Mrs Cecilia Ibru; the face of corruption

“I want my son to be able to say … ‘if you steal money in the banks, my father will put you in jail” – Sanusi

Mrs Cecilia IbruWhen President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua named Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Sanusi smooth sailed through the Senate nomination process, there was some disquiet in the home of Cecilia Ibru, then Chief Executive Officer of Oceanic bank.

She had good reasons to feel disquieted. Being quite familiar with Sanusi she knew clearly that her sharp practices cannot stand Sanusi’s scrutiny as CBN governor.

So what did she do?

This Delta State-born boss of one of the biggest banks in Africa recruited four other MD’s of top banks and together they raised a whopping N2.5billion slush fund in their desperate attempt to stop Sanusi, then one of their colleagues, from becoming CBN governor.

Mrs Ibru herself contributed N1billion. The desperate attempt by the five bank MDs to stop Sanusi is because they knew that once Sanusi has settled down to his job it will no longer be business as usual.

Needless to say their enterprise failed; On May 29th, Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, the chairman of First Bank, who is known to be quite close to Yar’Adua, went in to see the president to encourage him to stay firm on his “intelligent choice” of Sanusi and the rest is history

 Today, Mrs. Ibru’s fears have proved to be well founded.

Mrs Ibru is one of five bank chiefs currently facing trials over their roles in the alleged mismanagement of their banks.

Ibru was sacked by the CBN along with managing directors of four other banks on August 14, 2009 for combined N747bn toxic loans.

The former bankers include Berth Ebong of Union Bank, Sebastian Adigwe of Afribank, Okey Nwosu of Finbank and Erastus Akingbola of Intercontinental Bank, all of whom were removed by the Central Bank of Nigeria last year.

They were replaced by new executives, including Nebolisah Arah (Afribank Nigeria Plc), Susan Iroche (Finbank Plc), Funke Osibodu (Union Bank of Nigeria Plc), Lai Alabi (Intercontinental Bank Plc), and Jon Aboh (Oceanic International Banks).

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Monday started the process of sealing off some of the properties linked to Cecilia Ibru, the former Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Oceanic Bank.

The EFCC had earlier seized the properties and shares linked to her in 27 companies, including banks, oil and gas, telecommunications, aviation as well as real estates and manufacturing firms.

The anti-graft agency claimed that some of the properties were bought with funds belonging to Oceanic Bank.

The value of the assets and bank accounts is put at over N399 billion.

The EFCC had last Monday seized 103 choice houses and shares in 77 companies in Nigeria belonging to Ibru. (see the full list of the seized properties at the bottom of the article)

The ex-bank chief, who is currently facing a 25-count criminal charge, was alleged to have bought several properties locally and internationally with proceeds of her dubious earnings as head of the bank.

This action was taken following the interim order on the seizure of assets and properties granted by a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos. The judge also said the orders made should subsist till the final determination of the criminal charges against Ibru and her accomplices.

The Federal High Court in Lagos presided over by Justice Akinjide Ajakaiye ordered the freezing of all the bank accounts held by Mrs. Cecilia Ibru, directly or indirectly so far traced to her by and which are deemed to be proceeds of economic and financial crimes.

Details showed that the choice properties were in Nigeria, South Africa, Dubai, London and the United States.

The sacked Managing Director of Oceanic Bank Plc, Mrs Cecilia Ibru, may have moaned, groaned and carried on like Marie Antoinette being carted off to the guillotine; subsequent revelations however proves that she is one of the most corrupt and rapacious bank bosses Nigeria has ever seen.

In Mrs Ibru’s Oceanic Bank, lack of adherence to basic banking procedures and under-the-table deals is legendary.

According to Mallam Sanusi in an interview; “We looked at the institutions and saw on their books huge non-performing loans and when we entered the institutions, we discovered that 75 per cent of the non-performing loans were given to the companies directly related to the CEOs of those institutions. We didn’t know that from outside. Is that why a bank is set up? Is that why we raise capital? We raise those deposits so that we can give the money to our own companies. … We didn’t know until we went inside that company X was actually not different from the CEO of the bank. It was not until we had our people in the bank and we said let’s talk to the management of this company and you discover that they are nowhere to be found. It’s when you have an MD in the bank that you know this. How did you give a company N5 billion and you don’t know where the company is, that is when you discover, and things start coming out and that this company really was not different from the person approving the loans”.

Mrs Cecilia Ibru engaged 19,000 unwanted workers for the Oceanic bank through a job consultancy firm fronting for her and the bank did not need such employees, according to Central Bank governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.

Fielding questions on a Freedom Radio’s special programme in Kano, Sanusi also said the bank at present had 199 branches spread all over the country that were yet to be completed. Of the number, he said, only 66 were approved by the central bank for their construction.

