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.
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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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NLC Directs Officials To Monitor Banks Over Cash Scarcity
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has directed its officials across the country to go round and monitor cash dispensing situations at the commercial banks.
This is coming ahead of today’s National Executive Council, NEC meeting, leaders of orfficials of state councils of NLC and industrial union affiliates are to take pictorial evidence of the actual situations at the banks, “whether the banks are dispensing cash or not, and report same to the NLC headquarters.”
The monitoring which ends by 12.30 pm will enable the NEC meeting that will commence by 1:00 p.m.at the Labour House, Abuja, takes a final decision on tomorrow’s planned nationwide strike over the cash crunch in the country.
The National leadership of NLC gave the directive yesterday (Monday, March 27).
An official of NLC who spokelsaid, “Yes, the directive was given yesterday. Union leaders are to go around their areas to monitor commercial banks this Morning before 12.30pm and show pictorial evidence of the situation at the banks.
“Whether they are dispensing cash or not. The pictorial evidencesl are to be forwarded to Congress headquarters to be us assess the activities of Commercial banks before the NEC meeting by 1pm to enable us take a final decision on tomorrow’s planned industrial action.”
BREAKING: Old N200, N500, N1,000 Notes Remain Legal Tender Till Dec 31 – CBN
In compliance with a ruling of the Supreme Court, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has declared that old N200, N500, N1,000 banknotes remain legal tender till December 31, 2023.
The apex bank’s Acting Director of Corporate Communications, Isa AbdulMumin spoke in a statement on Monday. This is coming 10 days after the Supreme Court ruled that old naira notes should co-exist with new ones till the end of the year.
“In compliance with the established tradition of obedience to court orders and sustenance of the Rule of Law Principle that characterized the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, and by extension, the operations of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), as a regulator, Deposit Money Banks operating in Nigeria have been directed to comply with the Supreme Court ruling of March 3, 2023.
“Accordingly, the CBN met with the Bankers’ Committee and has directed that the old N200, N500 and N1000 banknotes remain legal tender alongside the redesigned banknotes till December 31, 2023.
“Consequently, all concerned are directed to conform accordingly,” the statement read.
The highest court of the land had on March 3 ordered that old N200, N500 and N1000 notes remain valid till December 31, 2023.
This was after 16 states of the federation instituted a suit to challenge the legality or otherwise of the introduction of the policy.
The 16 states led by Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara had prayed the apex court to void and set aside the policy on the ground that it is inflicting hardships on innocent Nigerians.
The Supreme Court subsequently ruled that President Muhammadu Buhari’s disobedience of its February 8 order is a sign of dictatorship, adding that the President breached the Constitution of the Federation in the way he issued directives for the re-designing of the Naira by the CBN.
After the March 3 judgement by the Supreme Court, the Presidency, CBN and the AGF kept mum, throwing many bank customers and Nigerians into confusion as the ruling of the apex court contradicted the directive of the President on February 16 that old N500 and N1000 notes are banned and old N200 notes remain valid till April 10.
However, the Presidency broke its silence on Monday, saying the President never told the CBN and the AGF not to obey the order of the apex court.
“The CBN has no reason not to comply with court orders on the excuse of waiting for directives from the President,” the Presidency noted.
According to the Presidency, the President is an absolute respecter of the rule of law and that the “negative campaign and personalised attacks against the President by the opposition and all manner of commentators is unfair and unjust.”
The CBN had extended the deadline for the swap of old N200, N500, and N1,000 from January 31 to February 10 following complaints by many Nigerians but the Supreme Court, after a suit filed by the states, held that the Federal Government, the CBN, commercial banks must not continue with the February 10 deadline pending the determination of a notice in respect of the issue.
However, the President, in a national broadcast on February 16, directed the apex bank to release old N200 notes into circulation to co-exist with new N200, N500 and N1,000 banknotes for 60 days — by April 10, 2023. He also said old N500 and N1,000 banknotes cease to be legal tender in Nigeria.
There has been a flurry of reactions and stark criticisms against the President’s directive including from governors of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Governors Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna), Abubakar Badaru (Jigawa), Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), Umar Ganduje (Kano); Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo; and many stalwarts of the ruling APC have openly censured and faulted the President’s directive, arguing that it has no grounds because the case is before the apex court.
Leading Senior Advocates of Nigeria like Femi Falana and Mike Ozekhome have equally faulted the President’s move, saying he cannot overrule the apex court of the land.
CBN Asked Banks To Receive Old Naira Notes – Soludo
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has asked commercial banks to dispense and accept old naira notes as deposits, according to Anambra State Governor Charles Soludo.
Soludo, a former CBN governor, made this known in a statement he posted on his social media handles.
He explained that the Governor of CBN, Godwin Emefiele gave the directive at a Banker’s Committee meeting on Sunday.
He added that Emefiele personally confirmed the directive to him.
According to him, residents should report banks refusing to accept the old notes.
“Commercial banks have been directed by the Central Bank to dispense old currency notes and also to receive the same deposits from customers. Tellers at commercial banks are to generate the codes for deposits, and there is no limit to the number of times an individual or company can make deposits.”
“The Governor of the CBN gave the directive at a Bankers’ Committee meeting held on Sunday, 12th March 2023. The Governor, Dr Godwin Emefiele, personally confirmed the above to me during a phone conversation on Sunday night. Residents of Anambra are therefore advised to freely accept and transact their businesses with the old currency notes (N200, N500; and N1,000) and the new notes”, the statement added.
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