The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has declared the former Chief Executive Officer of Oceanic International Bank Plc, Mrs. Cecilia Ibru, and her former Intercontinental Bank Plc counterpart, Mr. Erastus Akingbola, wanted
in a bid to get all the sacked chief executives of the five troubled banks to account for their roles in the huge debt profile of the banks.
The anti-graft agency said yesterday that the two former bank chief executives “are wanted in connection with fraudulent abuse of credit process, insider trading, capital market manipulation and money laundering running into billions of naira.”
According to a statement by EFCC Spokesman, Femi Babafemi, the commission’s Chairman Farida Waziri directed that Ibru and Akingbola be declared wanted following their failure to honour EFCC’s invitation.
THISDAY had reported last Friday that Akingbola fled to the United Kingdom. Ibru’s whereabouts, on the other hand, is unknown.
Both of them have launched a legal challenge against their ouster, seeking N50 billion each as damages.
Babafemi said in the EFCC statement: “Apart from failing to honour the commission’s invitation, intensive search for the two executives in the last one week has not been successful. They obviously went into hiding to evade arrest.
“This development has made it imperative for the commission to solicit for useful information from Nigerians who know their whereabouts.
“In the same vein, it is necessary to warn that anybody who harbours the two former bank executives will be treated as an accomplice or accessory to crime.”
CBN had two weeks ago removed the CEOs of five banks on the ground of “being principal causes of financial instability in their banks and for acting in a manner that was detrimental to the interest of their depositors and creditors.”
And to save the five banks from collapse, CBN immediately injected a N420 billion bailout package.
Since then, the anti-graft agency had launched an offensive against the top executives of these banks including their subsidiaries.
Three of the affected former CEO’s of the banks already in the custody of EFCC are Union Bank’s Bartholomew Ebong, FinBank’s Okey Nwosu and Afribank’s Sebastian Adigwe – the other two, Akingbola and Ibru, are yet to be found.
Ibru and Akingbola are among 19 senior executives EFCC has targeted in its investigation following the rescue operation by the apex bank, which said lax governance had left the banks so weakly capitalised that they posed a systemic risk.
Last Saturday, the agency said it had detained 14 of the bank chiefs in Lagos and was searching for others.
EFCC also announced that it had arrested two more bank directors over the huge debt profile of the five banks.
The bank chiefs arrested in Lagos are Managing Director of African Securities limited, a subsdiary of Afribank, John Maha and Managing Director, Union Capital Market Limited, a subsidiary of Union bank, Niyi Opeodu.
Both men have since been detained at EFCC’s office in Ikoyi, Lagos.
Babafemi had said the commission would interrogate those newly arrested in order to ascertain their level of culpability in the predicament their banks have been put into.
He said by today, the commission would decide what to do with them, based on the outcome of their interrogation with them.
EFCC had also set up five different teams charged with the sole responsibility of pursuing all the identified bank debtors immediately after the expiration of the ultimatum handed them last Wednesday by the commission’s chairman.
The commission had last week issued a seven-day ultimatum to all debtors of the five banks to tidy up their debts or face arrest, prosecution and possible seizure of their assets.
Waziri handed down the ultimatum while fielding questions from journalists at the annual conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) held in Lagos.
“We already have the list of the debtors of the five banks with us in EFCC and they have just one week to bring in their cheques or drafts to us or we begin their arrest and prosecution, as well as confiscation of their assets because they are people of enormous means,” Waziri had said.
In a bid to compel bank debtors to pay up, CBN had also last week published names of major debtors, a list which has since generated lots of controversies and sparked off strings of rebuttal by some of the debtors.
Meanwhile, in a swift reaction to EFCC statement last night, Akingbola’s Spokes-man, Mack Ogbamosa, said the commission should have followed due process in the handling of the matter since, according to him, the matter is already in court.
He said Akingbola’s office was ransacked when he was not around.
Ogbamosa insisted that Akingbola did not flee to the UK.
He said the former bank chief travelled to the UK on medical grounds.
“Nobody is saying they (EFCC) should not arrest him (Akingbola), but what we are saying is that the commission should follow due process since the matter is already in court,” he said.