EFCC gets court order to detain sacked bank MDs

As the EFCC mulls over whether to bring criminal charges against 19 banking executives following a government bailout of five financial institutions they have secured a court order to detain 12 of the former19 bank executives in its custody.

Two Managing Directors of subsidiaries of Afribank and Union Bank Plc were yesterday arrested by the EFCC in dramatic circumstances.

Nigeria‘s central bank fired executives at Afribank, Finbank, Intercontinental Bank, Oceanic Bank and Union Bank last week and injected $2.6 billion into the firms, saying lax governance had left them so weakly capitalized they posed a systemic risk.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) have detained a total of 14 senior banking executives in Nigeria‘s commercial capital Lagos, and were seeking to bring in five others.

“They are being interrogated and hopefully by Tuesday the picture of what to do with them next will become clearer,” said EFCC spokesman Femi Babafemi.

The 12 former bank chiefs were arrested, in collaboration with the State Security Service (SSS) at various locations on Monday and Tuesday.

The whereabouts of seven others, including ex-Managing Director/CEO of Intercontinental Bank Plc, Mr. Erastus Akingbola, and ex-CEO of Oceanic Bank, Mrs. Cecilia Ibru, was still unknown at press time.

But to avoid any step that could impede investigation of the bank chiefs, the EFCC opted for a court order.

Investigation by The Nation revealed that the detention order was secured on Wednesday shortly after the arrest of the 12 ex-bank chiefs.

Although EFCC top officials were not forthcoming on the court order, it was gathered that it was obtained from a Magistrate’s Court in Lagos.

It was learnt that the detention order caught the ex-bank chiefs unawares as they were hoping  on the fact that they could not be detained.

A reliable source, who spoke in confidence, said: “We know the calibre of the people we have arrested and their influence in the society. So, we decided to approach the court for a legal order to detain them.

“We secured the order to detain them beyond 48 hours in order to enable our operatives interrogate them based on the Audit Report from the Central Bank of Nigeria.

“We also do not want them to secure frivolous injunctions against their arrest because that will scuttle the recovery of the non-performing loans. Therefore, we also chose to rush to court in order to beat them to it.

“With this development, we can detain the suspects for a reasonable period till when we will charge them to court.”
The source added: “We have the power to keep the suspects  through a court order anytime once there is a suspicion that they may tamper with investigation if they are free.

“It is a temporary measure supported by the EFCC Act.”

Asked how far the commission had gone in its investigation, the source said: “We have gone far because the essential facts are contained in the Audit Report of the CBN.

“But fairness demands that we should hear from these bank MDs on the extent of their involvement in the loan crisis.

“We cannot just take them to court without their side of the issue at stake. In fact, the invitation of the auditors of the banks is meant to crosscheck a few findings too.”

Meanwhile, some of the affected banks’ executives have petitioned President Umaru Yar’Adua over their ordeal.

Findings revealed that these ex-bank chiefs, who had gone underground, had also reached out to the President.

A reliable source in The Presidency said: “These sacked executives are trying to fight back by reaching out to the President.

“They are alleging that the CBN Governor, Mr. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, acted outside the enabling Act to fire them. “They have also reached out to some friends and close associates of the President to revisit the sack of the bank Executives.

“They are waiting for the arrival of the President from Saudi Arabia to know their fate.”

Meanwhile, two former Managing Directors of subsidiaries of Afribank and Union Bank were yesterday arrested in Lagos.

They are the ex-MD of Afribank Securities Limited, Mr. John Maha and the Managing Director, Union Capital Market Limited, Mr. Niyi Opeodu.

It was learnt that while Opeodu was arrested in the early hours of Saturday at his home in Lekki, Maha was said to have been allegedly sent out of his hiding on the Lagos Island by his host.

A source added: “Can you imagine that Opeodu had been holed up in his house for a week? When security operatives got the report, they laid siege on the residence until he came out of his underground hideout.

“Also, following a tip-off, Maha was traced to his hideout on Lagos Island. His host, who could no longer bear the security siege, later asked him to leave. He emerged into the waiting hand of security operatives.

The Head of Media and Publicity of the EFCC, Mr. Femi Babafemi, confirmed the arrest of the two ex-MDs.

He added: “They are in our custody following their arrest today (Saturday).”

Sources; Reuters and The Nation