Produce N191bn Ibru forfeit, court orders CBN
By CHIMA TITUS NWOKOJI
A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, southwest Nigeria yesterday morning ordered the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN), to declare the total cash and properties recovered from the former Chief Executive Officer of Oceanic Bank, Mrs.Cecilia Ibru, within 72 hours. The court also ordered that the apex bank should declare the location of the properties and the money recovered.
The apex Nigeria’s banking sector regulatory institution was also ordered to make public what part of the cash and property had been returned to Oceanic Bank and its shareholders. The order of the court was sequel to a suit filed by a Lagos lawyer, Chuks Nwachukwu, on behalf of Mr. Boniface Okezie, President of Progressive Shareholders Association. Okezie had urged the CBN to disclose among other things the amount of legal fees paid to professionals and lawyers including Olanihun Ajayi and Kola Awodein Chambers in respect of the prosecution of Cecilia Ibru.
The plaintiff claimed he wrote a letter to the CBN demanding to know these facts but the CBN refused to respond. In a counter-affidavit filed by Prof. Gabriel Olawonyi on behalf of CBN, the apex bank said it was advised against releasing the information as it will violate the legal practitioner/client privileges principal. In his judgment delivered yesterday, the presiding judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, while not acceding to the request of the plaintiff that the amount paid to the lawyers involved should be disclosed, ordered that the total cash and property recovered from Cecilia Ibru should be made public by the CBN within 72 hours.
He also ordered that the whereabouts of the properties and monies recovered should be made public too. It would be recalled that a Federal High Court in Lagos in October 2010 sentenced a former Chief Executive Officer of Oceanic Bank International Plc, Mrs. Cecilia Ibru, to 18 months imprisonment without an option of fine for granting $20 million and N2billion credit facilities above the approved limit by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had prosecuted the former bank chief on a 25-count charge of financial crimes before she entered into a plea bargaining with the anti-graft agency and pleaded guilty to a reduced three-count charge. The Chief Judge of the FHC, Justice Dan Abutu, thereafter convicted Ibru on the said three-count charge and ordered the forfeiture of her N191billion assets comprising 49 properties in Nigeria, United States and Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to a Federal Government agency, the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON).
The forfeited properties include shares in over 100 firms that are listed and not listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange. The Chief Judge added that