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Monday, 24 August 2009

Nigeria: EFCC Arrests 2 More Bank Chiefs

Olawale Olaleye

23 August 2009

Lagos — The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday arrested two more bank directors over the huge debt profile of the five banks whose managements were sacked two weeks ago by the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.

The bank chiefs arrested in Lagos are John Maha, Managing Director, Afribank Securities Limited, a subsidiary of Afribank, and Niyi Opeodu, Managing Director, Union Capital Market Limited, a subsidiary of Union Bank. Both men have since been detained at the anti-graft commission office in Ikoyi.

Union Bank and Afribank are two of the five banks affected by the post consolidation reforms introduced by new CBN governor Lamido to put the nation's 24 banks on a sound footing. The three others are Intercontinental Bank, Oceanic Bank and Finbank.

The arrest of Maha and Opeodu however makes it 15 bank chiefs that have been picked up by the EFCC since the CBN governor commenced the onslaught in the banking sector.

According to EFCC's spokesperson, Mr. Femi Babafemi who confirmed the development, while Maha was arrested at a location on Lagos Island yesterday evening, Opeodu was picked up at his Lekki residence, Lagos earlier in the day.

"The two of them were picked up today (yesterday) in Lagos. Maha was picked up at a location in Lagos while Opeodu was arrested at his residence in Lekki, Lagos. They are both in our custody as we speak now. That, I can confirm to you," he said.

Babafemi explained that the EFCC would take time this weekend to interrogate those newly arrested in order to ascertain their level of culpability in the predicament their banks have been put. He said for now, he could not say what their fate would be, but by Monday, the commission would decide what to do with them, based on the outcome of their interrogation with them.

"Of course, you should know that whoever is kept beyond 48 hours is kept on court order. But at least, we'll have them interrogated this weekend so as to ascertain their level of culpability and by Monday, we'll decide what to do with them," he said.

Meanwhile, EFCC has set up five different teams charged with the sole responsibility of pursuing all the identified bank debtors immediately after the expiration of the ultimatum handed them last Wednesday by the commission's chairman, Mrs. Farida Waziri.

The EFCC had last week issued an ultimatum to all debtors of the five banks to tidy up their debts or face arrest, prosecution and seizure of their assets. Mrs. Waziri handed down the ultimatum while fielding questions from journalists at the annual conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) which held in Lagos.

"We already have the list of the debtors of the five banks with us in EFCC and they have just one week to bring in their cheques or drafts to us or we begin their arrest and prosecution, as well as confiscation of their assets because they are people of enormous means," Waziri said.

It is against the backdrop of this ultimatum that the EFCC has grouped some of its men into five teams which, according to Babafemi, have also been deployed to different parts of the state to move against the debtors once the one week ultimatum elapses.

He said each of the team comprises of 10 operatives and has been assigned to each of the five affected banks. He was, however certain that all is set for the EFCC to take control of the situation immediately the ultimatum expires, adding that no stone would be left unturned in recovering the huge debts.

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