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EFCC intensifies search for sacked bank boss

Source: Thisdayonline.com

Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has intensified search for the former Managing Director of Intercontinental Bank Plc, Mr. Erastus Akingbola following a tip-off that the sacked bank chief who has since been declared wanted by the anti-graft commission has sneaked back into the country.

Also, in continuation of its debt recovery drive, the EFCC has resolved to effect the arrest of some bank debtors who according to the commission, “have not performed satisfactorily” with their repayment agreement. Those in this category, EFCC officials say, would be picked up any time this week by members of its task force.

THISDAY gathered that the EFCC had been put on alert since Tuesday when Akingbola allegedly returned to the country through an “unconventional route”. The former bank chief, it was learnt, believes security operatives would only direct its search team to the South-west geo-political zone while he has moved to another part of the country.

Officials of the commission say operatives have been deployed across the different parts of the country in search of Akingbola.

EFCC officials say their monitoring team has it on good authority that Akingbola is in the country, but that they are not certain where he is hiding. EFCC claims to understand the tricks Akingbola is playing by opting to stay in other parts of the country, but that such tricks cannot beat the security system.

“He can only delay for a while; he would be picked up eventually and very soon. We know he is in the country. He came in last Tuesday and chose not to stay in the South-west zone. But that has nothing to do with the fact that he is in Nigeria and we are certain he is here. I can assure you he'll be picked up soon. Our men are everywhere and we have intensified our search mechanism. So, he would be our guest soon,” an official of the commission told THISDAY.

On the move to clamp down on a new set of debtors, EFCC officials said the commission is not comfortable with the attitude of some of the debtors who are said to be paying paltry sum from the huge amount of money owed the five banks affected in the on-going reform by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). EFCC believes some of the debtors appear not to understand the gravity of their offences and are laidback in the repayment of their debts.

“The truth is that they have not performed satisfactorily in the repayment schedule. How do you reconcile people owing hundreds of millions paying peanuts and are yet not making the kind of effort required of them to tidy up whatever is left of their debts. But this week, we will swoop on them and make them understand that we mean business. We have a host of them and we will not hold back,” an EFFC source said.

The affected banks are Intercontinental Bank, Union Bank, Finbank, Afribank and Oceanic Bank.

Meanwhile, THISDAY has also gathered that the duo of Alhaji Alao Arisekola, a businessman and Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim, Chief Executive of Global Fleet Industries Ltd., who were reportedly turned back at the airport from leaving the country last week have been desperately seeking clearance from EFCC chairman, Mrs. Farida Waziri. But Farida, sources say has tactically turned them down.

Arisekola and Ibrahim had, according to reports, planned to leave the country last week against the backdrop of the fact that they had paid part of the money owed some of the banks, but they were turned back at the airport by security agents who already had their names among those on the watch-list.

Reports have it that the new travel advisory was initiated as “a measure to prevent some of the debtors from escaping with excuses except they are cleared by the concerned authorities.”

Although, Ibrahim's family had reportedly left for the United Kingdom on Wednesday last week without him, he however told a national daily in a telephone interview that it was not a ban targeted at him but a general advisory that offered a window of ease for those who seek clearance from their banks. “It's not just me. The CBN asked all the people whose names were published by the CBN not to travel. The instruction is that if you want to travel, you have to obtain clearance from your bank,” he said.

But the EFCC is said to have declined granting anybody clearance to travel, especially when the debtors are believed not to have performed satisfactorily in repaying their debts. “Yes, some of them have been seeking clearance, but nobody is going to grant that with what is presently on ground. Except there is an improvement in the debt repayment, none of them (debtors) will leave the country,” an official said.