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Ex-Bank MD Atuche Gets Jail Term Over N25.7b Fraud

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Ex-Bank MD Atuche Gets Jail Term Over N25.7b Fraud

The former Managing Director of the defunct BankPHB, Mr Francis Atuche was on Wednesday sentenced to a six-year imprisonment.

The sentenced was delivered by an Ikeja High Court after Atuche was found guilty of over N25.7 billion fraud.

Also sentenced with Atuche is his co-defendant, Ugo Anyanwu who was the Chief Financial Officer of the bank. Atuche’s wife, Elizabeth was however discharged and acquitted her.

The trial started in 2011 went through the gamut of the Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court before coming back to the trial court, which culminated in the judgment delivered on Wednesday. Investigations revealed that both the prosecution and defence counsel in the case filed over 200-page written addresses while the judgment took the trial judge more than 12 hours.

The trial judge, Justice Lateefat Okunnu convicted the defendants of 21 out of 27 charges against them. Atuche and Anyanwu were sentenced to six and four years respectively on each of the 21 charges on which they were convicted by the court. They would however spend six and four years respectively in correctional centres as the sentences would run concurrently.

Justice Okunnu however said the convicts must make restitution as contained in count 4 noting that the amount stolen was not up to the amount alleged in the charge.

In acquitting Mrs Atuche, the trial judge held that the EFCC failed to link her to the crime adding that suspicion no matter how strong could not take the place of fact.

She held that it was not proven that Mrs Atuche was aware of the source of the fund she received into her account from her husband and she had no powers to take any decision to influence the transaction.

READ ALSO: Court Fixes Date For Suit Against NJC Over Alleged Lopsided Judges’ Appointment

The judge upheld the arguments of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Kemi Pinheiro, who prosecuted the case with the fiat of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF).

Pinheiro had opposed Atuche’s contention that the stolen funds in dispute were loaned, not stolen.

The judge agreed with the prosecution and held that the money belonged to the bank and that it was capable of being stolen.

“The 1st defendant confirmed the bank’s ownership of the money when he said the bank in lending money makes profit.

The judge also held that the offences for which the convicts were charged could not be said to be mere professional negligence as claimed by them but criminal in nature.

The court specifically held that Atuche and Anyanwu abused their powers, ignored established rules and regulations thereby putting the bank and depositors funds in danger.

The court also stated that the convicts corruptly took advantage of their positions to confer on themselves undue financial benefits without regard to the health of the bank.

“I am persuaded by the statement of Pat Utomi that ‘The bank still has control over money that’s left in its coffers, no matter who uses it’

“Helen Eriyo, who is the account officer of Petosan, being unaware of the loans granted, lends credit to the testimony of Mr Ololo that he was not aware of the loan

“The alter egos and true directing mind of the companies knew nothing about the loans. The loans indeed were a hoax”, the judge said.

Justice Okunnu convicted Atuche and Anyanwu on counts 1 to 11, 14-20, 23, 24 and 27.

“The 1st and 3rd defendants did not debunk the evidence of the prosecution that the loans were used to purchase shares. They rather contended that the monies granted as loan could be used for whatever purposes.”

In a judgement that lasted over 11 hours, Justice Okunnu held that the EFCC successfully proved its case against the convicts beyond reasonable doubt.”

 

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CBN Gives Fresh Detail About Opay, Palmpay, Moniepoint, Others

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Cardoso through the CNB in April placed an embargo on Opay, Palmpay, Kuda Bank, Moniepoint and other fintech companies from onboarding new customers,

By John Michael Ojo

The Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Olayemi Cardoso, during the MPC meeting on Tuesday revealed that mobile money operators who are currently being restricted from enrolling new customers would soon be allowed to carry our their operations without any form of restrictions in the next few months.

Cardoso who stated this in Abuja, denied revolking the licences of these fintech companies.

The CBN Governor, claimed that the Central Bank was working round the clock by engaging with stakeholders in order to strengthen the activities of Fintech companies in the country.

He added that the CBN is also working to mitigate against every loophole used by criminal elements to facilitate money laundering within the financial system while maintaining the integrity of the industry.

“I am confident that as time goes on, and hopefully in another couple of months, all these will be something of the past and then you will see that sector going back into what they’ve been known to do before, but certainly with a very stronger regulatory framework,” he said.

Cardoso through the CNB in April placed an embargo on Opay, Palmpay, Kuda Bank, Moniepoint and other fintech companies from onboarding new customers, a move which was heavily criticized and seen as a gag on the financial sub-sector.

However, the CBN Governor who has now provided the public with more details about the action of the apex bank on the fintech companies said: “The fintechs have not been singled out for any exceptional kind of treatment. The CBN remains proud of the exploits of fintech firms in the last number of years and the apex bank will continue to support and strengthen them.

“However, regulation is very critical in a sector that seems to have grown so incredibly rapidly.

“More recently, we had the cause to take a deep dive look at the whole issue of illicit flows and money laundering particularly within the non-heavily regulated banking system and we all know some of the issues that came out with cryptos and some of the messages we put out after that, which of course gave us some cause to know that there is the need for heightened surveillance,” Cardoso stated.

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Access Holdings Gets New CEO To Replace Wigwe 

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Bolaji Agbede

By John Michael OJo

Following the death of its Co-founder and Group Chief Executive Officer, Dr Herbert Wigwe in a helicopter crash on Friday night in the United States, Access Holdings Plc on Monday appointed Ms. Bolaji Agbede as the Acting Group Chief Executive Officer of Access Holdings.

