By Innocent Anaba, Victor Ahiuma-Young, Albert Akpor, Ifunanya Okafor & Ifeanyi Okolie
LAGOSâ€” The Lagos office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, was a beehive, yesterday, with the operatives fixing the jigsaw created by the action of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, that removed the boards and Managing Director of five banks, three weeks ago.
Vanguard had reported exclusively on March 23, 2009 on the alleged plot by a group of individuals to take over five banks in the country.
As a direct outcome of its recent moves, EFCC announced, yesterday, no fewer than 16 banksâ€™ executives and 60 loan defaulters were presently in its custody. They were, however, not named.
The commission also said that it had so far recovered a sum of N25.5billion out of the N1.143 trillion of total non-performing loans of the five banks.
The break-down of recovered debt and the banks are as follows;Â Intercontinental bank N7, 736, 571, 744.19; Finbank.N1, 590, 417, 332.05, AfribankN7, 551, 121, 378.69, Oceanic bankN8, 033, 481, 868.65; Union bank N659, 240, 400.78.
The Chairman of theÂ anti-graft agency, Mrs Farida Waziri, who made these disclosures at a briefing at the Ikoyi head office of the commission, also assured that the agency was â€œcommitted to recovering more money from loan defaulters,â€ adding, however, the EFCC was not out to criminalize loan procurement from banks.
The commission equally said it had agreed to obey a court order to set the former MDs of Finbank and Afribank, Messrs Oke Nwosu and Sebastian Adigwe respectively free. However, stringent conditions were attached.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, yesterday faultedÂ WaziriÂ for cautioning the courts against granting frivolous interlocutory applications from former bank executives and bank debtors, saying that the commissionâ€™s position amounted to blackmail and arm-twisting the judiciary.
Similarly, the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management of Nigeria, CIPM, has faulted the involvement of the EFCC in recovery of funds from banksâ€™ debtors, saying its tactics show thatÂ the commission does not understand the workings of the banking sector.
EFCC recovers N25.5billion from bank debtors
Mrs Waziri, who briefed newsmen in Lagos, gave a break-down of the money recovered for the banks. A break-down shows: Intercontinental bank . N7, 736, 571, 744.19; Finbank, N1, 590, 417, 332.05; Afribank, N7, 551, 121, 378.69; Oceanic bank, N8, 033, 481, 868.65 and Union bank, N659, 240, 400.78, bringing the total to N25, 570, 832, 724.36.
According to her, no fewer than 16 bank executives and 60 defaulters were presently in custody of the commission. They were, however, not named.
She further said that former MDs of Finbank and Afribank, Messrs Oke Nwosu and Sebastian Adigwe might be granted bail following a court order to that effect.
Her words, â€œit is important to emphasize here that our efforts are not targeted at genuine business people who have existing credit obligation to banks and have dutifully complied with the terms of the facility.Â We are not out to criminalize legitimate borrowing from banks.
We are mindful of the fact that banking strives on robust credit administration system and we will respect the rights of customers to access funds from their banks in so far as the rules are followed.
For the borrowers, we have been able to group them into two categories; those who have legitimate business intension and have continued to service their loans and those whose loans do not follow due process and non- performing.
â€œIt is unfortunate that some of the banks chiefs in trouble at present abuse their offices by granting unsecured loans in total disregard to banking regulations to the second category of people.
You will agree with me that the amount owed by the later category has enormous effect on our national economy and every national must guard that seriously.â€
Moments after Mrs Waziriâ€™s briefing, Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim told the commission that he had paid N3.1bn of the alleged loan owed Oceanic Bank, arguing, however, the bank had overcharged him on the said procured loan.
According to him, â€œwe have paid Oceanic Bank N3.1bn and the rest of the account, we have to go through auditing as the bank has undertaken to reconcile the account and as soon as that is reconciled, if there is any figure against us it will be paid within 24 hours.
Oceanic alleged that we owe them N8b and we have paid N3.1b, that means it is remaining N4. 8b. We will do a reconciliation ofÂ the account once it is reconciled, I will immediately within 24 hours issue a cheque.â€
â€¦wants INTERPOL to arrest Akingbola
On the former MD of Intercontinental Bank, Mr. Erastus Akingbola, the EFCC Chairman said efforts were on top gear to tracking him down stressing, â€œ We learnt that Mr. Akingbola has travelled abroad, we are going to start the process of bringing him back through INTERPOL.Â He is the only one that has escaped so far.â€
NBA faults Waziri on courtsâ€™ orders
Meanwhile, NBA has faulted EFCCâ€™s call on courts not to grant bank executives frivolous orders.
NBA National Publicity Secretary, Mr Muritala Abdulrasheed, in a statement in Lagos, yesterday said â€œwhile the NBA does not begrudge Mrs. Waziriâ€™s commission the right to reawaken from its long slumber in matters not affecting evidently corrupt former Governors, in which it has been evidently complacent in their escape from the long arms of the law, we express fundamental concern at this one-more-attempt to blackmail and arm-twist the judiciary into injudicious and un-judicial positions.â€
The association said, â€œalthough we concede to Mrs. Waziri the right, usually exercised by all legal practitioners, to describe an opponentâ€™s application as frivolous, the NBA is concerned, given her position as EFCC chair and the various public fora used to launch her appeal, about the blackmail and the unwholesome practice of trial by media implicit in her comments.
â€œWe therefore urge the judiciary to ignore this so-called appeal and the arm-twisting inherent therein and continue to carry out their hallowed responsibilities in the EFCC cases in keeping with their oaths of office and certainly, without fear or favour, let or hindrance.â€
EFCC sets stringent bail conditions for Adigwe, Nwosu
Waziri at the same briefing said, â€œthe commission has decided to forthwith and with further assurance comply with the said court orders by granting bail to the suspects affected thereon in the following terms; Deposit of Bank Guarantee in the sum of Nl billion in favour of the Commission to secure the attendance of the accused person, such Bank Guarantee to be procured from banks not involved in the Current CBN/NDIC/EFCC investigations.
â€œThe procurer of the said Bank Guarantee; to provide tax clearance certificate of the preceding three years payable as at when due and in tandem with the amount of the Guarantee.
A surety in respect of each suspect/accused person, such surety must be a serving/current Minister,Â who will provide a landed property on Victoria Island, Lagos or Ikoyi, Lagos or Maitama in Abuja.â€
CIPM faults EFCC
President and Chairman of Council of CIPM, Dr. Oladimeji Alo, argued that the seven- day ultimatum by the EFCC to the debtors of the five banks, whose managements were sacked recently by the CBN to pay up their debts was wrong and improper.
Dr. Alo also picked holes in the way the Chief Executive Officers, CEOs of the five banks were sacked, stressing that it was done in a military fashion.
He queried the rationale behind the rush in releasing the audit and special examination reports of 10 banks, leaving out the remaining 14 banks.
The CIPMâ€™s President also decried the controversy trailing CBNâ€™s publishing of the names of debtors and their indebtedness, arguing that the controversy was unnecessary, because what one owns a bank in the morning could change in the evening.