- Category: Law, Crime & Judiciary
- Published on Thursday, 05 August 2010 00:00
- Hits: 1567
FORMER Executive Vice-Chairman of Intercontinental Bank Plc Mr. Erastus Akingbola Wednesday surrendered to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), ending months of hide-and-seek with the anti-graft agency. Akingbola is likely to be arraigned next week by the EFCC, which seized his travel passport.
Akingbola arrived at the EFCC’s headquarters at about 10.30am in company of some aides and lawyers.
The vehicle, which brought Akingbola, headed for the basement of the anti-graft commission where the ex-bank boss alighted before going to the Operations Department for interrogation by a team of operatives, led by the Director of Operations, Mr. Steve Otitoju.
The session lasted hours. A source close to the investigation said: “The suspect has a lot to answer in view of the list of questions presented to him.
"Besides, the EFCC chairman who ought to approve his bail has travelled overseas on an official assignment. We are expecting her back by Monday or Tuesday.”
Responding to a question, the source said Akingbola would not stay in custody more than necessary, adding: “We do not want him in custody a day longer than necessary. Do not forget that some directors of Intercontinental Bank are already on trial.
"We do not need much time to prefer charges against him. But his defence too is crucial because our law presumes him innocent, until otherwise decided by the court."
EFCC spokesman Femi Babafemi said: “Akingbola has reported to the EFCC and he is being interrogated.”
Another source said when asked why he decided to return now, Akingbola replied “that before now the CBN had turned itself into the complainant, prosecutor and judge”, adding “that there is now light at the end of the tunnel as there is hope for fair trial and justice”.
Earlier in the year, Dr. Akingbola’s counsel, Mr. Charles Nwajagu, had explained that his client was set to return as soon as the suit in London was mentioned in court. The case came up in London on July 14, and was adjourned till December, 2010, hence his return to Nigeria on Tuesday.
Mr. Nwajagu added: "Considering the lengthy time fixed for the hearing, Dr. Akingbola willingly returned to focus on the suit he had filed against the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) over his wrongful removal from office as the CEO of the bank.
"Akingbola emphatically denies all allegations of wrong-doing or improper conduct and has challenged the legal validity of his removal from office as Group Chief Executive of the Intercontinental Bank Plc by way of judicial review.
"Akingbola is, and has always been prepared to come home, once he is sure of his personal safety and that of his family, and confident that no further steps will be taken in attempts to implicate him in other crimes as a way of forcing him to withdraw his case in court against the CBN."
Meanwhile, fresh facts have emerged on why Dr Akingbola decided to return to the country to face the allegations levelled against him by the EFCC after almost one year of self-imposed exile in the United Kingdom.
Nigerian Tribune reliably gathered that plans are under way to resolve the matter politically. Akingbola was said to have reached out to some highly-placed Nigerians and interest groups so that he would be given a soft landing.
He was also said to have vowed that he was ready to do everything necessary to prevent the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) from selling off Intercontinental Bank, believed to have been co-founded and nurtured by him.
He is expected to defend himself of all the allegations against him in the law courts. His lawyers had given an inkling of the resolve of the former bank chief to voluntarily come back to Nigeria to face justice when the EFCC sought his repatriation from the UK.
Akingbola’s confidant, and a former top banker with Intercontinental Bank, who pleaded anonymity, told the Nigerian Tribune in Lagos that the allegations against his former boss were grossly exaggerated, adding that they prevailed on him to come to the country and face the charges.
The banker, who was sacked recently from the bank, maintained that Akingbola’s coming to the country would open up a new vista in the fight against corruption in the country, stating that he would certainly make startling revelations over the allegations against him.
Akingbola was charged in absentia a year ago in Lagos, where half a dozen other directors of Intercontinental Bank also stand accused of granting loans to companies in which they have interests, and failing to ensure the bank met minimum capital adequacy and liquidity requirements.
The court ordered the freezing of his accounts and assets, pending the final determination of the 28-count charge against him.
Akingbola challenged the freezing of his assets in court and asked to be reinstated. His lawyers argued that CBN governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, did not follow due process in removing him from his job.