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Tuesday, June 23, 2020

HERITAGE BANK SWIMS IN N363 MILLION IGR CONTROVERSY AS FORENSIC AUDITOR PETITIONS EFCC




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By Investigation Media team of Oluwasegun Abifarin and Olawale Abideen

 Heritage Bank prides itself as a leading Nigerian “bank with an excellent service culture hinged on working with each customer to create a name and heritage.”

The bank, which berthed in 2012, also adds that “its long standing practice shall be to hold itself to the highest standards of integrity…and shall seek to promote high ethical standards, integrity, and good business practices.”



But recent development is threatening the bank’s virtue and reputation which has produced N483.4 billion total asset as at December 2015.


According to the document received Investigation Media (Publishers of Newsroom Nigeria and Security Monitor), on the 29th December, 2016, Ori Adeyemo and Co, a Forensic Accounting Consultancy firm based in Lagos was engaged by the Niger State Board of Internal Revenue to assist in the improvement of Internally-Generated-Revenue (IGR) base of excess bank charges, high network individuals, withholding tax on dividends and interest and deposits against banks operating in the State from 29/05/1999 and for an initial period of 4 years based on the firm’s proposal.

His first appointment as Consultants was to investigate unremitted 10% Withholding Tax on Credit Interest by His Excellency, Alhaji Abubakar Sani-Bello was dated 23/07/2015 from the office of the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance, Malam Zakari Abubakar for only First Bank of Nig. Ltd.



But at a meeting with the governor in his office sometimes in early 2016 with then Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance in attendance, the Governor mandated said Permanent Secretary to issue another letter allowing us to cover all the banks in Niger State.  We are still awaiting said letter till date.



In his petition to the EFCC, obtained by the team, Adeyemo maintained that at the end the forensic investigation, he was able to establish total final and conclusive liability of N363,544,906.82 (Three hundred and sixty three million, five hundred and forty four thousand, nine hundred naira, eighty two kobo) against Heritage Bank out of a total of N4.648 billion against 12 banks operating in the state.



“From the total figure, a sum of N732, 143,601.532 representing 20% agreed commission (including 5% Value-Added-Tax) is due and payable to us within 7 days upon the receipt of said 16/09/2019 earlier demand letter served on the State Governor,” he said.



According to him, before commencement of work, the firm was introduced to the Nasarawa State Government by the duo of Mr. Charles Osuji (aka Kenneth Zuofa) and Mr. Edmond Ogbonna





The deal however went sour after completion of works as Adeyemo alleged that the state officials and their middlemen have entered a new deal with some of the banks to shortchange the whole exercise.



Adeyemo further alleged he was reliably informed that the Board had given “clean bill of health and letters of non-indebtedness by ridiculously negotiating lower sums in fraudulent compromise, which we are not a party thereto to the said compromised concerned banks.”



The petitioner also included a compact disk (CD) detailing all completed jobs in intellectual properties as so far executed by the consultant for the Niger State Government enabling it to demand for an additional but unpaid N732,143,601.52 commission sum.



 “We humbly request that this matter be expeditiously investigated and if the said suspects are found culpable, be charged to a Court of competent jurisdiction in order to serve as a deterrent to others that may want to emulate their nefarious and despicable acts of impunity and reckless abandon,” Adeyemo told EFCC.
When contacted, Blaise Udunze, Heritage bank’s head of corporate communication admitted he’s aware of the allegation but promised to get back to us after he might have perused information in his office. But he never did till date.

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