By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor
ABUJA—The inability of key officials of the Nigerian Export-Import Bank, NEXIM, to explain the whereabouts of over N3.5 billion cash belonging to the bank has angered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, which believes strongly that the huge sum was diverted.
The bank claims the money was lost to ‘bad debts’ but the anti-graft agency wants to know who the beneficiaries of the bad loans were and what relationship existed between them and top officials of the bank, which had been crippled by lack of funds to discharge its key mandate of funding production for exports.
Although the Federal Government had late last year, in apparent dissatisfaction, dispensed with the board and managing director of the bank, the questionable deals are being subjected to scrutiny by the EFCC in a deliberate move to bring the masterminds to justice, in the spirit of the present administration.
To unravel the fraud, Vanguard learned that the EFCC has summoned top officials of the bank in batches to take statements from them.
A source close to the investigation confirmed to Vanguard yesterday that apart from the current set of management staff, some members of the immediate past board were also being invited for questioning over bribery allegations and insider deals, which have robbed the bank of steam.
“All the directors have been invited in batches. It is only one or two of the many departments of the bank, which we don’t think have anything to do with the money we are talking about that have not been invited,’’ a source said yesterday.
According to insider sources, who have also made representations to EFCC, a former top official of the bank was in the habit of disbursing huge loans amounting to N2 billion to his cronies and close associates to warehouse for him under the guise of loans.
All the loans, which were disbursed under the official, have now been classified as ‘bad loans’, meaning that the government may never recover them.
According to a new report now before the Ministry of Finance, allegations of bribery and corruption were also rife within the bank, forcing prospective customers to shun it.
In one classical case being investigated, a firm which was recommended by a former head of state, had approached the bank boss as early as 2012 for a loan facility of N1.5 billion for a farmers’ cooperative society to enable it acquire more equipment and produce more for exports, but a former key official of NEXIM insisted on taking 10 per cent bribe (N150 million) as a condition for listing the group for discussion with other board members.
After paying the initial N150 million as demanded by the bank boss, he, then asked the farmers group to bring another N150 million to be shared out to his other officials before releasing the loan to them.
One of the farmers told Vanguard: “We were forced to go and source for the balance of N150 million to pay the man, only for us to be told that he had been sacked.
“We have already lost N150 million, being 10 per cent of N1.5 billion as bribe to this man who was shown the way out of the bank recently.
‘’All our documents for the loan are intact in the bank. We have reported this matter to both the EFCC and the Minister of Finance who supervises the bank.”