Nine commercial banks are to refund a total sum of N112.82 billion to the coffers of the Imo State government as principal amount involved in an alleged financial infractions as well as attendant penalties arising from the aggregation of debit entries to the state accounts without proper explanations.
This was contained in a letter by the eight-member Financial Advisory Committee set up by the erstwhile governor of the state, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha to among other things ascertain and document the locations of and balances on all bank accounts operated by the state government, its ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) as at May 29, 2019.
The committee, chaired by Dr. Abraham Nwankwo, had in a letter to the current state governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma, dated February 6, 2020 and titled, “Update on Work of the Finance Advisory Committee Set up by the Emeka Ihedioha Administration,” a copy of which was obtained by THISDAY, urged the Uzodinma’s administration to ensure that the monies were recovered from the affected financial institutions.
The committee explained that based on the assessment of the consortium of 10 consultants engaged by the state and which had submitted a joint report to the government on December 1, 2019, the affected banks were to refund the sum of N74.60 billion as principal amount involved in financial infractions and N38.22 billion covering the principal sum and attendant penalties arising from the aggregation of debit entries to the state accounts without proper narrations and for which no explanation was provided to the committee despite repeated demands.
It held that “It would be a grave and historical insult, assault and financial rape of the people of Imo State if the recovery of these claims from the affected banks is not vigorously pursued under whatever excuse.
“In this matter, history beckons on you to defend the interest of Imo State and we are convinced that you can pursue this goal with utmost good faith for the sake of posterity.”
The committee, however noted that at the expiration of the 30-day period given to the banks to clear the claims against them, majority of them were yet to respond therefore, “leaving one with the impression that they have no factual basis to repudiate the claims”.
It further noted that upon receiving the report, the former governor had directed the committee to liaise with the Office of the Account General of the State with a view to formally notifying the banks and commencing the process of recovery.
It said on December 3, 2019, formal demands for refund of the sums owed the state and arising from various infractions committed by the banks were issued by the auditor general.
The committee however stated that during its last meeting on January 14, a number of measures were being considered to ensure that all claims were pursued.
“Unfortunately, these options required the approval of the governor and had to be aborted following the change in guard on that fateful day,” it added.
The committee said: “We consider the amount involved as not just significant but humongous and its recovery is certainly deserving of whatever attention or effort that may be necessary.
“Based on the work we did in the committee, we are aware that our dear state is in dire financial straits and the recovery of the aforementioned claims would go a long way in augmenting the resources needed for the implementation of the state’s development agenda.”