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Magu: Why FCMB must prove not to be conduit pipe

Adewale Nurudeen

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Magu: FCMB's trouble worsens as Pastor Omale sues bank, MD for N5bn

The melodrama involving Ibrahim Magu, suspended chairman of Economic and Financial Crime (EFCC), Prophet Emmanuel Omale of Abuja-based Divine Hand of God Prophetic Ministries and Adam Nuru, the managing director of First City Monument Bank (FCMB) is still keeping tongues wagging in the country.

The prelude was the accusation that the former EFCC boss allegedly mismanaged recovered loots, which led to the investigation of Magu by a panel headed by Justice Ayo Salami, a former president of the appeal court, over allegations of corruption and insubordination levelled against him by the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami.

Magu was alleged to have laundered the money through Prophet Emmanuel Omale. It was also said that the clergy procured a landed property worth N573 million in Dubai on behalf of the former anti-graft czar.

The fund for the property was claimed to have been wired from FCMB into Divine Hand of God Prophetic Ministries’ account No 1486743019 with the bank. This, Prophet Omale has denied and even has gone ahead to file a legal action against the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) which broke the story. He is demanding N1billion damages from the news agency for libel.

The issue got to a climax when the managing director of FCMB told the Salaama-led panel that the N573 million transferred to Omale’s Divine Hand of God Prophetic Ministries was done in an error. In another twist, the bank argued that a system error affected Omale’s account.

FCMB in a statement said last week: “Our attention has been drawn to widely circulating stories incorrectly stating that our MD, during a recent presidential hearing in Abuja, testified that the bank mistakenly transferred N573m to the account of a church and the said error was not discovered for four years.

“We feel it is in the public interest to state emphatically that there was no transfer of N573m into this account, mistakenly or otherwise.”

It maintained that during a maintenance upgrade of its systems in 2016, “a defective file led to the aggregation of multiple unrelated entries into a single balance under the affected customer’s name (Omale) in one of our reports.

“This aggregation occurred only in the weekly automated report to the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU).

“It had no effect on any customer account balance or statements and therefore was not immediately identified.

“Our MD clarified to the presidential panel that the system-generated report was incorrect and that there was no mistaken transfer of N573 million.

“He also submitted a comprehensive documentary evidence to this effect.

However, analysts believe the bank’s position was an after-thought, arguing why it took FCMB days to clarify the issue when Nuhu, its MD, had the opportunity to shed light on it before the panel.

Meanwhile, this is not the first-time commercial lenders in the country are being accused of being conduit pipes for allegedly corrupt government officials.

FCMB maintained that it would continue to fully cooperate with the presidential panel, adding that it had been entirely transparent in its dealings and remains committed to ethical and professional conduct. In 2016, the EFCC quizzed Mr Nnamdi Okonkwo, managing director of Fidelity Bank, for allegedly receiving $115 million from the former minister and disbursing the funds to politicians in the run-off to the 2015 presidential election that was lost by former President Goodluck Jonathan.

Also, that same year, Zenith Bank was alleged to be involved in the funding of Ekiti State gubernatorial election in 2014, an allegation the bank denied.

Sterling Bank and Zenith Bank were accused of being used by politicians to move funds for political reasons. The MD of Zenith Bank was in 2018 quizzed over the withdrawal of about N117 billion allegedly by the Governor Nyesom Wike-led Rivers State government, which the bank failed to report to the anti-graft agency as required by law.

It is believed that in the days to come, there will be more revelations regarding the Magu saga.

(Story By: Dayo Kiladejo)