The Court of Appeal in Lagos has directed the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to give an account of the total cash and value of properties recovered from the former Managing Director of Oceanic Bank Cecilia Ibru.
The court gave the order at the hearing of an appeal filed by the CBN on an order granted in 2012 by a Federal High Court in Lagos instructing the apex bank to make public the total cash and properties recovered from Cecilia Ibru.
The Federal High court had at the time, also ordered the CBN to disclose the whereabouts of the money and property recovered from Mrs Ibru and also disclose what part of this cash and properties have been returned to Oceanic bank and its shareholders. The court gave the order in a suit filed by a Lagos lawyer, Chuks Nwachkwu on behalf of a shareholder of Oceanic Bank, Boniface Okezie, urging the court to compel CBN to make disclosure of the following:
1 (a) The cost of Central Bank of Nigeria and the Government of the people of Nigeria so far of the banking reforms instituted by the Central Bank and particularly,
(b) The amount of legal fees paid and to be paid to professionals and professional bodies,
(c) How much or the amount in (a) above represents fees paid and to be paid to the firms of 1 Olanihun Ajayi LP of Adunola, Plot 12, 401 Close Banana Island Ikoyi, Lagos.
2 Kola Awodein & CO. of 6th Floor UBA House, 57,marina,Lagos.
(d) What is the total sum paid to the firm of Olaniwun Ajayi in respect of prosecution of Cecilia Ibru, former Managing Director of Oceanic Bank Plc, and how much of this sum was in the form of commission on the property recovered from her.
(e) The total cash and value of properties recovered from Cecilia Ibru.
(f) The whereabouts of the money and properties recovered.
(g) What part of this cash and properties has been returned to Oceanic Bank and/or its shareholders. Okezie in his court papers, argued that in view of the fact that CBN is a public body and an agency of the institution of the Federal Government of Nigeria created by law, it is bound under the Freedom of Information Act 2011 to make available to him the information requested for by him.
The apex bank however failed to grant his request despite acknowledging the receipt of his letter. Mr Okezie stated that he had heard of rumors that the Governor of Central Bank and his associates have either embezzled, misappropriated or otherwise dissipated the funds running into hundreds of billions of Naira recovered from Cecilia Ibru and cannot render account for them. Counsel to CBN in his submission to the court, said although they received Okezie’s letter, the information Okezie requested for if released, would go against their contract terms with their lawyers. On the 2nd of October, 2012,the presiding Judge Mohammed Idris, in his judgment refused to grant reliefs
1(a),(b) (c) and (d) whilst reliefs (e),(f) and (g) were granted. The CBN and Okezie filed separate appeals regarding the judgement. Yesterday, the Court of Appeal led by Justice Biobele Abraham George, upheld the order of the Federal High Court and ordered that CBN accounts for the cash and properties recovered from Mrs Ibru as requested by Okezie.
In 2009, Cecilia Ibru was among the 5 bank CEOs sacked by then CBN governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. On October 9th 2010, a Federal High Court in Lagos sentenced her to 18 months in prison under a plea bargain agreement after she pleaded guilty to three-count charge bordering on negligence, reckless grant of credit facilities and mismanagement of depositors’ funds.