espite denials by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), allegation by a whistle-blower, John Okupurhe that he unearthed a secret account at a bank in Abuja with $1 billion in it, which is ‘secretly operated’ by the Ports Authority to collect charges from shipping companies; has continued to be on the front burner.
This came as sequel to a motion of urgent national importance by the House of Representatives on Thursday resolved to investigate the alleged secret account.
The move followed the unanimous adoption of a motion of urgent public importance moved by Mr. Kolawole Lawal at the plenary on Thursday.
The motion was entitled: “The Need to Investigate the Alleged Illegal Secret Account Opened by the Nigerian Ports Authority in Unity Bank to Collect Revenue from Vessels”.
Consequently, the House 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.”
Lawal, while moving the motion, 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 in the 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 the bank, where the sum of $1,034, 516,000 was kept, contrary to financial regulations and the Constitution.
Recall that the whistleblower had written a letter to the President, Muhammadu Buhari, accusing the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation of refusing to pay him commission after exposing over $1bn (N420bn) hidden in the bank.
The letter read in part: “Pursuant to the whistleblower policy of the Federal Government, our client approached the Office of the AGF with confidential information in respect of hidden public funds concealed in a commercial bank in Lagos contrary to the Treasury Single Account policy which requires all public revenue or funds to be domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria.
“Our client presented the Office of the AGF with qualifying information on a cloned account with the Nigerian Ports Authority which was being used to illegally collect revenue from vessels by the signatories who are no longer in the service of the NPA.
“Upon establishing that our client’s information qualified under the whistle-blower policy, the Office of the AGF signed a whistle-blower agreement with our client through his appointed counsel- Mamman, Maiyaki & Co.
“The information provided by our client eventually led to the exposure of the hidden/concealed funds in Unity Bank Plc to the tune of $1,034,515, 000.”
Meanwhile NPA in reaction to the resolution of the House of Representatives, said while it awaits communications from the House Committees on Finance; and Ports and Harbours on the proposed investigations, “the Authority restates it position in the statement issued by management earlier this week that the Unity Bank account number: 0013680344, cited by the whistleblower, Mr. Okpurhe, does not exist as evidenced by a February 12, 2020 letter from Unity Bank Plc.”
The statement signed by Egnr. Jatto Adam, General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communications, NPA, disclosed that the Authority operates an account with Unity Bank Plc with account number: 0013670344 with a total sum of $1,057,772.03 as of December 4, 2019 and not $1,034,515,000.00 as alleged by the petitioner.