Zenith Bank under Ovia and Emefiele: Haven of Corruption

Posted on by Seyi Oduyela
Mr. Jim Ovia, Founder of Zenith Bank

Mr. Jim Ovia, Founder of Zenith Bank

Zenith Bank under Ovia and Emefiele: Haven of Corruption

By Seyi Oduyela, Washington DC.

Reports from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Police Special Fraud Unit reveal how Zenith Bank has been serving as haven for corrupt politicians and more. In this report, Seyi Oduyela shows how Zenith Bank under the leadership of Jim Ovia and Godwin Emefiele helped Peter Odili and Bukola Saraki stole money from their states treasuries.

Jim Ovia a close friend of President Jonathan Goodluck

Jim Ovia a close friend of President Jonathan Goodluck

Zenith Bank is undoubtedly one of the largest banks in Nigeria today. Its one million shareholders has made it the biggest tier-1 bank in Nigeria. The bank was co-founded by Jim Ovia in May 1990 and became a public limited company in June 2004. Presently, Zenith Bank’s shares are traded on the London Stock Exchange. With its headquarters in Lagos, the bank boasts of 350 branches and business offices spread across all states in Nigeria and outside of Nigeria- UK, South Africa, Sierra Leone and the Gambia.

Despite this reputation, the bank has always being under investigation by various security organizations in Nigeria in relation to fraudulent practices, either perpetrated by its employees or the bank’s complicity in treasury looting by corrupt politicians.

Mr. Godwin Emefiele, CBN Governor and former Group MD of Zenith Bank

Mr. Godwin Emefiele, CBN Governor and former Group MD of Zenith Bank

The Police in 2011 initiated an investigation upon receipt of a petition written by the management of Joy Petroleum alleging denial of access to its account by the bank as a result of alleged illegal change of signatory to the account by unknown persons. The Police Special Fraud Unit, in its investigation discovered that Zenith Bank under Jim Ovia and Godwin Emefiele granted a bank draft of 160 Million Naira to Dr. Bukola Saraki who was not a customer of the bank. Dr. Saraki at the time of the loan application did not have account either current or savings with Zenith, yet the bank granted him a loan of 160 million Naira without collateral.The investigation also saw evidence of a N200, 000,000.00 loan facility that was availed by Zenith Bank to Joy Petroleum Ltd. This discovery triggered further inquiries with Zenith Bank as to the source of the N160 Million Draft. Zenith Bank had claimed in a letter dated May 8th 2012, that it was part of the N200 million (two hundred million) facility that was granted to Joy Petroleum Ltd to finance its operations.

Senate President, Bukola Saraki

Senate President, Bukola Saraki

To investigate these fresh allegations, The Police requested that Zenith Bank provide the statement of account for Joy Petroleum Ltd from inception till date and supply the identity of the authority that authorized the draft to be made from the loan. In its response, Zenith bank reversed itself via a letter dated July 27th 2012 claiming that the draft was bought in the name of Joy Petroleum Ltd, by a customer of the bank without disclosing the name of this supposed customer. However, under pressure Zenith Bank later reluctantly revealed that Dr. Bukola Saraki is the customer that bought the N160 million Draft in the name of Joy Petroleum Ltd.

Pressed to provide details of the account from which Dr. Bukola Saraki made the Draft, Zenith Bank through a letter dated September 10th 2013 claimed that Dr. Bukola Saraki was granted a loan of N160 million (one hundred and sixty million) naira that he requested should be raised in the name of Joy Petroleum Ltd as a draft. The bank had nevertheless also stated that Dr. Bukola Saraki was not a customer of the bank (i.e Zenith Bank) and does not maintain any account with her.

The Police then asked Zenith Bank to prove the existence of the said loan since it had said Dr. Bukola Saraki was not a customer of the bank. The bank had consequently in response to the query, made available a N160 Million Naira Loan Letter of Offer to Dr. Bukola Saraki dated November 25th 2009.

 

Since Dr Bukola Saraki do not maintain any account whatsoever with the bank (Zenith) and since the approved loan must be disbursed into an account on which Dr Bukola Saraki had exclusive control and on which he must pass the instructions to raise the draft in favor of Joy Petroleum either by way of issuing a cheque or by letter of instruction, it was requested to furnish the unit with details of such account into which the disbursement of the loan to Dr. Bukola Saraki was made and how or by what means he requested the draft to be made.

