Atiku Replies FG, Says Allegation Of Corruption Is ‘Cock And Bull Story’

 

 

The Presidential Candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has said that the allegations regarding his involvement in the collapse of Bank PHB, is all ‘Cock And Bull Story’. 

This retort is as contained in a statement signed by Phrank Shaibu, the special adviser on public communication to Atiku Abubakar.

In the communique, the former Vice President vehemently dismissed all allegations by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed that he has a case to answer over the collapse of Platinum Habib Bank (Bank PHB).

Atiku also spoke about his visit to the United States, saying, “Federal Government should bury its head in shame having failed to stop me from travelling to the US”.

He said it was shameful that the governing APC took it upon itself to call on the authorities of another country not to grant a private citizen entry visa, which ordinarily should not be its business.

Alhaji Lai Mohammed had at the hint of the US granting Atiku visa last year, cautioned the Americans not to contemplate the gesture as it might give the impression that the foreign power is supportive of the opposition party’s candidate.

READ ALSO: Atiku Has Questions To Answer On Collapse Of Bank PHB – Lai Mohammed

But Atiku who arrived in the US on Thursday said the APC was jittery knowing that “its government has failed”, stressing that “Buhari’s days as president of Nigeria were numbered, which explains why members of the ruling party have been running from pillar to post”.

 

He challenged the Federal Government to either prove his alleged corrupt activities or forever remain quiet.

“It is disgusting to continue to spin allegations of corruption against me by people who have failed to come forward with a single shred of evidence of my misconduct while in office. Isn’t it a shame that the ruling party whose National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole only yesterday gave official confirmation to the general belief that, even if Lawrence Anini becomes an APC member today, Buhari will forgive and consecrate him can turn around to accuse me of corruption today?

“They just suddenly woke up to the reality that, their lies about Atiku being corrupt can no longer hold? I challenge the federal government to come up with evidence that I benefitted from N156 million slush funds through Claremont Management Services Account on 13th January 2009 as well as the collapse of Bank PHB as they have alleged. It is instructive to note that, the same BankPHB is now Keystone bank Which was said to have been acquired Buhari’s cronies through AMCON last year.”Atiku said.

Atiku said it was a “mark of the idleness of the folks in charge of the APC that they resorted to lobbying the US to deny him a visa when they should be busy strategizing on how to save their party from an imminent defeat.

“I am shocked that the minders of the governing APC can be lobbying the US to deny me a visa when no other party is in a bigger mess than the APC following the confusion arising from its unprecedented record of non-performance,” the statement said.

The statement said three and a half years into the Buhari administration, no appreciable progress has been made in any sector, whether in the area of the economy, infrastructure, health, education, security or employment.

“The prevailing situation in the country is due to the lack of initiative of the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) , which has in turn robbed the party of the wisdom needed to tackle the massive unemployment level and mindless violence, including kidnapping, armed robbery, killings by herdsmen that are ravaging the country,” Atiku claimed.

He said Nigerians are sick and tired of hearing the same promises of job creation and employment generation without anything to show.

”Never in the history of Nigeria have the people being subjected to the kind of unemployment level that the country is now witnessing under the All Progressives Congress (APC). It is indeed a double tragedy that a government that cannot even provide for the people is also unable to ensure their security. Having failed woefully, it is time for the Buhari led administration and APC governments at all levels to be kicked out through the forthcoming general elections,” Atiku said.

 

N27.5 Bn Fraud: Court Stops Atuche’s Bid to Stall Trial

 Francis_AtucheJustice Lateefa Okunnu of a Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja, today stopped further attempts by a former Managing Director of  Bank PHB, Mr. Francis Atuche to delay trial in a N27.5Billion suit instituted against him and two other defendants by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

At the resumed trial of the case on Wednesday,  EFCC counsel, Kemi Pinheiro (SAN) insisted that the defence team,  led by Tayo Oyetibo (SAN) call Atuche or his wife Elizabeth, to the witness box, following their failure to produce a witness  who, according to them, was meant to come in from Abuja, but could not make it due to bad weather.

“I recall the defence telling this court that they will close their case on Tuesday, and today (Wednesday),  a witness is absent again. My Lord, apart from the witness that is not present in court, the defence said the defendants will give evidence in this case and the defendants are in court and no reason has been given why the first and second  defendants cannot testify. I implore my Lord,  to order the defence to call the defendants to give their evidence in order not to waste the time of the court”. Oyetibo countered that saying  “the evidence of the witness need to go before those of the defendants.”

After listening to both arguments, Justice Okuunu  ruled that “a good reason must be given for adjournments and the court is bound to act judicially and judiciously. I have also seen that there has been rainfall but not a storm. I do not believe that any cogent and tenable reason has been given for the absence of the witness, so this court is being asked to wait at the leisure of the witness. I urge the defence to call the first or second defendant to the stand,  to give evidence. The court will therefore stand down this case to enable the defense confer with their client”.

