The Board of Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI) today announced the decision of Kolapo Lawson to stand aside as its Chairman, amidst allegations yet to be cleared by regulatory bodies.
He will retire from the Board on December 31, 2013 but has been asked to hand over to André Siaka as interim Chairman, with immediate effect.
Commenting on his decision, Mr. Lawson said the last few months had seen huge pressure on the organisation and on him personally, in the media.
Mr. Lawson is stepping down amidst allegations of fraud that are being investigated by Nigeria’s capital markets regulator.
“The last few months have seen huge pressure on the organization and on me personally, in the media. “These have culminated in allegations, which are untrue, made to the Nigerian SEC on issues of corporate governance” Mr. Lawson said.
Nigeria’s Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating Ecobank after, Laurence do Rego, the bank’s risk and finance executive director, told the regulator in August that Mr. Lawson and Chief Executive Officer, Thierry Tanoh, planned to sell assets below market value. Ms. Do Rego also said she had been pressured to write off debts owed by a business controlled by Mr. Lawson and manipulate the bank’s results last year.
The outgoing Chairman, who denies any misconduct, said he desires to take the necessary steps to bring the ongoing situation to an end. “I am very conscious of the uncertainty that current media speculation has cast over the institution. I therefore wish to take the necessary steps to bring this to an end” he said.
“During this time, I led constructive discussions on the need for independent review of these allegations. The board has now taken the necessary decisions to appoint independent parties who, I am confident, will investigate these allegations and review our corporate governance with the utmost professionalism” he said, in a statement announcing his decision.
“In order to give total credibility to these reviews, I have decided it would not be appropriate for me to be the person leading this process. The Board has assured me of its commitment to seeing these investigations through and I will continue to monitor this as an interested party”.
Mr. Lawson said as the head of such a respected global institution, he must act when there is even the slightest perception that the interests of that institution might be at risk. “I therefore step aside as Chairman of Ecobank Transnational,” he said.
Mr. Tanoh also reportedly denied any allegation of wrongdoing last month. However, investigations reveal the bank said he will give up a $1.14 million bonus for 2012 as it appointed external advisers to review corporate governance.
Mr. Lawson, Ecobank chairman since 2009, is also chairman of Acorn Petroleum Plc and Agbara Estates Ltd., according to the bank’s 2012 annual report.
The report also reveals he has been an Ecobank’s non-executive director since 1993, and also chief executive officer of a diversified industrial and trading group with operations in the U.K. and West Africa.
Speaking on behalf of the Board, Mr. Siaka said Mr. Lawson has played a major part in shaping the organisation to its recorded success.
“His family is inseparable from Ecobank and Kolapo’s contribution to Ecobank is second to none: over twenty years, as a director of Ecobank Nigeria, of Ecobank Togo and of ETI, he has made a truly outstanding contribution to this great pan-African company. He has our very sincere thanks for all of his hard work and commitment, his leadership and his good company,” he said.
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