Security & Fraud

Nigeria Central Bank Investigates Top Bankers

Three top banking executives could be in hot water after the Nigerian central bank reportedly launched an investigation against them in collaboration with its financial crimes agency, Reuters reported, citing unnamed officials and bankers.

The allegations are in connection to banking deals that may be part of illegal transactions conducted by top banking executives. This comes as part of a banking crackdown under the guidance of President Muhammadu Buhari, who ran on the premise that he would improve Nigeria's economic issues. The region is known for the stark contrast of its high amount of residents that live in poverty, despite the money that floods into the area as a result of its energy resources.

As for the investigation, the manner in which it was handled is already being criticized, particularly because the region has already been dealing with economic issues.

"It's a shock to confidence in the banking sector. They should have handled this investigation more discreetly rather than arresting CEOs in their offices," Bismark Rewane, CEO of Lagos-based consultancy Financial Derivatives, was quoted as telling Reuters. "I fear for the ramifications."

Unnamed sources also reported that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is investigating alleged illegal transactions tied to support of the former President Goodluck Jonathan in the recent election. There were claims of massive corruption during his tenure, but there are also claims that Buhari took extreme measures to oust his opponent.

This issue began last week after the EFCC received a court order to arrest Nnamdi Okonkwo, managing director of Nigeria's Fidelity Bank. Local media reports indicate he was arrested on allegations that he received $115 million from Jonathan's oil minister. Fidelity has appointed an acting CEO and said it was cooperating.

The EFCC also questioned Yemi Adeola, CEO of Sterling Bank, along with other senior management officials. Access Bank was also reportedly visited by authorities, and its managing director, Herbert Wigwe, was also reportedly questioned.

The central bank said the probe was being done to evaluate "the extent and persons that may be involved in such activities" and said the incident was "isolated" but gave little details beyond that.

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