A former Managing Director of United Bank for Africa (UBA), Tony Elumelu, has denied allegations of his involvement in a N41 billion fraud committed against the defunct telecommunication company and national carrier, NITEL.
By George Ogala
He has given the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public petition, Ayo Akinyelure, seven days to retract his comments linking him (Mr Elumelu) to the fraud.
Lawyers to the banker, in a letter, threatened to sue the lawmaker should he fail to retract the statement and publicly apologise to Mr Elumelu over the fraud allegation.
The committee last Tuesday alleged that UBA defrauded NITEL of about N41 billion from N42 billion that liquidators of the telecommunications company deposited there after being sold to MTEL. The allegation was made on the grounds of petitions forwarded to it to that effect by J .U Ayogu and Co, on behalf of NITEL/MTEL.
Mr Akinyelure told journalists that UBA made unauthorised withdrawals from the accounts of the liquidated telecommunications companies four times and technically stole N41 billion out of the N42 billion that liquidators of the firm deposited there .
As stated in the petition, he said, UBA withdrew N29 billion , N11 billion, N6.8 million and N22 million at different times between 2006 and 2015 from the accounts without relevant tickets or authorisations for that purpose. And liquidators of the firm explained further in the petition that officials of UBA have been hiding under a litigated N685 million it withdrew from the accounts.
“A human rights lawyer had sent a petition on behalf of the liquidators and creditors of NITEL and MTEL, that if the N685million is a subject of litigation, there is a third account meant for taxation and disasters which has N169million. It was also unilaterally withdrawn by the UBA. Seven years after the withdrawal, they’ve not provided the tickets, instead, they were asking the liquidators to get the tickets from the dead liquidators, which is wrong. They had yet to provide the tickets.
“In another account which had N29 billion, UBA also unilaterally withdrew the money from NITEL accounts without authorisation tickets. Most of the creditors of NITEL have sued the liquidators that they’ve collected money from the UBA without paying them. There is another MTEL account N11 billion withdrawn by the UBA and it has not been accounted for till today.
“The creditors don’t have money to go to court because they are already bankrupt. They sued UBA over the N685million and they won at the Federal High Court, Appeal Court and the Supreme Court. Up till today, they didn’t respect the court judgement by not paying the liquidators.”
The lawmaker added that when the Senate wrote the UBA management, they responded that the matter was in court. This is even as he insisted the matter is not subjudice.
The UBA Group Managing Director, Kennedy Uzoka , was thereafter invited to appear before the committee on Wednesday, August 5.
Mr Elumelu’s lawyers, Lawal Rabana and Oluwakemi Balogun, described the allegation as false, baseless, and mischievous as neither him nor any of the organisations associated with him has ever been involved in or indicted for any fraud as was falsely alleged by Mr Akinyelure.
They maintained that the case is subjudice and rejected Mr Akinyelure’s “attempt to use the platform of the respected institution of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to accomplish whatever ulterior motives he may have.
“It is important to emphasise that when UBA appeared before the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, attention was drawn to the fact that the facts and circumstances leading to the disputes on the alleged financial indebtedness was pending before the Supreme Court in SC/CV/112/2020. It was resolved that given the pendency of the matter at the Supreme Court, it was subjudice and all actions on the matter be suspended.
“It is shocking and sacrilegious that a matter pending at the Apex Court could be subjected to debate contrary to the Rules of the Senate and by extension, the principle of law that when a matter is subjudice, it should not be subjected to debate before a decision is reached by the Court. Therefore, the publications ascribed to Senator Ayo Akinyelure is in total disregard of the Rules of Senate and the Rule of Law,” part of the letter read.
The lawyers demanded an immediate open, public and unreserved retraction of the statements by Mr Akinyelure and an apology.
“Our Client has instructed us to and we have demanded an immediate open, public and unreserved retraction of the said statements credited to Senator Akinyelure and an apology from Senator Akinyelure for this false allegation and defamation of our Client.
“We have our Client’s further instructions to take all appropriate legal actions against Senator Akinyelure and his media agents if our above stated demand is not met within Seven (7) days of their receipt of our demand letter.”