Oyetunji Abioye and Ifeanyi Onuba
The Central Bank of Nigeria said on Monday that it was carrying out special investigations into the roles played by banks in certain financial transactions, especially the N23bn reportedly shared to officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission by officials of the former President Goodluck Jonathan administration to influence the outcome of the last general elections.
The apex bank said in a statement by the Acting Director, Corporate Communications Department, Mr. Isaac Okoroafor, that the special investigations would enable the CBN to determine the level of involvement of the banks as well as persons involved in questionable financial transactions.
The CBN stated that while it was aware of some of the investigations being carried out by law enforcement agencies, it would not allow the banking sector to be used as a conduit for illicit transactions.
It assured all customers of Deposit Money Banks in the country that despite the probe, the safety and stability of the banking sector remained a priority of the CBN.
The statement read, “The CBN wishes to inform all customers of Deposit Money Banks, other stakeholders, and the general public that it is fully aware and indeed a part of the ongoing investigation of certain financial transactions in some banks by law enforcement authorities.
“The CBN is also carrying out its own special examinations and investigations to ascertain the veracity of some allegations as well as the extent and persons that may be involved in such activities.
“The bank will like to reiterate that financial systems stability remains a priority and therefore assures customers and stakeholders that it will not allow the banking system to be used as a conduit for any illicit transactions.
“Some of these investigations are routine and only relate to isolated transactions; therefore, it is important to state that the safety and soundness of the Nigerian banking industry remains strong.”
Our correspondents gathered that the CBN had deployed a fresh team of investigators and forensic accountants in all the Deposit Money Banks as part of investigations into the alleged N23bn scam.
Top CBN and bank officials disclosed on Monday that scores of investigators were already in the banks surfing through their operations systems in order to trace the sources and destinations of some transactions that had been flagged.
A source close to the development said, “Our men are in some banks already; it is part of the CBN’s independent findings into the alleged N23bn scam.
“The teams we have deployed are not just focusing on the three banks whose CEOs were recently detained and released by the EFCC; they are focusing on all the commercial banks. We do this kind of investigations from time to time as part of our routine work, but this one is focusing on the N23bn scam.”
Independent findings showed that CBN investigators were also examining the 2015 financial reports of the banks to see if certain transactions were reflected in their annual reports.
There are reports that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission may arrest some bank chief executive officers this week as part of the ongoing probe of the N23bn scam.
Officials of the EFCC had last week arrested the Managing Directors of Fidelity Bank Plc, Mr. Nnamdi Okonwo; Sterling Bank, Mr. Yemi Adeola; and Access Bank, Mr. Herbert Wigwe.
The bank chiefs were released on Friday evening after pledging to cooperate fully with the EFCC and return when needed.
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