At the resumed session, Oyetibo further argued that “I came into the case after Chief Idigbe (SAN) who was the defense counsel,  took ill and travelled abroad for treatment and I have not had access to the volumes of documents earlier tendered. I believe the first and second defendants should be accorded the opportunity to be led in evidence by Chief Idigbe, who was present when evidence was tendered against the first and second defendants. I pray the court to adjourn to the dates earlier fixed”.

Pinheiro immediately reminded the court that Oyetibo  came into the case more than a year ago, on February 11, 2013, which was enough time for him to be fully abreast of  the matter.
According to him, “the defense filed a colossal 475- page address on the no -case submission, and it was a full analysis of the case, attacking the prosecution’s evidences  and Oyetibo contributed in no small measure to that document. Against this background, I find his excuse untenable. But as a midway suggestion, let one of the defendants be called to the witness box and sworn-in before taking an adjournment”.

Justice Okuunu then ruled that, no tangible reason had been given for a second adjournment, so defence should call their witness and the court can call for an adjournment. Atuche was called into the witness box and was still giving an account of his biography when Justice Okuunu stopped him and adjourned the matter till July 7, 8 and 11, 2014.

Francis Atuche, Elizabeth Atuche and Ugo Anyanwu are standing trial on a 47-count charge for allegedly stealing N27.5 billion from Bank PHB while Atuche was the Managing Director of the bank.

AMCON Appoints Citigroup, Vetiva To Manage Sale Of Troubled Banks

The Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON), which holds non-performing assets of troubled banks, said it had named Citigroup and Africa-focused investment bank Vetiva Capital to manage the sale of its shares in one nationalised bank.

AMCON nationalised Afribank, Spring Bank and Bank PHB in 2011 when they failed to find new investors before a recapitalisation deadline. It then recapitalised them and changed their names to Mainstreet, Enterprise Bank and Keystone Bank, respectively.

AMCON Chief Executive Mustapha Chike-Obi said in an interview on Thursday it planned to sell 100 percent of Enterprise Bank through Citigroup and Vetiva but would organise the sale of the other two lenders at a later date.

He had previously said the advisers would solicit expressions of interest from prospective investors and decide on the best way to proceed.

AMCON said it was on track with its timeline to complete the sale of all three lenders by the third quarter of next year.

EFCC re-arraigns Francis Atuche and Charles Ojo

 

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has re-arraigned Francis Atuche and Charles Ojo both former managing directors of Bank PHB Plc and Spring Bank Plc respectively before the Federal High Court in Lagos.

This is the third time in three years.

They were arraigned before the court presided over by Justice Ofili Ajumogobia on a 45 count charge relating to mismanagement and misappropriation of shareholder’s funds through reckless grants of credit facilities without adequate security.

The two former bank chiefs however pleaded not guilty to all the counts.

The court then ordered that they should continue to enjoy the bail granted to them by the former court hearing the case, until January 15, 2013 when their new bail application is determined by the court.

The defendants were first docked before Justice Akinjide Ajakaiye by the anti-graft agency on October 28 on a 26-count charge of alleged granting a total of N78.384 billion non-secured credit facilities.

Mr Atuche is also currently facing three separate charges of alleged theft of Bank PHB funds running into several billions of Naira before two judges of the Lagos High Court siting in Ikeja.

At Wednesday’s proceedings, effort by the two defence counsel, Shamsuddeen Usman and Olumide Adefila to stop the arraignment was rejected by the court.

Usman had urged the court to stay further proceeding in the matter as his client is currently before the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal challenging the decision of Justice Ajakaiye (who is now retired) not to dismiss the charge against Atuche.

According to the lawyer, since the appeal has been entered and parties have joined issues, the trial court should not take any step that would render the decision of the upper court useless.

However, Justice Ajumogobia held that she cannot assume jurisdiction on the matter until the accused persons take their plea.

According to her “it is going to be an abomination for an accused not to be arraigned before a court and the court proceed to hear his application, it is only when an accused person is arraigned before a court that the court can then become a trial court”.

The judge therefore ordered that the charge be read to the two accused person.

The former bank MD who was also the former Chief Executive officer (CEO) of Bank PHB Plc was further alleged to have granted credit facilities in the total sum of N21.5 billion to the six companies which sum was above his approval limit as laid down by the regulations of Bank PHB Plc.

He was accused to have without prior approval of the CBN acquired share capital of Project Alpha United Kingdom, PHB Capital Trust Limited and Insurance PHB Limited in the total sum of N1. 380 billion thereby committing an offence contrary to Section 21(2) of BOFIA Cap B3, laws of Nigeria 2004.

