ENUGU, Nigeria (VOICE OF NAIJA)- The Office of the Special Investigator at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), has declined Chairman Babatunde Lemo’s plea to reschedule a meeting set for 28 December, 2023.
The investigator, Jim Obazee, cautioned that failure to attend the meeting might lead to the forfeiture of shareholding and interests in Titan Trust Bank and Union Bank Nigeria Plc for Lemo and other major shareholders.
In a letter dated 27 December, 2023, signed by Eloho Okpoziakpo, Deputy Commissioner of Police and Head of Operations, the investigator responded to Lemo’s lawyer’s request for a shift to 7 January. The letter emphasized that non-attendance could result in serious consequences.
Lemo, the former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, was summoned in connection with Titan Trust Bank’s acquisition of Union Bank of Nigeria Plc.
The investigation, led by Obazee, alleges the use of proxies by a former CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, in acquiring both banks with ill-gotten wealth.
Lemo, through his lawyer Gbolahan Elias, requested the meeting’s rescheduling, citing his absence from Nigeria. The investigator rejected the request, highlighting Lemo’s prior agreement to attend the 28 December meeting.
The letter, which was signed by Elias read in part, “Unfortunately, both Mr Tunde Lemo and the two largest ultimate investors in the banks (Mr. Cornelius Vink; Mr. Rahul Savara) are away from Nigeria at the moment for family and other reasons.
“That is typically so at this time of the year. They are not due to be in Nigeria before the second week in January 2024. They will honour the invitations fully soon after they come in.
“With regard to the information requested, which we submitted earlier on 1st September 2023 at the DSS HQ as evidenced in Annex 1 therewith, we will resubmit the information tomorrow morning for your kind review. The individual invitees and the Banks re-iterate their willingness and readiness to co-operate with your good selves in your important work.”
The investigator’s letter said, “This excuse given by your good selves through your lawyers is unacceptable and regarded as obstruction of the Special Investigator in the course of his duties.
“Reference is made to the law firm of G.ELIAS letter dated 27th December 2023 in response to the Special Investigator’s invitation to you via a letter with reference number CR:3000/TSI/ABJ/VOL.1/69 dated 24th December 2023.
“I am directed to inform you that the Special Investigator is fully aware that you are in the United Kingdom to celebrate your birthday. This you made aware to the Special Investigator when you agreed to attend a meeting to be scheduled for 28th December 2023 and also proposed that Mr Cornelius Vink and Rahul Savara be given seven days to prove their purported ownership of Titan Trust Bank and Union Bank of Nigeria or forfeit the shares to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“We want to put it on record that neither you (Babatunde Lemo) nor Cornelius Vink nor Rahul Savara ever submitted any of these requested documents to the investigating team at the Department of State Service or anywhere else before now.
“In fact, Cornelius Vink and Rahul Savara have never presented themselves to the Special Investigator since 28th August 2023 when they were first invited for interview.’
The Special Investigator insisted that neither Lemo nor other major shareholders had submitted requested documents before, and documents submitted through proxies would not be accepted.
The meeting is scheduled for December 28, with potential consequences, including share forfeiture, if attendees fail to appear.
Jim Obazee submitted his final report on the special investigation to the Presidency on December 20, revealing alleged misconduct in the acquisition of Union Bank and Keystone Bank.
The reports claim that former CBN governor Godwin Emefiele used proxies for these acquisitions without evidence of payment.
The letter added, ‘’Consequently, I am to further inform you that your invitation to appear before the Special Investigator on 28th December 2023 by 2pm prompt in respect of the matter under investigation and for which you had earlier made statement stands.
“Kindly note that the conditions on paragraphs 6 to 8 in our earlier letter to you with reference number CR:3000/TSI/ABJ/VOL. 1/69 dated 24th December 2023 remain effective and shall be triggered if you or Messrs Vink and Savara fail to attend the meeting as scheduled.”