Diezani: Fidelity bank sacks MD, appoints Balarabe

*Diezani Alison Madueke, Nigeria's embattled former minister of petroleum resources.

*Diezani Alison Madueke, Nigeria’s embattled former minister of petroleum resources.

…As EFCC arrests oil tycoon over allegations of corruption

Oscarline Onwuemenyi

04 May 2016, Sweetcrude, Houston, Texas – Fidelity Bank Plc on Monday sacked its embattled Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Nnamdi Okonkwo, and appointed an Acting Managing Director, Alhaji Mohammed Lawal Balarabe in his place.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, had, last week, arrested Okonkwo and the bank’s Head of Operations, Mr. Martin Izuogbe, over allegations of receiving about $115 million from the former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, who is facing corruption allegations.

The bank’s Board of Directors which approved the appointment, said, “the development followed the absence of the substantive Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer.”

Balarabe, whose appointment is with immediate effect, was the Executive Director North.
The bank reassured all its stakeholders, which includes 400,000 shareholders and about 3.4 million customers, of its continued seamless services.

Fidelity Bank has come under scrutiny, following the arrest and detention of Okonkwo by the Economic and Financial Crimes’ Commission over $115 million he received from Diezani Alison-Madueke and three others, but failed to report it to the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU).

However, Fidelity Bank, in a statement issued by its management said the transactions were duly reported as required by the regulators and the Bank.

According to a statement from the bank, “Our attention has been drawn to reports in the media on investigations into transactions undertaken by the Bank in the normal course of business in 2015.

“The transactions are now the subject matter of investigations by the Economic & Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). We can confirm that the transactions were duly reported as required by the regulators and the Bank is cooperating fully with the authorities on the investigation.

“We assure our numerous stakeholders, including our customers that we are working assiduously towards a quick resolution of the issues.”

The monies were allegedly used to bribe Independent National Electoral Commission officials in the run-up to the 2015 Presidential elections.

Investigations reveal that Fidelity Bank has refunded N49.7m profit made from the $115m bribe money.

Meanwhile, in a continuation of the probe into some officials of the Peoples Democratic Party allegedly bribed some officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission before the 2015 presidential election, the EFCC has arrested an oil tycoon, Mr. Laitan Adesanya, for his alleged role in the $115m (N23bn) bribe funds.

Sources at the anti-graft agency revealed that Adesanya, who is the Chief Executive Officer of Lenoil Nigeria Limited, was arrested by the EFCC in Lagos on Friday.

Adesanya was alleged to have handed $1.85m to the bank based on the instruction of a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke.

Other companies, which allegedly handed over money to the bank MD, included Northern Belt Gas Company Limited ($60m); Auctus Integrated ($17.8m) owned by Tunde Ayeni; and Onajite Oloko`s Midwestern Oil and Gas ($9.5m).

Diezani was also alleged to have given the bank MD $26m in cash which was ultimately disbursed to officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission ahead of the 2015 presidential election as bribes.

A reliable source at the EFCC said Adesanya was in the custody of the commission in Lagos and was being grilled as of Friday.

He said, “We are asking him about the $1.85m he dropped and what purpose it was supposed to serve.”

According to the United Kingdom Financial Times, Adesanya is an international oil businessman, who has been in the business for decades.
The newspaper states that Adesanya made huge profits during the military administrations of the 1980s and 1990s.

Also, sources within the EFCC have denied claims by Fidelity Bank Plc that it reported all its financial dealings to the appropriate authorities

The bank had, in a statement last week, stated that “transactions were duly reported as required
by the regulators and the bank is cooperating fully with the authorities on the investigation.”

But an EFCC source said the $26m, which the MD allegedly collected directly from Diezani, was neither reported to the Central Bank of Nigeria nor the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, which is domiciled in the EFCC.

The source added, “The $26m cash that was collected from Diezani was not deposited into any account. So, how could they say they reported it? They didn’t report anything because the money was given to the bank for safekeeping and there was no intention for it to be used to open an account.

“If it was put in the system, then, there must be records. Who brought the money? They don’t know. They were supposed to have reported the transaction to the CBN and NFIU, which is domiciled in the EFCC but there is no such report.

“The money was meant for distribution to INEC officials. When the bank MD was collecting $26m cash from a serving minister, why didn’t he ask her where she got the money from.”

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