A prosecution witness in the on going trial of former Managing Director of the defunct Intercontinental Bank, Dr Erastus Akingbola, has told a Federal High Court in Lagos that the team that investigated the bank for regulatory infractions in 2009 did not recommend the sack of the former bank boss.
The witness, Paul Akali, a member of the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) team that carried out the investigation, also told the court that that he did not know why Akingbola was removed as Intercontinental Bank MD despite that the investigating team did not recommend his removal.
The former bank chief is facing a 22-count amended charge of fraud, granting reckless credit facility, abuse of office and mismanagement of depositor’s funds brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
He, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge when he was arraigned before Justice Ayokunle Faji.
While being cross-examined 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.
He said, “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,” the witness claimed.
Akali further testified that the non-executive directors collected N2.92bn unentitled bonus.
When asked by Osipitan if Akingbola benefitted from the money, Akali said, “He was not party to the N2.92bn.”
Osipitan: “Akingbola is also not part of those who took unauthorised loans from Intercontinental Bank.”
Akali said, “He did not but he gave approval.”
Asked if any part of the N2.92bn 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 MDs 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 the matter to March 20, for further hearing.