The Sub-committe on Ethics and Professionalism of the Bankers’ Committee has withdrawn from investigating a fraud case to the tune of about N1bn involving an aviation fuelling company, Star Orient Nigeria Limited, and Access Bank Plc.
The Secretary of the committee, Seye Awojobi, said in a report dated April 23, 2021, that the panel struck out the case following PUNCH Metro’s report on the investigation conducted into the case by the Zone 2 Police Command, Onikan, Lagos State.
The report of the investigation had indicted some members of staff of Access Bank for allegedly colluding with the erstwhile Managing Director of Star Orient, Dare Osamo, and others to launder N1bn.
The police report read in part, “Strong prima facie cases of conspiracy, forgery, obtaining money by false pretences and stealing were established against Dare Osamo and others, including Access Bank.”
Responding to the company’s petition to the committee over the alleged N1bn fraud, Awojobi said, “The bank informed the sub-committee that the case was published in PUNCH Newspaper of March 11, 2021.
“The sub-committee, after due consideration, decided that the case should be struck out since the case was reported to the media, and also that the matter was under investigation by the Nigeria Police Force prior to the case being brought before the Sub-committee on Ethics and Professionalism.”
However, the counsel for Star Orient, Ogbonnaya Agbafo, said his client waited on the Bankers’ Committee for eight months, adding that despite the firm and Access Bank finishing their submissions and waiting on the sub-committee to pass its verdict, no verdict was given.
He said, “If the sub-committee had adjudicated within a reasonable time after the parties had exhausted their submissions, it would have reached a decision long before March 11, 2021. Was the sub-committee patiently waiting for something – some slip or breach?
“There was no evidence that it was our client that took the matter to the press. The bank that made the allegation did not provide proof that it was our client and not the bank itself that leaked the matter to the press.
“The golden rule of adversarial proceedings is that he who asserts must prove. The sub-committee was content to act on the ipse dixit of our client’s adversary, on whose interest it was based, perhaps, upon its own induced press leak and the committee would appear to have waited for just that leak to happen – to cry off the case!”
Agbafo explained that the committee was avoiding engaging the truth, adding that its stance as presented by Awojobi was a “sad reflection that the ideals of social and economic justice will always suffer peril in any conflict between bent financial power and honest business.”
He added, “But on further reflection, one understands that self-interest is a universal law of life: why should a committee of bankers act in judgment against one of their own?
“Those who designed the concept of the sub-committee must have been diehard idealists to have overlooked this foible of man: what the wise Yoruba would call the ‘awa rawa’ principle!”
Star Orient added that the sub-committee threw out its petition during a 15-minute hearing and was insensitive about ethical standards in the banking sector.
It stated, “To set the records straight, ShibahWells Energy, our joint venture partner, petitioned the AIG, Zone 2 Command, against the directors of Star Orient on allegations of theft and money laundering.
“Star Orient petitioned the Bankers’ Committee and the CBN to cause investigation into compliance with ethics and regulations governing banking in Nigeria vis-à-vis the opening and operations of the company’s bank accounts, including that of Access Bank.
“While we lack the power and resources to contend with the intimidation and overreaching powers of the bank, justice by all means must be served.
“We, therefore, petitioned the Inspector-General of Police through the Special Fraud Unit to unravel and prove wrong our allegation of fraud and connivance in money laundering against Access Bank and other financial institutions.”
When contacted, the Public Relations Officer, SFU, Eyitayo Johnson, said, “I can confirm to you that the SFU has an active petition we are investigating in respect to the petition by Star Orient and it involves some deposit money banks and microfinance banks.
“The case is still very much ongoing and before the week runs out, we should be able to cover major milestones and be able to brief the press accordingly.”
PUNCH Metro had reported that an audit of the aviation fuelling company’s operational and accounting systems led to Osamo’s resignation.
During the audit, it was also revealed that secret accounts were opened and operated in the company’s name in several banks in the country, including Access Bank, without the authorisation of the board.
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