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Dirty Deals At StanbicIBTC Bank As Customer’s Billion Of Naira Disappears

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There is no doubt that the nose-dived economy of Nigeria is taking it turns on the citizens and corporate organisation’s alike. But that does not means that bankers, who ordinarily are supposed to be custodians of trust should turned into pilferers, engaging in fraudulent activities, from outright stealing of customers money, to colluding with criminal elements and even divulging of confidential information.

 

This development according to a source at the security department of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is giving top officials of the apex bank sleepless nights due to its damaging impact on customer confidence.

 

It could be recalled that last week three employees of Zenith Bank Plc at the banks Ajose Adeogun street, headquarters in Victoria Island, Lagos were whisked away by men of the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS), Ikeja, Lagos for their alleged involvement in a $2m fraud.

 

There have been similar cases involving employees of other banks in recent times. However, the scope of what allegedly took place at Stanbic IBTC has left even the law enforcement agencies investigating the matter speechless.

 

According to a Police source, Lonestar Drilling Nigeria Limited in a petition to the Police dated 11th March 2013 alleged that there were unauthorized withdrawals from two of its accounts at the Stanbic IBTC Bank at Walter Carrington Crescent, Victoria Island, Lagos.

 

According to the petition, about N40,903,764.36 (Forty Million, Nine Hundred and Three Thousand, Seven Hundred and Sixty Four Naira, Thirty Six Kobo) and $547,881,26USD (Five Hundred and Forty Seven Thousand, Eight Hundred and Eighty one Dollars, Twenty Six cents) were fraudulently withdrawn from their accounts managed by one Olalekan Kuti.

 

The said petition also noted that results from an internal audit by the company revealed that the said Kuti in connivance with some employees of Lonestar Drilling have been making unauthorized withdrawals from the said accounts under the false pretence of payment of staff salaries without a monthly mandatory payment advice; from the accounts departments.

 

Trouble started when the company discovered cases of diversion of funds, stealing and outright sabortage from some of its directors and it went ahead to suspend them from its management. The directors however colluded with Stanbic IBTC to defraud the company the more and sell off some of its properties at rock bottom prices.

IGP Idris

 

During the course of Police investigation it was discovered that the founder of Lonestar Drilling Chief Humphrey Idisi was purported to have taken a loan facility of $200 million from Stanbic IBTC Bank for the acquisition of two rigs, but after the death of Chief Idisi in 2009, Stanbic IBTC started diverting all proceeds from the company to its own use.

 

Lovette Idisi, son of the founder of the company claimed in his deposition that the company makes about $240,000USD (Two Hundred and Forty Thousand dollars) daily from its two operational oil rigs and that an internal audit indicted some members of the company’s management to fraudulently make withdrawals and divert funds from the company.

 

The petitioner also alleged that since 2009, Stanbic IBTC have refused to disclose how much they have deducted from the oil rigs, moreso, that the Bank colluded with some directors of the company to start selling off some of the properties of the company at below market prices to themselves and their cronies.

 

He gave an example of a new ocean going vessel MV Kinklock acquired by Lonestar Drilling at the sum of N200 million but was sold off by the Bank at a paltry N10 million without the consent of the management of the company. Also the bank sold two heavy duty generators bought at N100 million each but were sold for N50 million each.

 

Chief (Mrs) Margareth Idisi, the Chairperson of Lonestar Drilling and widow of the founder of the company maintained that the loan purported to have been entered by her husband was fraudulent as her husband was not in the right physical frame to have signed any document as at the time in question and that she was with her husband at his hospital bed throughout that period.

 

She alleged that Oladele Kuti should be held responsible for the fraud. She said that as soon as it was discovered that there has been several fraudulent activities in the company, she sacked the management, but that those sacked colluded with the Bank to draw their salaries from the Bank without consulting her.

 

The Police however confirmed that Oladele Kuti confessed to having received documents from the Chairperson regarding the changes in the management of the company but that the Bank refused to honour it because there was no board resolution removing the former directors as at the time the letter was sent to the Bank.

 

He equally confessed bringing it to the notice of the Bank’s management and legal department and that all decisions he took were in line with instructions from the Bank’s management.

 

Further investigations also show that the said Oladele Kuti lives far beyond his means as he has properties far beyond what his job could provide.

 

For example, he has two foreign accounts with Barclays Bank and CitiBank respectively and that he also has two oil companies, a 3 bedroom flat at UPDC Estate Lekki,6 Bedroom apartment Ikorodu,6 plots of land at Olambe, Ogun State,6 plots of land at Mowe, a mortgaged property in London, Frank Enterprises, and Caleb Chroster Limited.

 

Also during investigation, he could not explain what happened to about $15 million US Dollars which is part of the $25 million dollar loan purportedly signed by Chief Idisi.

 

The Police report which reads like an indictment on the Bank shows that Stanbic IBTC failed to produce all the loan agreements as requested by the management of Lonestar Drilling Nigeria Limited. The Police also established that here were abundant evidence of fraudulent withdrawal of funds as contained in the audit report from the company.

