Sixteen former executives of five distressed banks in Nigeria pleaded not guilty late Monday to charges of mismanagement and running their institutions into bankruptcy.
Nigeria's anti-corruption agency – the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) – brought the charges against the bank chiefs for incurring about 18 billion dollars worth of bad loans.
EFCC spokesman Femi Babafemi said the suspects were also charged with giving loans to themselves without adequate security to guarantee such loans.
"One, they managed badly depositors' funds and gave out loans in a manner contrary to what obtains in the normal banking system. Besides that, they were also accused of cooking books…apart from that, they were also accused of giving loans to themselves," he said.
Babafemi said with the arrest and prosecution of those once considered the untouchables in society, the EFCC under Farida Waziri is sending a message to all Nigerians that the agency is determined to eradicate corruption.
"With this step in the financial sector, the message would have gone round that people just have to do things according to laid down rules and regulations," Babafemi said.
Babafemi said sacked Intercontinental Bank executive Erastus Akingbola is on the run.
He said the EFCC is still interested in soliciting the services of the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol).
"From the start of the investigation we couldn't get two of the former bank MDs (managing directors) to honor of invitation. And all efforts to locate them in their known addresses also proved abortive. At that time the commission decided to declare them wanted," he said.
Babafemi said the accused bank executives are expected back in court this Friday.
"They applied for their bail, and the judge deferred ruling on that until Friday. He also ordered that they be remanded in prison custody as well as EFCC facility," Babafemi said.
He said the EFCC is fighting a two-edged battle, one against the sacked bank executives and the other against the bad debtors.
Babafemi said the EFCC has made some progress in recovering some of the money from the debtors.