A Federal High Court in Lagos presided by Justice Mohammed Idris has directed the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to make open the whereabouts of the N191bn worth of assets seized from the convicted erstwhile Managing Director of Oceanic Bank Plc, Mrs. Cecilia Ibru.
Justice Idris, in a judgment on Tuesday, gave the banking sector regulator 72 hours within which to comply with the order..
The suit was instituted by the President of Progressive Shareholders Association, Mr. Boniface Okezie, as he sought to compel the CBN to release the information under the Freedom of Information Act.
Justice Idris also ordered CBN to declare “the total cash and value of properties recovered from Cecilia Ibru”.
He ordered the CBN to declare “the whereabouts of the money recovered from Cecilia Ibru; and what part of this cash and properties had been returned to Oceanic Bank and/or its shareholders.
“What is done officially must be done according to the law,” the judge held.
The judge was however not willing to grant the prayers of the plaintiff seeking the court to compel the CBN to also release information on the cost of its banking reform and the “amount of legal fees and other fees paid to professionals and professional bodies”.
Okezie had sought the court order that there be declaration of how much of the money was paid to the law firms of Olaniwun Ajayi LP and Kola Awodein.
He also wanted a declaration of how much was paid to Olaniwun Ajayi LP for the prosecution of Ibru and how much of the money stood as commissions on the properties recovered from her.
But the prayers were turned down on the grounds that the CBN was justified to have denied the information by the virtue of section 15 (1) of the FoI Act and the “legal practitioner-client privilege” as contained in section 16 of the Act.
Justice Idris upheld the argument of the defendant’s counsel, Prof. Gabriel Olawoyin, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, 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 through 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.”
Source: The Citizen