The CBN boss said Mrs Ibru collected N20 billion as rent for the bank’s new branches that are under construction. Sanusi said the former bank chief executive also paid herself huge amount of money through the job consultancy company for the employment of workers who are yet to assume office in the bank’s new branches that are yet to be completed.

Her other list of sins includes setting up a financial institution called Fine Mortgage Home (FMH) Ltd. It was headed by her husband’s former Personal Assistant, Nanashetu Bedell. FMH Ltd was actually the precursor of Oceanic Bank Plc. When eventually the transformation took place, Nana Bedell, allegedly became a front of sorts for certain business transactions.

According to the Saturday SUN, “Mrs Bedell actually has many aliases as you can see on the list of debtors. Many of the transactions that landed Mrs Ibru in this trouble were done through her. Mrs Ibru knew and that was why her first reaction to her sack was to go underground. Of all the sacked Bank MD’s, her case is the messiest.”

SUN continued, “A cursory glance at the CBN list of debtors showed that one Priscilla Bedell is one of the directors of LV Development Company Limited owing Oceanic Bank N2, 727,256,000 and further down that same list is Nanashetu Abdulai, whose company, Circular Global International Ltd, owes N12, 884748,000. Both loans are non-performing according to the nation’s apex bank.

“Nanashetu Abdulai and Priscilla Bedell are the same person and that is about N16 billion in her hands alone. She is known by many names”.

Apart from using fake aliases to grat loans to herself, Mrs Ibru is also said to have granted approval for loans way beyond her limits.

“As CEO of Oceanic Bank, Ibru’s approval limit was N1 billion. But she single-handedly approved loans of N3 billion and above without recourse to the bank’s board. She also moved £1.7 billion to the United Kingdom in one fell swoop. The amount was then spread into other foreign accounts. All the documents she sent to the CBN and other regulating agencies were cooked. In fact, I can tell you that the woman left the bank in a very bad shape and her case is the messiest,” said the SUN.

EFCC sources said one of the major reasons the EFCC is involved in the CEO’s scam is the money laundering angle and dirty financial deals behind the banking halls.

In Nigeria, the commission said it has traced 51 properties to Mrs Ibru, in locations as diverse as Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt. They include sprawling properties in choice areas of Lagos such as Victoria Island, Lekki and Ikeja, among other places.

As part of its exercise to implement the court decision, the operatives visited a number of the properties in Ikoyi, Lagos and took over the ones located at George Street, Iru Close, Glover and Cooper Roads respectively.

In the Ikoyi Axis alone, 16 more properties will be visited when the exercise continues today after which the operatives would move to other areas of the city, an official of the commission said.

Other properties traced to the ex-bank chief include five properties in Victoria Island; eight in Lekki Peninsula; three in Lagos Island and eight in Lagos mainland, including a filling station. There are several others in Abuja and Port Harcourt which will be visited by the operatives in the course of the operations, the EFCC official said.

Those listed as Mrs Ibru’s accomplices are: Oboden Valentine Ibru, Obaro Ibru, Kenneth Ibru, Mamemo Ibru, Edesiri Onatejiroghene Ibru and Mrs. Nanashetu Abdullahi (a.k.a. Nana Beddell or Priscilla Beddel).

Others listed are Ms. Janet Osio Ibru, Ms. Hirut M. Ibru, Mrs Vivi Oduvesiri Alexsandar (nee Ibru), Dr. (Mrs.) Kemi Anita Ibru (Nee Da Silva), Mr. Stankov Alexsandar and Mr. Dele Oye.

In an ex-parte application brought by the EFCC and argued by its counsel, Konyin Ajayi (SAN), was filed under sections 6 (D), 7(2), 24(11), 26(1), 28 and 34(1) of the EFCC Act 2004 and under the inherent jurisdiction of the Federal High Court.

The court restrained Mrs Ibru from disposing of or dealing with the assets which EFCC claimed were proceeds of economic and financial crimes, or otherwise held or owned that are up to the amount of N399 billion.

It also restrained her from giving instructions or directive for the withdrawal, transfer, disposing or diminishing the value of the assets in the form of money kept in all bank accounts in Nigeria and worldwide or giving instructions or directions for the sale, transfer or disposal of the assets comprising shares, stocks and other forms of securities held or kept by the Central Securities Clearing Systems (CSCS) in Nigeria; or (ii) any custodian, depository, stockbroker, registrar, company secretary, nominee, trustee or director in Nigeria or anywhere in the world.

THE PUNCH on December 22, 2009 reported that the commission had discovered 11 properties in Maryland, United States allegedly owned by Ibru, most of which were registered in family members’ names.

The 11 properties have a combined worth of $5,457,483.

Out of the 11 properties, three were acquired in her name and they are: 11300 Dappled Grey Way, Upper Marlboro Maryland, with the price tag of $987,949. It was allegedly purchased on October 7, 2008.

