By Michael Ojo
More facts are beginning to emerge on the removal of Mr Erastus Akingbola as the Managing Director of the defunct Intercontinental Bank Plc, as an official of the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) who was part of the team that investigated the the defunct bank, Mr Paul Alkali told a Federal High Court in Lagos that his team did not recommended the removal of Akingbola as Managing Director.
In 2009, the NDIC team investigated the defunct Intercontinental Bank for regulatory infractions, including granting of loans without adequate securities. The investigation led to the removal of Akingbola. Intercontinental Bank was subsequently taken over by Access Bank.
However, on Monday, Mr Akali, told Justice Ayokunle Faji that his team did not recommend the sacking of the bank’s then Dr Akingbola.
Akingbola is currently been prosecuted before the court by the Economic and Financial Crimes commission(EFCC) on amended 22 counts charges where he was accused of using N179bn belonging to the defunct Intercontinental Bank for “fictitious transactions.”
Akali, who is a prosecution witness before the court told the court that he wouldn’t know why Akingbola was removed as Intercontinental Bank MD despite that the NDIC investigating team did not recommend his removal.
Fielding questions under cross-examination by Akingbola’s lawyer, Prof. Taiwo Osipitan (SAN), Akali said his team only recommended the removal of the non-executive board members of the bank.
“They (the non-executive directors) did not executive their oversight functions; we felt they did not live up to their responsibilities. There was also the issue of bonus paid to them that they were not entitled to. That was why we recommended that the non-executive directors should be removed,” Akali told Justice Faji.
The witness told the court that the non-executive directors collected N2.92bn unentitled bonus.
The non executive directors 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.
Asked by Osipitan whether Akingbola benefitted from the money, Akali replied the he was not party to the N2.92bn.”
Osipitan: “Akingbola is also not part of those who took unauthorised loans from Intercontinental Bank.”
Akali: “He did not but he gave approval.”
Asked if any part of the N2.92 billion had been recovered from the sacked non-executive directors, Akali said, “I don’t know.”
Osipitan: “To the best of your knowledge, how many of those non-executive directors who collected the bonus that they were not entitled to are standing trial in any court?”
Akali: “I don’t know.”
Osipitan: “So far, the only person you are testifying against is Akingbola?”
When Osipitan suggested to Akali that “You may not know that the special examination and report of yours were aimed at a particular objective; because you did not recommend his removal, yet he was removed from office,”
Akali said, “Examiners do their job based on facts that are available to them and our reports are based on the facts that are available. Whatever decision is taken by the management of the CBN and NDIC based on our report, we are not privy to it and as of the time we concluded our special investigation, some bank Managing Directors were removed. He (Akingbola) was not the only one.”
Osipitan: “Why didn’t you recommend that Akingbola should be removed?”
Akali: “I can’t answer why we did not do that.”
Osipitan: ” I suggest to you that you did not recommend his removal because you did not have serious issues with him unlike the non-executive directors? Were you careless? Did he bribe you?”
Akali: “I can’t answer that question.”
Osipitan: “Tell My Lord; who was the CBN Governor as at the time of your special investigation?”
Akali: “The governor was Lamido Sanusi.”
Osipitan: “Before he became the governor of CBN, which bank’s MD was he?”
Akali: “He was MD/CEO of First Bank Nigeria Plc.”
Osipitan: “Have you heard the word ‘de-marketing’ in the banking industry?”
Osipitan: “What does it mean?”
Akali: “It means using some other information to de-market your competitor.”
Osipitan: “First Bank and then Intercontinental Bank were competitors at the time in the market?”
Akali: “All banks were competitors.”
Osipitan: “You may not know that shortly before your special examination, Intercontinental Bank had cause to complain that officers of First Bank were de-marketing them, saying they would go under very soon.”
Akali: “I don’t know but I also heard…”
Osipitan: “It was after that complaint you were sent on this special mission to investigate the bank. The complaint was in April and your examination was in May.”
Akali: “I am not aware of any complaint but it was not only Intercontinental Bank that we examined.”
Justice Faji adjourned till Friday, March 20, for further proceedings.