Assembly Demands Explanation On How Funds Disappeared
We Only Acted On Instructions, We Operated within Laid Down Procedures- MD
Gov Mulls Massive Sack Of Civil Servants Over Leakage Of Classifieds
By Yahya WAKILI, Maiduguri and Chris RICHARDS, Abuja
Managing Director Of a micro Finance Bank, established by the Borno State Government with a N2.1Billion Loan from the Central Bank Of Nigeria, CBN, Hajiya Zainab Kolo has given insights into how The State Governor Kashim Shettima converted the bank to a virtual cash cow, leading to its collapse.
Speaking to our correspondent in Abuja where she fled to following inquiries from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and later the House of Assembly on how the loan was mismanaged leading to the collapse of the micro finance bank established barely four years ago, the embattled Managing Director gave a breakdown of how she was directed to disburse the funds.
According to her, it is not the whole N2 billion that was blown up, as there is N1 billion still stashed away in fixed deposit accounts operated by the Governor, while the remaining N1 Billion was disbursed based on directives from the Governor to various banks, organizations and individuals.
While admitting that the loans were disbursed without any form of collateral nor guarantors, Mrs Kolo exonerated herself from blames, being a civil Servant carrying out orders, saying she has all the records on all the transactions of the bank from inception, and the records will vindicate her.
Somewhere else, in apparent moves to stave off investigations by the Economic and financial Crimes commission EFCC in the N2.1Billion Central Bank loan obtained to float the micro finance bank by the Borno state Government, members of the State Assembly may have commenced probes into the scandal.
Investigations reveal that, the Managing Director had been initially grilled by the EFCC and the Police force CID over the matter, following which the house of Assembly got interested and ordered its own investigations. She is billed to face the lawmakers this week to clarify her roles in the matter.
Investigations further reveal that, the Assembly approved Governor Kashim Shettima’s request to obtained the N2.1Billion loan from the Central Bank of Nigeria to facilitate the establishment of a micro Finance Bank in Maiduguri the state Capital , but systematically depleted the bank funds for political activities.
Our correspondent who has been investigating the operations of the bank since 2013 reports that, the Governor appointed his stooges who could not question his motives even if wrongly taken as operators of the bank, and went on to direct various political groups to masquerade as cooperative groups so that they can access the loans.
Investigations reveal also that, the public has been deliberately kept in the dark over the loan and how it was being managed through the micro finance bank, as its operations were shrouded in secrecy, rather it was made to serve as a conduit bank for drawing public funds for patronage of friends, associates, charlatans and political hooligans.
The House of Assembly which passed the law establishing the bank and subsequently approved the N2.1 Billion loan has been in the eyes of the storm immediately the attention of the EFCC was drawn to the scandal rocking the bank: a development which may have caused the reported panic in the House when they beheld the presence of EFCC operatives in the state.
Ostensibly trying to extricate themselves from blames, the lawmakers; findings reveal have been mounting pressures on the Managing Director of the Bank to explain the whereabouts of the banks funds, only for them to discover strange lodgments of N2.5 million each in their various accounts, according to sources.
A member of the Assembly confided in our correspondent that, they will not refund the money lodged into their accounts as they did not solicit for it, and besides, the State Government is still owes them a lot of payments, neither are they ready to call off the probe of the activities of the micro finance bank, and its attendant collapse.
The lodgments, apparently from the Banks management or from Governor’s aides, seem to have generated further curiosity amongst members who insisted that the Managing Director, Hajiya Zainab Kolo must face the Assembly to make explanations on certain unwholesome developments about the bank.
Some of them have threatened to commence impeachment moves against Governor Kashim Shettima if they fail to get satisfactory explanations on how the micro finance back was run aground due to mismanagement, and other unwholesome transactions in the state, for which they are being haunted for giving approvals to such transactions.
“We are ready to prove that we have not been pocketed. The EFCC is looking for the wrong people if they call us over this matter because, we ourselves, we are not happy with what is happening with that. We know it is a loan and we will not allow it to spoil our name”, one of them stressed.