In its response, the bank tendered two documents-An internal ledger statement of account in the name of Dr. Bukola Saraki showing a debit withdrawal of N160 million on the 26/11/2009 and a credit deposit of #11,901,369.98 on 26/05/2010. It also provided to the police, a page of the bank’s Manager’s Cheque register showing that a draft of N160 million in favor of Joy Petroleum Ltd was signed for by one Uche Phillips.

However, the bank left unanswered, the issue of ‘into which account’ the loan was disbursed. The bank also failed to produce any instruction from Dr. Bukola Saraki to show evidence that he actually operated this account (bank internal ledger account) and the cheque or instruction to the bank ordering the draft of N160 million to be raised which they could not produce. (The investigation observes that Dr Bukola Saraki cannot operate this account because it is the bank’s internal ledger and it is impossible for him to make any withdrawals on this account without having a current account with the bank).

In its effort to unravel the bank to which the N160 million was paid, the Police Special Fraud Unit attempted to invite Mr. Jim Ovia for questioning but former President Jonathan Goodluck shut it down. He directed the SFU not to question Ovia. As a result of President Goodluck’s intervention, the Police could not conclude its investigation and this was one of the reasons why the then Attorney General refused to arraign Dr. Bukola Saraki. In his letter to the Inspector General of Police,  the Attorney General then, Mr. Mohammed Adoke advised against taking any action against Saraki and his aides over the bank issue, according to him, since from the records available to his office, the former governor had not committed any offence to warrant such trial. In a legal advice to the IG on the move to prosecute Saraki and others named by the petitioner, dated 9thOctober 2012, with reference Number DPP/ADV: 061/12, and signed by the Director of Public Prosecutions of the Federation, Mrs. O.O. Fatunde, the AGF Office, noted that it would be improper to hold Saraki liable for the internal actions of the then Intercontinental Bank.

The AGF Office said: “It would therefore be improper and unjust in the circumstance to hold Dr. Saraki , Mr. Pinheiro or indeed the companies criminally liable for the internal actions and decisions of the bank and its officials touching on exercise of discretion.“Every customer of a bank (corporate or individual) has the right to apply for a loan on the most favourable terms possible. This alone does not constitute any offence under any law because it is within the discretion of the bank to grant or refuse such loan application.“Dr. Saraki and Pinheiro are alleged to be connected with the grant of the loans as promoter and director respectively of the companies. By virtue of Section 18 of the Act, a director or any other partner or officer of a company can only be held responsible in that capacity for the actions of the company if the company is guilty of an offence under the Act. “Since the company in this case cannot be held to have committed any offence under Section 15( 1) (a), it follows that Dr. Saraki and Mr. Pinheiro cannot also be held criminally responsible only on account of having acted as promoter and director of the companies in connection with the said loan,” the DPP advised. According to Police sources, this investigation is still open.

This is not the first time that Zenith Bank has been investigated by law enforcement in regards to corruption. In 2013, management of National Examination Council (NECO) petitioned the Police Special Fraud Unit, SFU after they discovered that N300 million was missing from its account with Zenith Bank. This prompted an investigation. Initially, NECO had suspected some of its employees because, according to them, only those who know the codes can attempt a withdrawal. Police investigation further revealed that none of NECO employee was involved but the heist was carried out by some employees of Zenith Bank. This also is an open investigation since 2013.

An insight into the loot of Dr Peter Odili, former Governor of Rivers State as contained in the EFCC investigative report shows that a total of about N89billion was fleeced from the state treasury. Of the amount, about N73billion is in local currency while a whooping N16billion in (current forex rate) equivalent was conveniently carted away in US Dollars, Euros and Pound Sterling. The breakdown further revealed that about 129million is in Dollars, one million in Euro and the balance 2Million in Pounds.

