The Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) officials on Tuesday stormed Fidelity Bank’s head office in Lagos over $115 million cash allegedly laundered from the bank in the build up to the 2015 general elections.
Nnamdi Okonkwo, the former Managing Director of the bank, last week, was arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for allegedly helping former Petroleum Minister, Diezani Allison-Madueke to launder the $115 million.
He has been replaced temporarily by the board of directors with Alhaji Mohammed Lawal Balarabe, Executive Director, North, on acting capacity with immediate effect subject to regulatory approval.
The money was alleged to have been used to bribe officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The bank has maintained that the transactions in question now being traced to the former minister were duly reported to the appropriate regulatory agencies including the CBN as required by law but sources said this was not true.
It was gathered that the CBN examiners were in the bank on Tuesday to verify the authenticity of its management’s claim that the transactions were duly reported and to gather some facts on the alleged transaction.
Fidelity Bank’s Head of Corporate Communications, Mr Charles Odibo, confirmed the presence of CBN officials in the bank but said they were there for normal routine examination.
“It is not unusual that CBN officials were here. It is a normal routine bank examination. There is nothing bad at that”, Odibo said.
Apparently reacting to the development in the bank, shareholders dumped its shares as share price went down by 70 kobo to N1.10 kobo between last week Friday and Tuesday but Boniface Okezie, chairman, Progressive Shareholders Association of Nigeria, attributed the fall to the inability of the bank to pay bonus.
He said government is free to prosecute any bank. However, he warned that banks or companies in the capital market should not be victimised for playing their roles in the nation’s economic development.
“Government is bound to take money from any bank or anybody that colluded with politicians to loot public treasury but they must be properly investigated and tried before conviction”, he noted.
CBN’s spokesman, Mr. Isaac Okorafor, did not respond to text messages sent to his phone on the issue after several calls made to him were not answered.
The Head of Public Communications to Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), Mr Hardi Birchi, said their staff were not in the bank on Tuesday but confirmed that the corporation was monitoring developments in the bank.