3 December 2012

Nigeria: Tribunal Indicts Ebong, Ex-Union Bank Directors of Manipulating Bank's Shares

The Investments and Securities Tribunal (IST) in Lagos has indicted the former Managing Director of Union Bank of Nigeria Plc, Mr. Bartholomew Ebong, and other Executive Directors of the bank for manipulating the shares of the bank during their tenure between 2006 and 2008.

The Executive Directors are Samuel Idowu Ayininuola, Austen Obigwe, Mr. Lanre Idowu and Mrs. Emily Odinkanekwu.

Ebong and the directors, were sacked by the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Sanusi Lamido Sanusi in the wake of the banking reforms in 2009.

Delivering judgment in the suit filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) against the bank and 20 others, last week, a copy which was obtained by THISDAY, the tribunal held that the respondents violated the provisions of the Investments and Securities Act (ISA), 2007 and the Rules and Regulations by undermining the fair and orderly conduct of the securities market as well as breached the integrity of the securities market.

It held that Ebong and his executive directors, participated in a scheme that enabled the bank to either directly or indirectly fund the purchase of its own shares.

The tribunal also held that the respondents engaged in a device for the purpose of creating a misleading appearance of active trading on Union Bank Plc's shares thereby violating the provisions of the Investments and Securities Act.

The tribunal therefore directed SEC to appoint KPMG to carry out an inquiry to determine the extent of losses suffered by investors in the securities market as a result of the unlawful activities of the respondents.

It also directed the firm to carry out an inquiry with a view to ascertaining the quantum of any benefit or advantage received or receivable by the respondents as a result of their unlawful activities.

The tribunal submitted that any amount so lost, or the benefit received by the respondents, when recovered should be deposited by the commission into an escrow account to be refunded to the affected investors.

It stated that if the affected investors could not be ascertained, then the monies should be deposited by the commission into the Investors' Protection Fund.

Recalled that Ebong and the directors were among the managing directors and directors of eight commercial banks sacked by Sanusi in 2009.

While the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) promptly arrested the Union Bank executives, it consequently charged and arraigned them for criminal offences at the Federal High Court in Lagos, which is still ongoing till date.

On its part, SEC, claiming that it has the duty to protect the integrity of the securities market against all forms of abuses, dragged the respondents before IST for violating the provisions of the ISA.

In the suit which was filed on its behalf by the law firm of Aluko & Oyebode, SEC added that it was statutorily required to do all such acts and exercise all such powers that were necessary and expedient to give full effect and ensure compliance with the provisions of the ISA No 29, 2009.

The applicant further claimed that it had the powers of protecting the integrity of the securities market to seek judicial orders to freeze the assets including the bank accounts of persons whose assets were derived from the violation of the ISA No 29, 2007.

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