By Innocent Anaba
LAGOS — Former Managing Director of Union Bank, Mr Batholomew Ebong and four other directors of the bank have been found guilty of share scam by the Investment and Securities Tribunal, IST, sitting in Lagos.
Others found culpable alongside Ebong are Samuel Ayininuola, Austen Obigwe, Lanre Idowu and Mrs Emily Odinkanekwu.
The five-member tribunal, headed by Dr. Nnenna Orji, in its ruling, also ordered that Ebong and other 19 directors of the bank be probed for the crash in the bank’s shares between 2006- 2007.
The tribunal ordered the appointment of the firm of KPMG Professional Services to undertake an inquiry/investigation to determine “the extent and quantum of the losses suffered by investors in the securities market as a result of the unlawful activities of the respondents and to determine the nature, extent and quantum of any direct benefit or advantage received or receivable by the respondents as a result of the respondents.”
Other respondents in the case were Samuel Ayininuola, Austen Obigwe, Kenneth Adeyemi, Ado Abdullahi, Ebenezer Emeruem, Walter Mbah and Anthony Esangbedo, Musa Yakubu, Ahmadu Abubakar, Mansur Ahmed, John Akinleye, Emmanuel Edozien, Ibrahim Gobir, Festus Odimegwu, Olusegun Olusanya, Cosmas Udofot, Onajite Okoloko, Lanre Idowu and Emily Odikanekwu.
Following the outcry over the crash, which shook the stock exchange to its foundation, the Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC, took the former management of the bank before the tribunal, seeking “A declaration that in acting in this suit in respect of the shares of Union Bank Nigeria Plc sometime in the year 2007 (particularly as these activities relate to the year end dividends for Union Bank share for the 2006-2007 financial year), the respondents engaged and/or participated in a scheme and or artifice that enabled Union Bank of Nigeria Plc to either directly or indirectly fund the purchase of its shares and thereby, retaining the beneficial ownership of the shares, and as a consequence,(i) violated or contributed to the violation of the provisions of the Investment and Securities Act and the rules and regulations made thereunder, (ii) undermined the fair and orderly conduct of the securities market and (iii) abused, breached and undermined the integrity of the securities market.”
The respondents denied their involvement in the crash of the bank’s shares and urged the Tribunal to dismiss the claims against them with substantive cost as “spurious, baseless and highly speculative.”
The tribunal in its ruling, held that the former directors and officers of Union Bank had engaged in improper conduct which resulted in Union Bank’s purchase of its own shares;
* That Ebong, Ayininuola and Obigwe and Idowu and Mrs Odinkanekwu are particularly culpable.
* That the respondents engaged in or participated in a scheme that enabled Union Bank Plc to either directly or indirectly fund the purchase of its own shares and therefore violated or contributed to the violation of the provisions of the Investments and Securities Act, 2007 and the Rules and Regulations made there under, undermined the fair and orderly conduct of the securities market and breached the integrity of the market.
* That the respondents engaged in a device for the purpose of creating a misleading appearance of active trading on Union Bank Plc’s shares thereby violating the provisions of the Investments and Securities Act.
* That the firm of KPMG is hereby appointed to: a. carry out an inquiry/investigation to determine the quantum/extent of losses suffered by investors in the securities market as result of the unlawful activities of the Respondents; b. carry out an inquiry with a view to ascertaining the quantum of any benefit or advantage received or receivable by the Respondents as a result of their unlawful activities.
* That any amount so lost, or the benefit received by the Respondents, when recovered should be deposited by the Commission into an escrow account to be refunded to the affected investors.