By: AKEEB ALARAPE Date: Sun, 06/03/2012 - 22:03
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has been dragged to a court over its banking reforms and the proceeds from the exercise. Also, the apex bank had been asked to make public the total amount of money realized from the former Managing Director of Oceanic Bank Plc, Mrs. Cecilia Ibru. Taking up this challenge under the Freedom of Information Act 2011, was the President, Progressive Shareholders Association, Mr. Boniface Okezie.
In an originating summons filed by his lawyer, Chuks Nwachuku, at a Federal High Court, sitting in Lagos, the shareholders’ boss also sought the order of the court to direct the CBN to disclose the ‘amount of legal fees and other fees paid and to be paid to professionals and professional bodies.’ In particular, the shareholders’ boss urged the court to direct the apex bank to declare the amount paid to the chambers of a law firm (names withheld by us), in respect of the prosecution of Mrs. Ibru ‘and how much of the money was in the form of commissions on the properties recovered from her.’
Okezie also challenged the apex bank to disclose to the public the total cash and value of properties recovered from Ibru; the whereabouts of the money and properties recovered and what part of the cash and properties had been returned to Oceanic Bank and, or its shareholders. In an attached letter, dated January 26, 2012 and addressed to the CBN governor, Mallam Lamido Sanusi Lamido, the shareholders’ boss had also made similar demands.
He had based his requests on the grounds that it was tax-payers’ money that was being used for the prosecution of the ex-bank chiefs and to carry out the banking reforms, alleging that the reform process has turned to ‘a drain pipe on the economy, benefitting only a few.’
The letter particularly frowned on the concentration of CBN cases in the hands of two law firms, urging the apex bank to make public the financial implication of such commitments. “Our client observes that the two law firms have almost completely dominated representation of CBN and its related bodies in the litigation sparked off by the reforms.
“The same law firms have been engaged by the CBN in other capacities such as advisers to the banks the CBN intervened in and consultants to the CBN and other related bodies and also for the criminal prosecution of the former executives of the said banks.
“What is the total sum paid to a law firm (name withheld) in respect of the prosecution of Cecilia Ibru, former Managing Director of Oceanic Bank Plc and how much of this sum was in the form of commissions on the properties recovered from her,” the letter read in parts. Although a seven-day ultimatum was given the CBN to respond to the letter, the receipt of the letter was only acknowledged by one Olatunji O.
On February 3, 2012 at 02.54p.m while the request was yet to be attended to. In a seven-paragraph affidavit, deposed to by Kingsley Isicheli, it stated that the suit was consequent to the failure of CBN to make available the requested information to the plaintiff as contained in his January 26 letter.
According to the affidavit, the CBN acknowledged the receipt of Okezie’s letter, but ‘has neglected, refused or failed to make available the requested information to the plaintiff.’
Isicheli averred that the CBN is a public body, agency and institution of government, created by law. The originating summons therefore, urged the court to determine ‘whether having regard to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, the CBN is not under a duty to make available to the plaintiff (Okezie) the information requested
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