There are indications that it may take the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) some more time and even legal efforts to get its $19 million (about N5.76 billion at N305 per dollar) revenue currently trapped in Heritage Bank, as the bank is now bent on holding on to the funds as a way of maintaining its capital and deposit bases.
SHIPS & PORTS DAILY gathered that the bank is ready to use all legal means riddled with delays to hold on to the NPA funds. Usually reliable sources informed our correspondent that the bank is hiding under the guise of “trying to sort out its liability issues arising from the acquisition of Enterprise Bank” to hold on to the NPA fund.
The Managing Director of NPA, Ms Hadiza Bala Usman recently at a media interaction in Lagos disclosed that the Authority had recovered $5.1 million out of the sum of $24.1 million “hidden” in Heritage Bank after she assumed office as the NPA boss mid-2016.
According to her, the $24.1 million was not disclosed in the handover note received from her predecessor.
Usman told journalists that out of the $24.1 million, $5.1 million has now been credited by Heritage Bank into NPA’s Treasury Single Account (TSA) with the Central Bank of Nigeria, as she stressed that her management would stop at nothing in retrieving the balance of $19 million from the bank.
But a public relations staff of the bank said payment of the money to NPA has been structured to be made in tranches, adding that only the first tranche payment has been made. He however declined comment on when the next tranche would be paid, or when the money would be paid up stating that he is not bank’s spokesperson.
“We are making the payment as NPA requested. The payment has been structured and is to be made in a particular schedule. So we have paid the first tranche. We have paid according to what the agency asked us to,” the public relation staff, who did not want his identity revealed, told SHIPS & PORTS DAILY.
Checks however revealed that the Federal Government’s directive to remit all public funds into the TSA does not leave banks or agencies of government an option to keep running other bank accounts.
In an exclusive chat with SHIPS & PORTS DAILY on the matter on the backdrop of the recently held long service award for NPA workers, the Executive Director, Finance and Administration, Mohammed Bello-Koko indicated that the NPA management had not agreed on a particular scheduled payment structure with the bank, maintaining that non-inclusive of the $24.1million in the TSA with CBN raised the initial concern.
He however said that the Authority was working to get all of the money from Heritage Bank before end of January 2017.
He said, “We believe that very soon they will pay. The structuring is an agreement between the bank, NPA and CBN, but as at now, it is not fully finalized but we believe that before the end of this month it will be finalized.
“We are pushing to ensure that the payment is made before the end of the year. And I’m sure that that payment will come in before the end of the year, or maximally before the end of January 2017. We want to make it public when we are done. We are working on it in conjunction with the CBN and we believe that Heritage Bank will pay that debt latest by end of January.”
On fears that the bank is holding on to the fund, he said, “That is why we brought the CBN into it.”
In November this year, First Bank Plc, which handles Heritage Bank’s universal clearing activities, threatened to blacklist the Heritage Bank and stop further clearing transactions if its outstanding deficit of over N5 billion is not cleared.
That came about seven months after the CBN in April 2016 barred the bank from foreign exchange transactions for failing to remit the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) dollar funds into the federal government’s Treasury Single Account domiciled in the CBN.
The bank was thrown into another travail when it was discovered that a whopping $24.1million (N7.35 billion) fund of NPA lodged with the bank was kept away from the new management of the Authority.
However, in a statement published on its website, the bank denied it was distressed.
“Whilst we acknowledge the challenging operating environment currently experienced in all sectors of the economy, Heritage Bank remains financially stable and has continued to discharge its obligations to all customers and stakeholders,” it stated.
Copyright 2016 Ships & Ports Ltd. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit given to www.shipsandports.com.ng as the source.