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Wednesday, 25 September 2013
Oceanic Bank shareholders ask court to return forfeited assets
SHAREHOLDERS of the defunct Oceanic Bank Plc Tuesday prayed a Federal High Court, Lagos, to order the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) to return the N191 billion worth of assets forfeited by the bank’s former chief executive, Mrs. Cecelia Ibru, insisting that the assets belong to the bank.
Ibru forfeited the assets as part of her plea bargain arrangement with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) after her conviction. Chairman of the Association of Oceanic Bank Shareholders, Boniface Okezie, and Adewale Basirat Abolanle are plaintiffs in the suit while AMCON, CBN, EFCC, Federal Attorney General and Ibru are the first to fifth defendants respectively.
The plaintiffs said they are representing all the aggrieved shareholders of the bank in the suit and prayed for an order declaring that Ibru was liable to make good to them monies and assets improperly “paid out or converted or otherwise improperly acquired from Oceanic Bank before its merger with Ecobank, arising from her self-acknowledged acts of breach of her fiduciary duty to them, as shareholders, and the bank.
They also prayed for an order vesting them with powers to recover from Ibru and other defendants by way of tracing the assets forfeited by Ibru, as well as to transfer control of the said assets to them through their solicitor, Indemnity Partners.
In addition, the plaintiffs want an order setting aside the part of the plea bargain and settlement agreement between Ibru and EFCC in the proceedings before Justice Dan Abutu, where parties agreed that the disputed assets should be forfeited to the Federal Government.
Through their counsel, Chuks Nwachuku, the shareholders listed four grounds for the originating summons and argued that the said plea bargain deal constituted an admission by the defendants that the assets forfeited by Ibru represented proceeds of her breach of the fiduciary duty, which she owed the bank and its shareholders.
Secondly, they averred that the settlement part of the agreement where parties agreed that the assets should be forfeited to the Federal Government amounted to breach of the bank’s fundamental right and that of its shareholders, and also a breach of the right to freedom of property guaranteed under Section 44 of the Constitution.
They further contended that the plea bargain was an unlawful agreement to steal and receive the goods of the bank knowing it to have been stolen, and ought to be set aside.
The plaintiffs further stated that Justice Abutu’s order was procured by unlawful agreement, collaboration and conspiracy of the defendants to deprive the bank of the said N191 billion worth of assets.