She’s sleek and a fighter; tale of a rogue Nigerian billionaire
NATION.CO.KE - Nigeria’s Cecilia Ibru would be among the richest Africans with her net worth of US$1.2bn, but for the graft charges.
NAIROBI - Nigeria’s Cecilia Ibru would be among the top ten richest Africans at a staggering net worth of US$1.2 billion, and among the wealthiest 100 women in the world. But she is instead, facing corruption allegations in a case involving several bank heads that shook Nigeria’s economy to the core after her under-the-table deals were exposed.
Dubbed the “First Lady” of Nigeria’s banking industry, Ibru was so good at her work that the Federal Government of Nigeria honoured her with the award of Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR).
But a banking scandal landed her in the cells. She is wanted by Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on money laundering charges amounting to a staggering 25.4 billion Naira ($203m).
Money is not an issue for Mrs Ibru if media reports are anything to go by. According to Nigerian media, by the time she was arrested she had two HS 125-800 jets and had ordered two more.
She is currently out on bail after being arrested together with other bankers and, unsurprisingly, met the required stiff bond conditions.
While releasing them on bond, Justice Dan Abutu ruled that each must present a surety in the sum of N100million.
Anti-corruption police lodged criminal charges against executives from five banks rescued in a 400bn Naira ($2.6bn; £1.6bn) government bail-out.
Among the charges filed against Ibru is that she paid Oye $110 million and another N6 billion in the name of Waves Nigeria Limited.
The bank also paid a 10-year rent of $22million to Waves Nig Ltd while the construction of its corporate headquarters was on-going. In 2006, the company was owned by her kin, a current executive director of one of the branches of Oceanic Bank.
Waves Nigeria was contracted to build headquarters for Oceanic Bank. But the building in Victoria Island, Lagos, because it belongs to Waves, can only be rented by the bank since the property is Ibru’s.
Discovering that US$10 million out of the $110 million released for the project was paid into the personal account of Ibru was also incriminating.
According to the Sunday Times, Mrs Ibru allegedly set up a financial institution called Fine Mortgage Home (FMH) Ltd . It was headed by her husband’s former personal assistant, Nanashetu Bedell. FMH Ltd was actually the precursor to Oceanic Bank Plc. When eventually the transformation took place, Nana Bedell allegedly became a front of sorts for several business transactions.
“A cursory glance at the CBN list of debtors showed that one Priscilla Bedell is one of the directors of LV Development Company Limited owing Oceanic Bank N2.7 billion, and further down that same list is Nanashetu Abdulai whose company, Circular Global International Ltd, owes N12.9. Both loans are non-performing according to the nation’s apex bank,” reported the Sunday Times.
“Nanashetu Abdulai and Priscilla Bedell are [one and] the same person and that is about N16 billion in her hands alone. She is known by many names,” Sunday Sun learnt from the EFCC.
Mrs Ibru is also reported to have granted approval for loans way beyond her limits.
Celebrated and respected
Ibru was formerly a celebrated and respected banker. As the matriarch of the Ibru dynasty, she was the first female leader to raise her bank’s equity to N25bn (approximately $203m), the first female to head the fifth largest bank and the ninth largest company quoted on the Nigerian Stock Exchange.
She was the first female CEO of a Western Union Agency in West Africa to meet the performance and turnover targets of Western Union, and in 2000, was the first female CEO to post over N1bn profit ($8.143m) in a financial statement. In April 2007, Oceanic Bank International came in at number 110 in African Business’ Top 200 African Companies rankings, 12th in the West African sub-region and 16th in sub-Saharan Africa.
Born on March 22, 1946, Cecilia Ibru once attributed her success to “a mindset that is dependent on God’s inspiration and the desire to actualise".
She holds a Bachelor of Science (BSc) Degree in Sociology from London University which she attained in 1971, a Master of Philosophy from North East London University and a Certificate of Eligibility from the Council of Legal Education in London.
She started her career at the IBRU Organisation in 1978 where she held various positions. In 1990, she joined Oceanic Bank as General Manager (Administration and Personnel), later becoming Executive Director (Finance and Administration). She then became Oceanic Bank’s Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer in 1997.
She was also the Chairperson, Sub-committee of the Bankers’ Committee on Small and Medium Investment Equity Scheme (SMIEIS); Member of Presidential Consultative Committee on SMIEIS and World Economic Forum.
Ibru is a fellow of both the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria and Nigeria Institute of Management.
In court papers seen by Nigeria’s ThisDay, Ibru wants her removal from office declared null and void because she was not accorded a fair hearing as provided for in the Constitution.
In the suit filed by three senior advocates - Akin Olujinmi, Niyi Akintola and Wale Akoni - the former CEO wants, among other things, to determine whether the appointment of a new managing director and chief executive officer for the bank was valid.
She argued that the bank was founded by her family who remain the largest shareholder in the bank and has done much to develop it.