by KEHINDE AKINTOLA,
The House of Representatives on Thursday invited Godwin Emefiele, Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Ibrahim Magu, acting Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over N12 billion virtual currency scheme involving 60,000 Nigerian investors.
Uzoma Nkem-Abonta, Chairman, House Committee on Public Petition who issued the directive at the end of the investigative hearing on the petition instituted by Philemon Ibrahim Gora, also directed Ibrahim Idris, Inspector General of Police, to appear in person before the committee on 30th May, 2017.
The petitioner alleged that Diamond Bank unlawfully closed down the account of cash flow and withheld fund deposited in the account worth N12 billion.
Gora who assured the Committee of paying all the depositors as soon as the account is unfrozen, lamented that he was informed that the bank account has been frozen on the orders of EFCC and CBN, when he wanted to refund his clients.
He said he took the matter to the office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), arrested severally and suffered demoralisation. Clients are hunting us because of the situation, adding that one of his staff had been in jail for seven years due to the crisis.
While responding to questions from the Committee, Georgina Nwankwo, CBN Executive Director who acknowledged receipt of the petition in February 2014, noted that the petitioner was advised to resolve the matter with his banker, adding that the apex bank can only intervene if the parties couldn’t resolve it amicably.
“When a matter is in court, we don’t interfere. According to the petition we got from him, the court asked them to go back and sit to see how the matter can be resolved. And since the matter was before the court we couldn’t do anything. And it’s unfortunate that the EFCC and the Police and Diamond Bank are not here to tell us what they have done with the judgement of the court,” Nwankwo said.
The CBN representative who informed the Committee that there was a petition listing over 400 illegal fund managers in the system of which cash flow was one, added that the apex bank at no time issued directive for the money to be frozen as alleged.
In his remarks, Nkem-Abonta who frowned at various impunity being perpetuated within the banking sector, said: “I’m going to refer you to an issue where the central bank has been accused of conniving with commercial banks to dupe customers.
“There are petitions before us and other we haeve dealt with, involving, First Bank, Skye Bank and others who complained of illegal deductions from their accounts and forceful siezure of money. And the CBN would not respond to petition on these matters.
On her part, Unoma Ndulue, Diamond Bank Team Legal, North, who argued that there was no money in the accout with Diamond Bank, confirmed that the fund in question is a “virtual fund. A Crypto currency that is traded online.”
Diamond had only about 300,000 which was handed over to his lawyer, the late James Ocholi.
The chair asked the CBN if the petitioner was making any sense, since the CBN itself had in the media encouraged Nigerians to go into Crypto currency investment.
When asked whether the bank will loose any money if the account is opened, Ndulue who answered in the negative, however argued that the Bank cannot afford to unfreeze the account because of the risk of cyber attack.
While ruling, Nkem-Abonta explained that the Committee would choose a different venue within the House to hold a closed door between the management of Diamond Bank, the EFCC, the CBN and the petitioner to resolve the matter.
KEHINDE AKINTOLA, Abuja