 

EFCC accuses Atuche of embezzling N45 million to pay church tithes

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has accused a former managing director of  the defunct Bank PHB (now Keystone bank), Francis Atuche of using depositors’ funds to pay N45 million in church tithes.

Lead prosecution counsel, Kemi Pinheiro, on Wednesday made the accusation at the Lagos High Court, sitting in Ikeja, while leading in evidence a key witness, Solomon Abolaji Ogunsola, a former staff of PHB Mortgages Limited.

Mr Atuche allegedly paid the money from an account of PHB Mortgage Limited.

Mr Pinheiro presented documents in court, some of them e-mails sent as an order to release the sum of N35 million to St. Monica Catholic church, Ibusa, Delta State, and another sum of N10million to another St. Augustine Catholic Church.

Mr Ogunsola told the court that Mr Atuche sent the money to the two churches in Delta State because he hails from the state.

He also admitted knowing two companies: Claremount Nigeria Limited and Claremount Asset Management. He said that Claremount Nigeria Limited had a call account with his bank and the account was owned by Mr Atuche.

He explained that the only document on the call account’s file was a reference letter which bears Mr Atuche’s name. The document was admitted as exhibit.

In addition, various transactions carried out by Mr Atuche in his statements of account with Claremount Nigeria Limited and Claremount Asset Management Limited were read. Mr Atuche had denied having anything to do with the two companies.

Justice Lateefa Okunnu admitted the accounts as exhibits.

The EFCC counsel also led in evidence, one Andy Uzomor, another staff of PHB Mortgage Limited, who presented a 39-page document before the court as exhibit.

The presentation of the document was opposed by lead defence counsel, Anthony Idigbe, who claimed that some of the documents had to do with a N20million transaction between his law chambers and Mr Atuche.

Mr Idigbe urged the court not to admit the particular section as it will deny Mr Atuche a right to a counsel of his choice. According to him, if the document was admitted either himself or his client will have to go into the witness box, which might force his chamber out of the case.

But the EFCC lawyer insisted that Mr Idigbe’s objections lacked substance in law.

According to him, some of the documents pertained to an account that Mr Atuche had disowned. Besides, he referred to Section 38, sub-section 1 of the EFCC Establishment Act which grants the EFCC power to seek and receive information from anybody.

After listening to all their submissions, Justice Okunnu admitted the documents as exhibits and adjourned the case till 4 October 2012 for futher hearing.

 

 

Court admits more exhibits on Atuche vs EFCC case

A Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja has admitted as exhibits some documents from the investigations conducted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in the trial of the former Managing Director of Bank PHB (now Keystone Bank), Mr Francis Atuche, his wife, Elizabeth and a former Director of the bank, Ugo Anyanwu over financial impropriety.

The number of exhibits so far admitted now stands at 200.

The documents admitted includes a letter from Bank PHB dated 28th October, 2009 stating that they have no records for the opening of  accounts for certain companies, an internal memo of Bank PHB dated February 15, 2007 titled, approval limit for credit availment and a certified true copy of a letter of incorporation of a company, Petrosam Oil and gas.

At the resumed hearing of the matter before Justice Lateefa Okunnu, the prosecution, led by Kemi Pinheiro (SAN), continued with the evidence of his witness, one Davis Olom Nkpe, an operative of the EFCC, who works in the bank’s fraud investigative department.

The witness, who gave a detailed breakdown of the shares bought by some companies with credit allegedly made available by Bank PHB under Mr Atuche’s tenure at the bank, added that he did come across documents relating to the bank’s deferral policy on credit availment during investigations.

He explained that there are certain conditions attached to the deferral policy for credit availment as a duly completed credit availment form must be submitted before a customer can enjoy the policy.

He however noted that some companies like Extra oil, Petrosam Oil and gas, Trajec limited and Futureview Financial Services benefitted from the banks loans without having accounts with the bank and with no duly filled deferral forms.

Some new companies that were also alleged to have benefitted from Bank PHB shares with the bank’s fund were also mentioned to include Arabian Probity Management Limited, Clearmont management Company Limited, Commercial Trading and Services Limited, Pine Petrosam Limited, Consolidated Business Support Limited, Financial Company Limited, Noelle Investments Limited, APCO and Venture Resources Limited.

In his testimony, Mr Nkpe further stated that all the transactions were carried out by a Bank PHB staff, Obi Nwapa on the instructions of Mr Ugo Anyanwu, who was the Chief Financial Officer at the bank then.

When confronted during investigations however, Mr Anyanwu stated that he was acting on instructions from his boss, Mr Atuche.

The anti-graft operative told the court that no documents were tendered to however support the claim that he was acting on Mr Atuche’s instructions as the beneficial owner of the alleged shares.

The case continues on Wednesday with the cross examination of the witness.