By Innocent Anaba & Inalegwu Shaibu
LAGOSâ€”The Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, queried, yesterday, the jurisdiction of a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos to hear the suit filed by formerÂ Managing Director of Intercontinental Bank Plc, Dr. Erastus Akingbola.
Also, aÂ Lagos High Court, yesterday ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to release forthwith on bail on reasonable terms, the sacked nine non-executive directors of Intercontinental Bank Plc.
To complete the circuit, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions, Senator Nkechi Nwogu, yesterday,Â faulted the injection of N400 billion into the five troubled banks by the CBN Governor, Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi without the approval of the Senate.
Those in favour of which the Lagos High Court order was issuedÂ include Dr. Raymond Obieri (Chairman), Chief Samuel Adegbite, Mr. Chris Alabi, Mrs Toyin Philips, Mr. Bayo Dada, Elder Sanni Adams, Engr. Hynacinth Enuha, Alhaji Isyaku Umar and Mrs Sienye Lulu-Briggs.
The CBN Governor, Mallam Lamido Sanusi, has challenged the jurisdiction of a Federal High Court in respect ofÂ the suit by Dr. Akingbola, who was granted leave by the court to challenge his removal as the MD of the bank.
Akingbola, who was relived of his position, alongside the Managing Directors of four other banks, had approached the court, contending that CBN failed to obey and comply with the provisions of Sections 33(1), 35(1)(d) and (2)(d)(e) of the Banks, and Other Financial Institutions Act, Cap. B3, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 in making the order of 14/8/2009, removing him as Group Chief Executive and a Director of Intercontinental Bank.
Senate queriesÂ N422 billion bailout
Speaking with newsmen in Abuja, Senator Nwogu, said Sanusi did not inform the National Assembly before disbursing the funds to the affected banks.
She said, â€œeven though we are on holiday, we still keep correspondences but he has not written to us and that contravenes our laws. It is wrong for him not to have contacted us before taking the decision or even after he took the decision.
Why did he do that without recourse to the National Assembly? Any amount to be injected must be appropriated as contained in the 1999 constitution.
â€œEven as I speak to you now, he has not written to us and we are wondering where he got the money from. We will write him a formal query. I will call on members of my committee to come and have a meeting on the matter.â€
Senator Nwogu, however, expressed satisfaction with the decision of the CBN, adding that it will cleanse the Nigerian banking sector.
Her words: â€œHopefully, the banks will be better off but our fears is that we hope the action was not taken at the wrong time which may lead to erosion of confidence in the entire banking sector.â€
Court orders EFCC to release non-executive directors on bail
In what appeared like a reprieve, a Lagos High Court, yesterday, ordered the EFCC to release forthwith on bail and on reasonable terms the sacked nine non-executive directors of Intercontinental Bank Plc.
Trial judge in the matter, Justice Bukola Adebiyi, also granted the applicants leave to enforce their fundamental rights against the commission.
The court ordered that the leave so granted the applicants shall operate as a stay of all actions that might infringe on the fundamental rights of the applicants pending the hearing and determination of the proceedings.
The court also restrained the commission from engaging in any act that could undermine or jeopardize their rights to freedom as enshrined in the 1999 constitution.
The non-executive directors and members of Board of Directors Intercontinental Bank Plc, who went to the EFCC,Â last Monday upon invitation by the commission,Â have been in detention since then.
The court, however, stated that the EFCC while releasing the applicants from detention or admitting them to bail must ensure that they must have provided two sureties each, while the sureties must beÂ individual employed in the civil service at a grade level not lower than Level 14 and the second surety, should be an individual with land property in Lagos.
The court made the orders in respect of a combined ex-parte applications filed and argued by the applicantsâ€™ lawyer, ProfÂ Gabriel Olawoyin (SAN).
The judge restrained the anti-graft agency from engaging in any act that could undermine or jeopardize their rights to freedom as enshrined in the 1999 constitution.
CBN challenges Akingbolaâ€™s suit
The CBN, yesterday, challenged the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court, Lagos, to hear the suit by Akingbola.
At yesterdayâ€™s hearing, Akingbolaâ€™s counsel informed the court that he had been served the preliminary objections separately filed by the CBN and its Governor, Mallam Sanusi, and asked the court to take the preliminary objections alongside the substantive application.
But counsel to CBN and that of CBN Governor, both opposed taking all the applications together, contending that once the issue of jurisdiction had been raised, more so when it is likely that oral evidence may be called, that the court should first hear and rule on the preliminary objections, and if the court holds that it has the jurisdiction to hear the suit, it can then go into the substantive suit.
Trial judge in the matter, retiring Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Abdullahi Mustapha, at that point noted that given that he will soon retire, that it would be preferable all the arguments are canvassed before the judge that will hear and conclude the matter.
Akingbolaâ€™s counsel asked the court to take argument on whether to take all the applications together, so that when the matter is transferred to another judge, the issue of taking the applications together would have been determined, but Justice Mustapha insisted that whatever he decided, the new judge to take over the matter may disagree with him, hence it was more tidier to allow the new judge hear and rule on the arguments.
On the preliminary objections, the court noted â€œI thought that this is a simple case, but as typical of lawyers, they have filed so many papers, when we know what the issue in this case is, which is about the single letter written by the CBN.â€
On the opposition to hear all the applications together, the judge noted that lawyers were trying to take the court back to the era, when cases were delayed needlessly in court, which was what the new Rule of the court had sought to correct.
Adjourning the matter, Justice Mustapha said â€œin view of my impending retirement from the bench of the Federal High Court, this matter is hereby assigned to Justice Auta and this matter stands adjourned till September 14, 2009 for mention.â€