A visit to the bank premises last week revealed that the managing Director has since fled to Abuja to brief Governor Kashim Shettima following the impending scandal occasioned by the inquiries from the House of Assembly, even as the office looks deserted as no activity seems to be going on any longer.
In seconding people to the bank, the governor ensured that, those who were not ready to play along, or insist on strict adherence to laid down regulations were de-seconded, while the willing ones were rapidly promoted. As for the Managing Director, she was deployed from one of the new generation banks where she and the Governor worked before.
In its hay days, before it went comatose, the presence of hundreds of political acolytes, thugs and party hangers on, in the bank’s premises was common scene, and the officials of the bank were visible. Nowadays, the compound along Damboa Road is not only deserted, but bereft of activities, our correspondent reports.
Inquiries from the few staff on what was going on and where the managing Director went to did not yield positive answers, but a follow up findings in Abuja revealed that, she is hibernating in Abuja, where she has run to, to meet the Governor, to take refuge.
The Managing Director of the bank, Hajiya Zainab Kolo availed nationalTRAIL details of their disbursements, admitting that all the disbursements were as ordered by Governor Kashim Shettima.
This is even as attempts to speak with the Commissioner for Finance, Alhaji Kauji, who iheads the supervising Ministry were not successful, as his GSM was not going through, but a senior official of the ministry of Finance pleaded with our correspondent to discard the story as the matter is an old issue being recycled. He promised to link up with our correspondent when he establishes contact with the commissioner, but never did until the time of going to press.
In another development, tension is high amongst civil servants following rumours that Governor Kashim Shettima plans to prune down the size of the Civil service to cut down cost by embarking on massive sack of workers, especially those employed between 2007 to 2010 when senator Ali Modu Sheriff was the Governor.
A top Civil Servant who does not want her name in print confirmed to us that, the Governor has been looking for a way to weed out his predecessor’s loyalists from the system, against the suspicion that they are undermining his government by revealing secrets bordering on financial transactions in ministries and parastatals.
The Governor is said to have already ordered a staff verification exercise with a view to weeding out those he perceived as working against his Government; especially people from the southern part of the state that have remained critical of his actions.
My Own Story – Kolo
The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Borno Renaissance Micro Finance Bank, Mrs. Zainab Umar Kolo has denied allegations on the alleged misappropriation of the N2billion Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN revolving loan grant to the bank.
Mrs. Kolo who refuted the allegation while answering questions posed by nationalTRAILl IN Abuja, however confirmed the CBN grant of N2billion was duly acquired and followed laid down criteria by regulatory bodies.
She averred that the disbursement of the funds to beneficiaries was actualised in conformity with the CBN guidelines and therefore was not facing any challenges as being insinuated in some quarters.
She equally confirmed that the loans were disbursed to Co-operative Societies without collaterals, adding that to date a total of about N1billion has been disbursed while the balance were lodged in fixed deposit accounts with the Zenith and Fidelity Banks respectively. According to her as part of the prudential management of the funds, at least N85 million has been posted as interest on these sums which reflects in the bank’s books. Asked if part of her mandate included lodging funds to yield interests, she noted that her organization has not the capacity to keep that level of cash flow, hence it was expedient for her to keep same in a secured deposit that would enhance the bank’s financial standing as is allowable within the limits of professional banking.
She said though the State governor gives approval to any Co-operative Society groups that have so far benefitted from the loan scheme that no money from the account had been taken for any political activities since the inception of the bank.
Mrs. Zainab Kolo who also confirmed being quizzed on different occasions by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, the Police as well as the Central Bank as a result of the allegation brandished several documents in respect of her bank transactions to buttress her defence.
She denied that the Micro Finance Bank is being used Governor Shettima as a conduit pipe to siphon money, adding that the State House of Assembly has equally invited her for same purpose and that in keeping with her unflinching career, she was ready to put the records straight anytime it became necessary.
The embattled Bank MD accused some politicians and mischief makers in the state as trying to dent her image using trump up issues, for which she knows nothing about, saying “I only pay what has been approved, I am not a member of the Committee or part of the screening body meant for the loans”.