.”

Theheute reports that Dangote also revealed that he has paid off $2.4bn of the $5.5bn borrowed for the Lagos-based refinery.

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Dangote also unveiled plans to diversify into the steel sector, aiming to utilise solely Nigerian-produced steel and achieve self-sufficiency.

Dangote Refinery recently rescheduled the launch of its petrol sales to July 10-15, pushing back its initial June target due to “minor” logistical issues.

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