Former Governor Peter Odili of Rivers State

Former Governor Peter Odili of Rivers State

Analyses drawn from the EFCC report shows that, one Emmanuel Nkatah a personal staff of the Governor working at the Rivers state liaison office Abuja was a loyal and willing tool in hands of Odili. In the looting spree, series of questionable withdrawals were made from Government House Zenith Bank account No. 6010916587 placed at the disposal of the former governor. All withdrawals were in cash and without any official transaction and documentation. The account ran like a GSM number dedicated to a live Radio program. Between 15 December 2004 and 11 September 2006, a total of 86 curious withdrawals of various sums were made by Nkatah on behalf of Odili. By September when EFCC spread its dragnet over the state, a total of N4.012billion has been withdrawn from the account. All withdrawals were made in Abuja leaving officials of the commission to wonder whether the government was being run from outside the state. Surprisingly, the withdrawals were hardly reported to the relevant security agencies including the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit, NFIU, an arm of the EFCC charged with the responsibility of monitoring transactions made within and among Banks. In the conclusion of the EFCC, the act is a clear violation of relevant laws and an offence punishable under sections 390(8) (b) of the Criminal Code, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. (See Box for breakdown of all withdrawal).

In the enormous pursuit for Odili, the former governor may however not be the only one to stand prosecution. Some of the accused that will be charged alongside Dr. Peter Odili according to the source include Mr. Johnson Arumemi-Ikhide, Rockson Engineering Co. Ltd, Ojemai Farms Ltd, Ojemai Investments Ltd, Prof. Babalola Borisade, Dr. Ahmadu Alli, Mr. Barnabas Gemade, Paul T, Mrs. Olufemi A, Ike Nwachukwu, Godsonic Oil Coy Ltd and Prof. Ukandi Damanchi. Others are Courage Communications Ltd, Attn Ltd, Ragolis Water Ltd, M/S Wetland Health Services Ltd, Transky Ltd, Foby Eng. Ltd, First Medical/Sterile Company Ltd, Habila Resources Ltd and four Media Houses.

 

See below the withdrawals:

TABLE OF SOME OF THE QUESTIONABLE WITHDRAWALS

Date           Amount     Bank    A/C No.     Venue    Beneficiary

15/12/2004 N30Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

17/12/2004 N15Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

23/12/2004 N30Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

04/01/2005 N15Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

11/01/2005 N20Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

17/01/2005 N20Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

09/02/2005 N10Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

11/02/2005 N10Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

14/02/2005 N15Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

17/02/2005 N10Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

28/02/2005 N25Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

14/03/2005 N20Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

21/03/2005 N65Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

07/04/2005 N10Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

25/04/2005 N15Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

27/04/2005 N30Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

31/05/2005 N10Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

02/06/2005 N10Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

06/06/2005 N20Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

09/06/2005 N20Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

13/06/2005 N25Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

16/06/2005 N15Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

20/06/2005 N25Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

27/06/2005 N16.3Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

30/06/2005 N10Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

06/07/2005 N10Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

12/07/2005 N15Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

14/07/2005 N10Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

18/07/2005 N20Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

27/07/2005 N10Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

29/07/2005 N15Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

25/08/2005 N20Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

29/08/2005 N20Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

01/09/2005 N10Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

08/09/2005 N40Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

12/09/2005 N30Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

22/09/2005 N10Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

29/09/2005 N15Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

14/10/2005 N100Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

07/10/2005 N20Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

12/10/2005 N20Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

14/10/2005 N10Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

18/10/2005 N10Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

20/10/2005 N12Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

24/10/2005 N20Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

26/10/2005 N25Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

01/11/2005 N10Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

09/11/2005 N30Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

10/11/2005 N22Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

28/11/2005 N50Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

29/11/2005 N100Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

05/12/2005 N100Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

06/12/2005 N70Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

08/12/2005 N100Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

17/01/2006 N20Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

25/01/2006 N15Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

07/02/2006 N20Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

16/02/2006 N50Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

17/02/2006 N50Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

08/03/2006 N10Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

10/03/2006 N4Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

13/03/2006 N40Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

16/03/2006 N20Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

28/03/2006 N20Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

11/04/2006 N65Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

13/04/2006 N100Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

18/04/2006 N100Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

04/05/2006 N50Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

25/05/2006 N500Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

30/05/2006 N100Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

05/06/2006 N200Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

19/06/2006 N100Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

21/06/2006 N100Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

03/07/2006 N50Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

12/07/2006 N50Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

14/07/2006 N100Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

19/07/2006 N100Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

31/07/2006 N20Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

02/08/2006 N50Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

08/08/2006 N100Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

15/08/2006 N50Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

22/08/2006 N100Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

28/08/2006 N100Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

06/09/2006 N100Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

07/09/2006 N50Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

11/09/2006 N50Million Zenith 6010916587 Abuja Emmanuel Nkatah

2004-2006 N30, 031,446,589.70 Zenith 6010914407 Abuja Rockson Eng. Co Ltd.

To be continued……..

 

About the Author

1 Comment so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

Leave A Response

You must be logged in to post a comment.