According to the EFCC, properties traced to her in Nigeria are 51 and are located mainly in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt.

The Lagos properties are in Ikoyi, Victoria Island, Lekki Peninsula, and Dophin Estate.

They include a 12-storey tower on a one-hectare of land at Ozumba Mbadiwe Water Front, Victoria Island and a multiple-storey user block of flats under construction on 1st Avenue, Banana Island, Ikoyi, Lagos.

Another is the Good Shepherd House, IPM Avenue, opposite Alausa Secretariat, but registered in the name of Ogekpo Estate Managers.

Besides, the commission discovered one million square metres of land in Lekki, 8,000 square metres of land at Okunade Water Front, Lekki Penninsula, another 7,000 square metres, another 15,000 square metres in the same Okunade Water Front.

In Abuja, some of the choice properties traced to Ibru are Metro Plaza building 991/992 Zakariya Maimalari Street, Central Area, Zone 5, a four-storey building at Herbert Macaulay Way, Wuse, Metro Plaza Annexe B, Zakariya Maimalari Street and flats 1-4 Block D33, Abuja Games Village.

In Port Harcourt are three residential towers in the GRA and a property at 22, Sani Abacha Way, also in the GRA.

Also, in Dubai, Ibru allegedly owns 28 shops at International City Building, while residential properties are seven.

For South Africa, the EFCC stated, “Residential properties purchased with the funds of Oceanic Bank International Plc, through Accustrat (Pty) Limited, Meha Real Estate, Scharde Designs PTY Limited and Vakson Freehold Properties.”

Others are 4141 Chariot Way; Upper Marlboro Maryland valued at $441,790 but acquired on April 13, 2009; and 4143, Chariot Way; with the price of $439,362, also acquired the same day.

Six other properties are in the name of two females, while two properties had the name of two males, all bearing Ibru.

Particulars of property linked to other family members are: 4155 Chariot Way, Upper Marlboro, Maryland ($452,508) acquired on March 12, 2009.

4145 Chariot Way, Upper Marlboro, Maryland ($440,105) secured on April 14, 2009 and 4139 Chariot Way, Upper Marlboro, Maryland ($451,629) got on April 21, 2009.

Others include 14605 Hawley Lane; Upper Maryland ($399,999) dated July 22, 2008, and 14630 Hawley Lane, Upper Marlboro, Maryland ($460,703) dated May 17, 2008.

The rest are 14721 Argos Place, Upper Marlboro, Maryland ($457, 950) dated October 28, 2008 and 14719 Argos Place, Upper Marlboro, Maryland valued at $451,840 dated November 26.

Her share holding in other banks include 272,795,139 in First Bank and Access bank with 44,800,000 shares.

The First Bank shares are held through Cloudy Heights Limited, Circular Global International Limited and Bliss Bloss Integrated Services Limited.

Fidelity Bank shares number 12,500, First City Monument Bank, 7,142,800, Guarantee Trust bank, 110,000 ordinary shares, Bank PHB 93,800,100, UBA 109,121, Union Bank 13,300,000 and Zenith Bank, 10.280million.

Oceanic Bank shares are in quantum, just as she allegedly has shares in Dangote Sugar Refinery, Glaxo SmithKline Consumer Plc, Nestle Plc, Oando Plc, African Petroleum Plc, Dangote Flour Plc and Unilever Nigeria Plc.

An EFCC source who asked not to be named claimed that N235bn had been traced to Ibru.

He explained that the need to recover the money informed the agency’s decision to go after the properties.

– Full list of seized properties on pages 59–61 of the print edition AT A GLANCE –Shares in 27 listed Nigerian firms

–Owns 275.7 million shares in First Bank

–51 houses in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt

–1,030,000 square metres of land in Lekki

–28 shops at International City Building, seven houses in Dubai

–Estates in South Africa

–11 properties in Maryland, USA worth $5.4m

–Shares in Access, Fidelity, Union, Zenith, UBA, BankPHB, FCMB and GTBank

In an interview Sanusi said; as at June, Oceanic Bank wanted to pay dividends even though they were exposed to the tune of N90 billion at the discount window and I refused. The question I asked the bank management was how can you pay dividend when you cannot meet your obligation to your customers without CBN support to preserve your capital? And the compromise we reached was that they take provisions up to the limit that their earnings will allow until we finish the audit. This was the agreement I reached with Mrs. Ibru.

Cecilia Ibru (born on March 22, 1946) is the former Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Oceanic Bankand and was one of the most powerful women in Nigeria, if not in all of Africa until August 2009 when she turned herself into the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

She appeared in court alongside three other senior banking executives in Nigeria. They all deny charges that they were involved in a multi-billion dollar banking scandal. She is currently on bail and is the only member of the “Five” bankers to have met the required bail conditions.