This was made known in a statement by the company’s Board of Directors dated February 12, 2024.

The statement which added that the appointment was subject to the approval of the Central Bank of Nigeria, reads: “Further to its announcement dated February 11, 2024, the Board of Directors of Access Holdings Plc (‘the Company’) has today announced the appointment of Ms Bolaji Agbede as the Acting Group Chief Executive Officer of the Company following the unfortunate demise of its former Group Chief Executive Officer, Dr Herbert Wigwe, on February 9, 2024.

“The appointment is subject to the approval of the Central Bank of Nigeria,” the statement read in part.

Agbede  who joined Access Bank in 2003 as an Assistant General has nearly three decades of professional experience cutting across banking and business consultancy services.

She has also served in different roles at the bank including, Head, Group Human Resources between 2010 and 2022 before she was appointed the company’s founding Executive Director, Business Support in 2022, a role she held until her new appointment

Agbede who commenced her professional career in Guaranty Trust Bank, holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics and Statistics from the University of Lagos and a Masters of Business Administration Degree from Cranfield University UK in 2002.

She is also a member of the Chartered Institute of Management UK and the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management of Nigeria.

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Ogun Constitutes Ambassadors To Intensify Efforts On Investment Drive

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L-R: Chairman, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (Ogun State), Mr. George Onafowokan; Commissioner for Finance and Chief Economic Adviser, Mr. Dapo Okubadejo; Special Adviser, OgunInvest, Ms. Sola Arobieke; Commissioner for Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Adebola Sofela; Zonal Director, Nigeria Investment Promotion Council, Mr. Hassan Lawal, at the OgunInvest Ambassadors Network Inauguration and Orientation Course held at OgunInvest Office, Isheri, Ogun State.

Ogun State Governor Prince Dapo Abiodun has inaugurated a 12-man committee of Ogun Invest Ambassador Network to create a robust and seamless working relationship between government and investors, for businesses to thrive.

Governor Abiodun, during the inauguration and orientation course for the ambassadors, at Ogun Invest Office, Isheri, in Ifo Local Government Area of the state, said the initiative was a landmark in the history of the state, as it would make a huge difference to the growth of current and potential investors willing to do business in the state.

He explained that the ambassadors would be responsible for enlightening investors on how to harness the opportunities that abound and what they stand to gain by doing business with the state, adding that their role is pivotal in building bridges, fostering collaboration and attracting investors that would propel the state to new heights.

Governor Abiodun, represented by the Commissioner for Finance and Chief Economic Adviser, Mr. Dapo Okubadejo tasked the ambassadors to sharpen their communication skills, charging them to make accountability and transparency their watchword.

The state’s helmsman disclosed that the government would, on a regular basis, carry out an evaluation performance on them through private organisations transacting business with the state, promising that those who performed well would be compensated accordingly.

Speaking, Commissioner for Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Adebola Sofela, who admonished them to be diligent, in making Investment Promotion and Facilitation Agency a success, described them as a link between government and investors, saying a proper regulatory framework would be established to earn investors trust and respect.

Identifying the calibre of people in the network chain, Commissioner for Budget and Planning, Mr. Olaolu Olabimtan, noted that a new lease of life would soon commence in the state investment journey, expressing the hope that their selection would ensure a critical turning point in the investment atmosphere of the state and charged them to bring to bear their professionalism in the course of enhancing the industrial sector

Earlier, the Special Adviser on Ogun State Investment Promotion and Facilitation Agency (Ogun Invest), Ms. Sola Arobieke, said the initiative was part of the drive to attract investments, enhance ease of doing business and carry out the service of a one-stop shop, to ensure access to relevant information and streamline processes for investors in the state, pointing out that the Ambassadors Network is a team of dedicated individuals from different Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), saddled with investment-related functions, to ease the settling of investors and investments into the state.

On his part, the Managing Director, Coleman Technical Industries Ltd., Mr. George Onafowokan, who spoke on, “Promoting Investment Through Service Excellence”, said the selected ambassadors should see their nomination as an opportunity to serve and see themselves as representatives of the state front liners at giving investors excellent service and be ready to drive both existing and potential investors through excellent service delivery

The 12 ambassadors inaugurated include Consultant, Bureau of Lands and Survey, Mr. Fatai Adeboyejo; Deputy Surveyor-General, Bureau of Lands and Survey, Mrs. Halimat Yusuf; Director, Physical Planning, Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, Mrs. Felicia Aleburu; Director, Planning, Research and Statistics, Physical Planning and Urban Development Mr. Jolaoluwa Olugbemisola; Director, Planning, Research and Statistics, Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Suraj Fashola; Director, Land Acquisition, Bureau of Lands and Survey, Mr. Anifowose Olatunji and Director of Commercial Services, Ministry of Justice, Mr. Olumuyiwa Ogunsanwo.

Others are Director of Environmental Quality Control, Ministry of Environment, Mrs. Mary Adeosun; Director of Geological Services, Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Lekan Eniolawun; Director, Estate and Facility Management, Ogun State Property Investment Corporation, Mr. Olusola Abijo; Director, Estate, Housing Corporation, Mr. Nafiu Olaleye and Deputy Director, Local Government Affairs, Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Mrs. Olapemiju Quadri.

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