Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to disclose within 72hours, the whereabouts of the money and properties forfeited by the convicted former Managing Director of Oceanic Bank (now Ecobank), Mrs. Cecilia Ibru.
Presiding Justice Mohammed Idris gave the order while delivering judgment in a Freedom of Information (FOI) suit filed by the President of Progressive Shareholders Association of Nigeria (PSAN), Mr Boniface Okezie. Mr Okezie, had filed the suit against the EFCC as well as the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN).
He had also urged the court to compel the two defendants to render account of all the legal fees paid so far to private lawyers handling its criminal cases. Delivering judgment, Justice Idris held that it was imperative for the anti-graft agency to account for the assets recovered from Ibru, which amounted to about N191 billion.
The judge also ordered Mr Adoke and the EFCC to, within seventy-two hours, disclose the amounts they have respectively spent on hiring private lawyers for criminal prosecution. In addition, the court ordered the defendants to disclose the amounts they pay their in-house counsel and their qualifications. The defendants, according to the judge, are also to state the reasons for preferring private lawyers to their in-house counsel, as well as the amount they have spent for the training of their in-house counsel in the past one year.
The assets forfeited by Mrs Cecila Ibru included 94 landed property scattered in Nigeria, Dubai and the United States of America, as well as shares in about 100 firms both listed and unlisted in the Nigeria Stock Exchange (NSE). It would be recalled that Mrs Ibru was sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment by the then Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Dan Abutu after she pleaded guilty to a three-count charge of recklessly granting credit facilities.
BACKGROUND: Ibru had admitted granting an illegal credit facility of $20 million to WAVES Project Nigeria Limited and N2 billion unlawful credit to Petosan Farms. She also agreed that she failed to ensure that the 2009 balance sheet of Oceanic Bank was a true view of the state of affairs of the bank.
Justice Idris, had in a sister case, ordered the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to account for the assets forfeited by Ibru also within seventy-two hours. Already, the CBN has appealed against that verdict. In the notice of appeal, the apex bank stressed that accounting for the assets was not possible in view of the fact that it would expose the legal fees paid to lawyers that handled the matter.
The appeal, which was anchored on one point stated above, was filed by Gabriel Olawoyin (SAN) on behalf of the CBN. The appeal is yet to be heard and determined by the appellate court.