 

And that the termination took place due to the frauds uncovered at the company. The Police also noted that the purported $25 million loan said to have been signed by the late Chief Idisi was a fraud as handwriting experts have discovered several discrepancies between the real signature and the forged one. Moreso, that Chief Idisi was sick in the United States as at that time and his wife and those attending to him could not recollect him ever signing any document even though he was not disposed to hold a pen due to the state of his health.

 

Stanbic IBTC was also unable to explain how the 2009 loan extension of $250,000,000 USD was disbursed as no document on that was produced. The Police equally discovered that Oladele Kuti’s account with GT Bank showed all the fraudulent transfers from Lonestar Drilling’s account to his personal account, and that throughout that period he transferred the sum of N14,310,000.00 (Fourteen Million, three hundred and ten thousand naira) from Lonestar Drilling’s account to his personal account.

 

The Police was shocked to find that upon all fraudulent transactions the Bank made a direct debt of $300,000 into the account on July 26th 2010,in benefit of Cammpro Limited with no supporting document for the payment. Equally shocking was that $40,697,50 was made in favour of Stanbic IBTC and Rs Platou was debited directly into the account of Lonestar by the Bank without the consent of the company.

 

This is in addition to the $1,000,000 deducted directly from the company’s account on 31 January 2011 by Stanbic IBTC without approval as there was no bank payment advice raised by the company to reflect the deduction of the said money.

 

It was in view of these very weighty evidences that the Police suggested that the suspects be arraigned in court because according to the Police, there were sufficient evidence for prosecution.

 

To this end Oladele Kuti (Account Officer), Head of Oil and Gas Unit of Stanbic IBTC, Luqman Agboola, a staff of Diamond Bank Plc, Francis Atoju, MD/CEO of Vantage Management consultant and Engr Frances Anene, Former MD/CEO of Lonestars Drilling Nigeria Ltd and others still at large were charged to court on a Nine count charges of conspiracy to commit felony and money laundering.

 

However, this newspaper made efforts to contact Stanbic IBTC to hear its side of the story, Barene Beard the officer contacted asked us to speak with Nkiru Olumide-Ojo who forwarded to us a prepared statement from the bank on the issue which reads thus:

 

“Thank you for your enquiry regarding the Lonestar Drilling Nigeria Ltd vs 8 others, including Stanbic IBTC. As you are aware, there is a case on this matter in the Federal High Court, Port-Harcourt and this precludes us from commenting on this matter. We would like to state however that Stanbic IBTC is a responsible corporate citizen, with confidence in the nation’s legal process, which will show when concluded; that we acted appropriately in this matter.”

 

However, observers are quick to note that Oladele Kuti may be the fall guy for his superiors at Stanbic IBTC who were in the full know of the whole fraudulent activities and they not only gave their go ahead but also approved some of the criminal acts perpetrated by their officer with their knowledge.

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Paris-bound bizman arrested with 111 cocaine wraps

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The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency has arrested a 48-year-old businessman, Emmanuel Orjinze, at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, for ingesting 111 wraps of cocaine.

The suspect, who claimed to be a professional footballer in Europe, was arrested on May 21 during the outward clearance of an Air France flight to Paris, France.

This was made known in a statement signed by the agency’s Director of Media and Advocacy, Femi Babafemi, and shared on the agency’s website on Sunday.

The statement read, “Operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency have arrested a 48-year-old Paris, France-bound businessman, Emmanuel Okechuku Orjinze, for ingesting 111 wraps of cocaine, which he excreted after days of observation in the agency’s custody following his arrest at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.

“Okechukwu, who also claims he is a professional footballer in Europe, was arrested on Tuesday, May 21, during the outward clearance of Air France flight AF 878 from Abuja to Paris, France.

“After a body scan confirmed he ingested illicit drugs, he was taken into custody where he excreted a total of 111 pellets of cocaine that weighed 1.603 kilograms over three days. The suspect claimed he did business in the maritime sector while still scouting for any European football club to engage him. ”

In the same vein, the NDLEA officers operating at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos hinted that they had dismantled another drug trafficking syndicate at the airport.

This, they said in a statement, followed the arrest of four members of the network and the seizure of a total of 8kg of methamphetamine and 7.60kg of Loud, a synthetic strain of cannabis imported from South Africa.

The statement added that a drug trafficking syndicate was busted at the airport when an official was caught with illicit substances in their backpack and bag.

On May 21, 2024, the NDLEA officers, supported by aviation security, intercepted the official at Terminal 1 and discovered the drugs during a search, blowing the lid off the syndicate.

“A swift follow-up operation at the Ajao Estate area of Lagos led to the arrest of two other members of the syndicate: Chris Nwadozie and Chinedu Nwaosu. Further investigation led to the arrest of another member of the cartel working within the airport system on Saturday, May 25,” the statement added.

