Author: Tony Amoleodo and Ademola Alawiye
October 9, 2010
A Federal High Court in Lagos on Friday 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 $20m and N2bn credit facilities above the approved limit by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had prosecuted the ex-CEO 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 on Friday.
The Chief Judge of the FHC, Justice Dan Abutu, thereafter convicted Ibru on the said three-count charge and ordered the forfeiture of her N191bn assets comprising 49 properties in Nigeria, United States and Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to a Federal Government agency, the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria.
The forfeited properties include shares in over 100 firms that are listed and not listed on the Nigerian Sock Exchange.
The CJ added that the convict was sentenced to a six-month imprisonment on each of the counts, saying that the terms would run concurrently.
The development indicated that the ex-banker would only spend six months in Ikoyi Prisons.
But the CJ added a caveat when he directed the prison authorities to take the convict to a highbrow hospital, Reddington Hospital, Victoria Island, Lagos, for continuation of treatment, following a passionate appeal by Ibru‘s lead lawyer, Prof. Taiwo Osipitan (SAN).
Osipitan, who led Mr. Wale Akoni (SAN) and other lawyers, had during an
(plea for leniency), urged the court to take judicial notice of the fact that his client was suffering from chronic cardiac problem, saying that specialists in the hospital had to remove some gadgets from Ibru in order to allow her to come to court and take her plea.
He added that there was an agreement between the parties on his client‘s health status, urging the court to direct the prison authorities to return her to the hospital upon conviction.
He raised the alarm that his client‘s situation was critical and urged the court to avoid an unfortunate situation where a former member of the House of Representatives, Morris Ibekwe, who was in a similar situation, was ignored on the grounds that he was feigning sickness but eventually died.
Osipitan claimed that his client built the bank from nothing to something, saying that her prayer was that the bank should continue to grow while she attended to her failing health.
The appearance of the convict, who was assisted into the courtroom by her relatives in a blue skirt suit, showed that she was indisposed, as the court had to allow a doctor to attend to her during the proceeding.
But the lead lawyer to the EFCC, Mr. Kola Awodein (SAN), who led Dr. Konyinsola Ajayi, SAN, Mr. Damien Dodo (SAN), Mr. Godwin Obla and Mr Rotimi Jacobs, informed the court that justice was a three-way issue, saying that justice must be done on the case.
The senior advocate had earlier told the court that there was an agreement and urged the court to forfeit the properties attached to section VI of the settlement agreement to AMCON
.The CJ said, ”The accused is hereby convicted and sentenced to six months imprisonment on each of the three-count charge. The sentence is to run concurrently. In addition, all the assets set out in section VI of the settlement agreement are herby forfeited to AMCON.
“The prison authorities shall, not later than two hours after receiving the convict into their custody, take the convict to Reddington Hospital from where she was brought to court to continue her treatment until she is certified fit by the hospital authority to continue to serve her sentence in the prison.”
Ibru was sacked by the CBN along with the managing directors of four other banks on Aug. 14, 2009, following allegations of corruption, bad corporate governance practices and mismanagement of public funds.
The CBN had said last year that Oceanic Bank had a total non-performing loan of 278bn, which was 37 per cent of the total non-performing loan of the first set of rescued banks.
The CBN governor, Mr. Lamido Sanusi had said in an interview, “We looked at the institutions and saw in their books huge non-performing loans and when we entered the institutions, we discovered that 75 per cent of the non-performing loans were given to the companies directly related to the CEOs of those institution.”
The CBN alleged that Ibru engaged 19,000 workers for Oceanic Bank through a job consultancy firm fronting for her and the bank did not need such employees