Former Managing Director of Oceanic Bank Plc (now Ecobank), Mrs. Cecilia Ibru
By Davidson Iriekpen
Justice Mohammed Idris of a Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, Tuesday ordered the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to declare the whereabouts of the N191 billion in assets seized from the convicted former Managing Director of Oceanic Bank Plc (now Ecobank), Mrs. Cecilia Ibru.
Delivering judgment in a suit filed by the President of Progressive Shareholders Association (PSA), Mr. Boniface Okezie, Justice Idris held that the order must be complied with within 72 hours.
Okezie had instituted the action seeking to compel the bank to release the information under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.
The judge also ordered CBN to declare what it termed the total cash and value of property recovered from Ibru.
“The Central Bank of Nigeria is hereby ordered to declare the whereabouts of the money recovered from Cecilia Ibru; and what part of this cash and property has been returned to Oceanic Bank and/or its shareholders. What is done officially must be done according to the law,” Idris said.
The judge, however, refused the prayer of the plaintiff seeking the court's order to compel the CBN to also release information on the cost of its banking reforms and the amount of legal fees and other fees paid to professionals and professional bodies.
The plaintiff in the suit had sought the court’s nod to compel the CBN to declare how much of the money was paid to the law firms of Olaniwun Ajayi LP and Kola Awodein (SAN).
Okezie also urged the court to declare how much was paid to Olaniwun Ajayi LP for the prosecution of Ibru and how much of the money stood as commissions on the property recovered from her.
The prayers were turned down because the CBN was justified to have denied the information by virtue of Section 15(1) of the FoI Act and the “legal practitioner-client privilege” as contained in Section 16 of the Act.
The judge upheld the argument of the defendant's counsel, Prof. Gabriel Olawoyin (SAN), even as he added that the plaintiff did not give sufficient evidence relating to “misconduct” in the payments to the law firms.
Okezie, had through his counsel, Chuks Nwachukwu, requested the information in a letter dated January 26, 2012.
Nwachukwu had stated in the letter that his client had observed that the two law firms “have completely dominated representation of CBN and its related bodies in the litigation sparked by the reforms”.