EFCC Arraigns Ibru, Ebong, Nwosu in Court Tomorrow

Lagos: The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) will tomorrow arraign more than a dozen bank executives and some debtors to the banks in its custody before the Federal High Court in Lagos.

A source close to the commission disclosed to Sunday Trust last night that  the agency had finalise all the necessary arraignment to facilitate the trial of the bank executives who have been in the EFCC custody since their arrest a fortnight ago.

Some of the charges against them include the following: arbitrary granting of loans; securing foreign loan facilities without consulting the CBN; indirect granting of loans to themselves through fronts; insider trading; capital market manipulation; money laundering and the reckless spending of banks’ funds.

Some of the top bank executives in the EFCC’s custody include Mrs Cecilia Ibru, former Managing Director of Oceanic Bank Plc; Mr Barthelomew Ebong, former Managing Director of Union Bank Plc; Mr Okey Nwosu, former MD of Finbank; and Mr Sabestian Adigwe, former MD of Afribank Plc. Mr Erastus Akingbola of Intercontinental Bank Plc, the fifth MD dropped in the cleansing of the banking sector is still on the run, and has been declared wanted by the EFCC.

Since the CBN handed the list of debtors of non-performing loans to the tune of N747 billion to the anti-corruption agency, the EFCC has made many arrested, including 16 bank executives and about 60 debtors, and has recovered about N45 billion of the total debt in one week.

The EFCC Head of Media and Publicity, Femi Babafemi, told Sunday Trust that “more debtors are coming to make payments. But some of the debtors will be taken to court along with the bank executives on Monday.”

At least, two of the bank executives in the CBN custody had gone to court to question their detention by the EFCC for more than 48 hours as allowed by law. A Lagos court granted their prayer, but they have not been able to meet the EFCC’s conditions for bail.

The conditions include the sum of N1 billion, sureties, who must be a serving ministers in the government of President Umaru Musa Yar’adua, who must have property at choice locations of Ikoyi or Victoria Island in Lagos, and Maitama and Asokoro, in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja.

Meanwhile, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Malam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, at the weekend reiterated his resolve to sanitise the banking sector, saying that he is not afraid if powerful people in the country consider him as their enemy as a result of his action.

Sanusi made this declaration in London in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), even as Sunday Trust can reveal that the Kano-born prince is under serious pressure to soft-pedal in his drive to ensure the prosecution of top bank officials and those who fail to repay the loans they took from banks.

A source close to the CBN governor told Sunday Trust in confidence that “Sanusi is under tremendous pressure. Those in trouble are not stopping at anything to ensure he does not bring them to book. They have gone to the extent of soliciting the intervention of traditional rulers. We fear that if this pressure continues, he might quit. But we know he will overcome.”

Speaking to the BBC on the reaction of the powerful individuals in the Nigerian society to his actions, the CBN governor declared: “It creates a climate of fear in the minds of those who for a long time have broken the rules. And it is important that they understand that there are consequences for their actions.”

He underscored this position by saying he was not concerned about making powerful enemies: “It doesn’t concern me at all.  In fact, I would like them to know I am their enemy.  I would like to see anybody who committed an offence that is punishable by imprisonment go to jail.”

Sanusi, who is on a world tour to reassure foreign investors that Nigerian banks are safe and sound, added that most of the bad loans had come from the five banks already targeted by the Central Bank.

Lamido Sanusi told a meeting of financiers in London that decisive measures had stabilised the system.