Why Lamido Sanusi was after me — Cecilia Ibru

Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido
Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido [Photo Credit: Channels TV]

Cecilia Ibru, the former CEO of defunct Oceanic Bank, has accused Lamido Sanusi of withdrawing her personal driver and security shortly after she was ousted from office.

Mrs Ibru, 73, was fired from her family-owned Oceanic Bank after regulators discovered widespread manipulation of books. At least four other banks were accused of similar practices and their heads removed in the 2009 investigation by the Central Bank of Nigeria.

Mr Sanusi, the Emir of Kano, was the CBN governor at the time.

Mrs Ibru later pleaded guilty to charges of financial fraud and mismanagement, and was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment in October 2010.

The court also asked her to return billions in stolen funds and confiscated several properties traced to her in Nigeria and abroad.

She had remained largely underground since she served out her term, until recently when she granted an interview to the Punch.

Mrs Ibru said she pleaded guilty not because she was actually involved in any wrongdoing, but because the charges were taking a toll on her family and she had to make personal sacrifices.

”You see, when they offered me plea bargain as the way out, I was tired of the whole thing, many people said I shouldn’t take it. My husband was sick and I didn’t want to be sick too. So, I decided to do what I had to do so I could be able to function. That was it,” she said.

”Pleading that you are guilty when you know that you are not. For me, they just wanted the banks. An envious fight does not end, but that is a big story that I would prefer to write about later.”

She said she learnt rather early that Mr Sanusi was only interested in taking over Oceanic and a few other banks in a manner that was more vindictive than proactive — assuming there were any financial crimes to mitigate in the first place.

Shortly after she was removed from office, Mrs Ibru said her driver and security were removed on Mr Sanusi’s ‘order’, thereby exposing her to security threats.

“I was a popular personality and I could not go around without some form of protection,” she told the Punch. It was unclear when the interview was recorded, but the paper published it in its Saturday edition.

Mrs Ibru said a friend intervened at the time, and funded her chauffeur and security bill to the tune of N1 million per month.

She said the friend, whom she described as a Muslim but did not name, covered the charges until she left for England several months later for medical care. Her health had deteriorated shortly after she was arraigned for fraud by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Mrs Ibru also reflected on her life and family in the interview, but said she was most grateful to be running an eponymous private university she founded with her late husband, Michael.

Mr Sanusi implemented a vast restructuring of some banks during his tenure. Several banks were identified as being run by rogue executives and mergers and acquisitions were widespread.

The former CBN governor defended his action as necessary to save consumer deposits, and most importantly to prevent the country from financial meltdown.

He was removed from office in February 2014, three months before the expiration of his five-year tenure, by President Goodluck Jonathan.

A few months earlier, he had alleged a theft of about $20 billion at the state-owned oil firm, NNPC, a claim that embarrassed Mr Jonathan’s government.

The Emir of Kano has been in the news lately after the state adopted a new law which significantly reduce his influence as a foremost tradition ruler.

State lawmakers have also accused him of financial mismanagement.

CBN job

Mrs Ibru said she was victimised because the former CBN governor thought she wanted his position at the top bank.

Mrs Ibru said although she was contacted for the job, she declined because she had made plans to retire the following year to take care of her ailing husband.

According to her, after Mr Sanusi’s appointment, ”I congratulated him. He even told me at that time they had not given him a letter and I told him not to worry that it would come. She explained.

”He (Sanusi) thought I wanted his job but I didn’t. I was offered the position, but I said no. My husband was sick and I needed to be with him. That was the reason, I was planning to retire in March of the following year to go and stay with my husband.”

No money, no friend

Mrs Ibru said many businesses Oceanic Bank helped in the past when she was in office did not come to her aid during her travails.

”People that I thought would come and help me did not do so. However, God raised other people to help me,” she said.

”Back then when I was in office, if I was at home, you wouldn’t find a parking space in my compound; it was always filled with cars and people who wanted one favour or the other from the bank. But after that episode, everywhere became empty.”

She said many of the top businessmen she helped no longer get in touch. “Tthough they don’t call me; whether there is nothing to discuss, I call them when I want to,” she said.

”I genuinely wanted to help people grow their businesses and a lot of people and businesses were empowered. We floated Econet, Oando, we built MMA2, Ibadan Expressway, we put guarantee down to build toll gate and the project at the Bar Beach.

”Look at Dangote at Obajana, we did (funded) it, and it was after we had finished that we began to sell the credit to other banks; the same with Econet, MMA2 and others.

”I enjoyed it all because we created real and sustainable value because those businesses are still there till today. Looking at individuals that also benefited from the bank, we assisted people like Dapo Abiodun, Jimoh Ibrahim, (Aliko) Dangote, etc.”

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