Anti-corruption police brought criminal charges against executives from five banks rescued in a 400bn naira ($2.6bn; £1.6bn) government bail-out.

All the banks were found to have low cash reserves because of bad loans.

 Cecilia Ibru: First Lady of Banking and was a role model for many young Africans. Oceanic Bank was founded by the Ibru family which is the largest shareholder in the bank.

Cecilia Ibru, managing director and chief executive officer of Oceanic Bank International, one of the fastest and most profitable banks in Nigeria, is by any measure a remarkable person.

Ibru herself attributes her success to “a mindset that is dependent on God’s inspiration and the desire to actualise. One thing is to have a vision,” she says, “The other is the ability to dissect it, strategise and achieve it”.

Ibru received a BSC (Honours) in Sociology from London University in 1971, a Master of Philosophy from North East London University and a Certificate of Eligibility from the Council of Legal Education in London.

She cut her teeth in the business world by working with the Ibru Organisation,founded and headed by her husband, Olorogun Michael Ibru. Even at 61, Cecilia Ibru, who was born one of twins, is still a beautiful woman.

Her husband, Michael Ibru, himself a Mohammed Ali look-a-like, is no less a personable individual. She still cherishes the memories of working with him in his company. She became the managing director of Oceanic Bank international in 1997.

Highly respected among her peers as the ‘First Lady’ of Nigeria’s banking industry, Ibru was the first female leader to raise her bank’s equity to N25bn, (approx $203m), the first female to head the 5th largest bank and the 9th largest company quoted on the Nigerian Stock Exchange, the first female CEO of a Western Union Agency in West Africa to meet the performance and turnover targets of Western Union, and in year 2000, the first female CEO to post over N1bn profit ($8.143m at today’s value) in a financial statement.

In April 2007, Oceanic Bank International came in at number 110 in African Business’ Top 200 African Companies rankings, 12th in the West African sub-region and 16th in sub-Saharan Africa.

Mrs Ibru is challenging her removal as the CEO of Oceanic Bank in court just as she pleaded not guilty to the charges the EFCC brought against her.

But if Sanusi lives up to his promise that “I want my son to be able to say … ‘if you steal money in the banks, my father will put you in jail”, she faces certain imprisonment.

Behind EFCC bars, the Oceanic Bank boss, has good reason to be in “low spirits”. 

Update 30/01/2010Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has said that it has so far uncovered assets worth N800billion belonging to the former Managing Director of Oceanic International Bank Plc, Mrs Cecilia Ibru. Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday refused an application by  Ibru, seeking to stop the commission from further seizing her property.

Justice Akinjide Ajakaiye in a short ruling held that there was no basis to restrain the commission by granting an interim order because the EFCC has completed the execution of an earlier order of the court, empowering it to confiscate Ibru’s assets. 

The court also held that it lacked the powers to restrain the commission from continuing its investigation of the former Oceanic Bank boss and identifying new assets suspected to be owned by her. 

The judge also refused to stop EFCC from seizing the newly identified property because there was no evidence before the court relating to the newly discovered property. 

The EFCC said they have uncovered new set of property belonging to Ibru. Such property, he said are No 30A, B, and C Lugard Street, Ikoyi, Lagos, No 1 Ozumba Nbadiwe Street, Victoria Island, Lagos and some funds recently transferred to accounts in Dubai.

He said the amount involved in the crime allegedly committed by Ibru has been estimated at N800billion. Ajayi told the court that since Mrs. Ibru’s last application was served on him late, he needed time to respond.

The commission stated that from the information it received from the incumbent Managing Director of the bank, Mrs Ibru’s apartment on 20 Oyinkan Abayomi Drive, Ikoyi, Lagos was leased at the for a cumulative term of eight years and half years until 2017 at the N225million paid in full.

The commission since the order of the court directing the forfeiture of the assets owned by the former bank chief, ongoing investigations have revealed new and further assets and properties owned directly and indirectly by the applicant including properties situated at 30A, 30B, 30C Lugard Avenue, Ikoyi, properties in Dubai, monies transferred to Dubai and property at 1B Ozumba Mbadiwe Street, Victoria Island.

In a counter-affidavit sworn to by an officer of the commission, Aliyu Wali, and made available to THISDAY yesterday, it narrated how the sum of US$40million illegally passed to one Waves Limited and how the former bank chief appropriated US$10million and then passed on the balance to Mas-Mackoy Limited.

It added that in further tracing the money, it was discovered that part of the money paid to Mas-Mackoy Limited was changed converted in naira and about N700miilion was to buy 1B Ozumba Mbadiwe Street, Victoria Island which houses BFCL Assets & Securities Limited where Mrs Ibru, her son and brothers are directors.