In a related development, the agency also arrested a freight agent, Sonubi Abiodun, for attempting to export eight parcels of cocaine concealed in paint buckets to the United Kingdom.

Additionally, the NDLEA operatives arrested suspects producing and distributing skuchies, a mixture of black currant and illicit drugs, in Lagos, and recovered 2,480 litres of the psychoactive substance.

In Cross River State, a suspect, Ogar Emmanuel, was arrested with 2.5kg of cannabis, while 290kg of cannabis was recovered from the warehouse of Usani Ikpi, who is still at large. Additionally, three suspects – Sa’adu Sule, Mukhtar Nura, and Hamza Nura – were arrested in Katsina State with 70kg of cannabis, which originated from Ogun State.

The statement added, “No fewer than five suspects including Ezekiel Munda, 30; and Sule Mustapha, 21, were arrested by the NDLEA operatives on Thursday, May 23, during raids at the Karu Abattoir, Jikwoyi and Tora Bora hill area of the FCT, Abuja, where 95.01kg of cannabis and different quantities of opioids were recovered from them.

“In Edo State, operatives arrested a physically challenged notorious drug dealer, Zekere Sufianu, 45, at Auchi town on Wednesday, May 22. At the time of his arrest, he was found with 751 grams of Loud, 178 grams of tramadol, and pills of swinol,” the statement concluded.

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FG suit against 36 govs over LG funds begins

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The Federal Government has approached the Supreme Court with a suit seeking to compel governors of the 36 states of the federation to grant full autonomy to the local governments in their domains.

The suit, marked SC/CV/343/2024, was filed by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), on behalf of the Federal Government.

The Federal Government is urging the apex court to issue “an order prohibiting state governors from unilateral, arbitrary and unlawful dissolution of democratically elected local government leaders for local governments.”

In the suit predicted on 27 grounds, the Federal Government accused the state governors of gross misconduct and abuse of power.

The FG, in the originating summons, prayed the Supreme Court to make an order expressly stating that funds standing to the credit of local governments from the Federation Account should be paid directly to the local governments rather than through the state governments.

The justice minister also prayed for “an order of injunction restraining the governors, their agents and privies from receiving, spending or tampering with funds released from the Federation Account for the benefits of local governments when no democratically elected local government system is put in place in the states.”

The Federal Government further sought “an order stopping governors from constituting caretaker committees to run the affairs of local governments as against the Constitutionally recognised and guaranteed democratically system.”

The originating summons was backed by a 13-paragraph affidavit deposed to by one Kelechi Ohaeri of the Federal Ministry of Justice.

Ohaeri, in the affidavit, averred that the AGF instituted the suit against the governors under the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court on behalf of the Federal Government.

He said,“The Constitution of Nigeria recognises federal, states and local governments as three tiers of government and the three recognised tiers of government draw funds for their operation and functioning from the Federation Account created by the Constitution.

“By the provisions of the Constitution, there must be a democratically elected local government system and the Constitution has not made provisions for any other systems of governance at the local government level other than a democratically elected local government system.

“In the face of the clear provisions of the Constitution, the governors have failed and refused to put in place a democratically elected local government system even where no state of emergency has been declared to warrant the suspension of democratic institutions in the state.

“The failure of the governors to put democratically elected local government system in place is a deliberate subversion of the 1999 Constitution which they and the President have sworn to uphold.

“All efforts to make the governors comply with the dictates of the 1999 Constitution in terms of putting in place a democratically elected local government system has not yielded any result and to continue to disburse funds from the Federation Account to governors for non-existing democratically elected local government is to undermine the sanctity of the 1999 Constitution.

“In the face of the violations of the 1999 Constitution, the Federal Government is not obligated under Section 162 of the Constitution to pay any state, funds standing to the credit of local governments where no democratically elected local government is in place.”

The AGF, therefore, urged the apex court to invoke sections 1, 4, 5, 7 and 14 of the Constitution to declare that the state governors and state Houses of Assembly are under obligation to ensure a democratic system at the third tier of government in Nigeria and to also invoke the same sections to hold that the governors cannot lawfully dissolve democratically elected local government councils.

Furthermore, he urged to invoke sections 1, 4, 5, 7 and 14 of the Constitution to declare that “the dissolution of democratically elected local government councils by the governors or anyone using the state powers derivable from laws enacted by the state Houses of Assembly or any Executive Order is unlawful, unconstitutional, null and void.”

The apex court has fixed Thursday, May 30 for hearing.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees hailed the move by the Federal Government, saying it would join the lawsuit as a concerned party.

 

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JUST IN: Tribunal affirms Diri as Bayelsa governor

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The Bayelsa State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja, on Monday, upheld the election that produced Governor Douye Diri of Bayelsa State.

A three-man panel led by Justice Adekunle Adeleye dismissed the petition filed by the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Timipre Sylva, and the party for lacking in merit.

In a unanimous decision, the tribunal held that the petitioners failed to prove any credible evidence to back up any of the allegations they raised against the re-election victory of Diri.

Details shortly…

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