Jail Term For Ibru: A Slap In The Wrist

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The six months jail sentence meted out to Cecilia Ibru, for defrauding Oceanic Bank Plc of an eye-popping N191 billion while she was the bank’s managing director and Chief Executive Officer, is a slap in the wrist. The mild jail term gives the wrong impression that mega corruption pays as those who steal billions can always buy their way out.

Cecilia was sentenced last Friday to six months in prison for fraud and agreed in a plea bargain to hand over N190 billion worth of assets. The assets are made up of 94 properties scattered in many countries, including the United States and Dubai. The disgraced former top banker also agreed to forfeit stakes in 100 listed companies in Nigeria and abroad.

Some of the properties are: 4155 Chariot Way, USA, purchased for $452,508 on 12 March 2009 and registered as Anita Da Silva Ibru;  4145, Chariot Way, purchased for $440, 105 on 14 July 2009 and also registered as Anita Da Silva Ibru. 14605 Hawley Lane, purchased for $460, 703 on 22 July 2008 and registered as Janet Ibru, the banker’s daughter; 14630 Hawley Lane, purchased for $460, 703 on 17 May 2008 and also registered as Janet Ibru. 11300 Dappled Grey way, purchased for $987, 949, 000 on 7 October 2008 and registered as Cecilia Ibru; God Shepherd House, IPM Avenue, Opposite Alausa, Ikeja, and registered as Ogekpo Estate Managers. The list is not exhaustive.

The stolen assets are enough to stabilise a bank that was bailed out last year with N100 billion by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.

The assets will be managed by a state asset management firm set up to help recapitalise the rescued lenders and would allow Oceanic Bank to repay N100 billion it received in emergency funds.

Last year, when the CBN Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, sacked eight of the country’s most senior bankers during an unprecedented $4 billion bailout, only few believed that they will be prosecuted. But, the prosecution and conviction of Cecilia Ibru is a good step in the right direction in the fight against mega corruption in the country.

Many others must be jailed for the breach of trust, theft and hardship they meted out to hard working hapless Nigerians.

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It is absurd and excessive greed for a woman or anyone else to acquire properties that she and her great grand children will not need in their life time. With N190 billion worth of assets, Cecilia Ibru was richer than the bank she was managing. When the bank was on the brink of collapse last year, Ibru continued to acquire expensive properties in Nigeria and abroad unperturbed.

Cecilia Ibru was not only greedy, she was callous and idiotic. As the bank’s female marketers went round the country giving all they could to meet unrealistic targets set by Ibru, she used the money to acquire expensive properties all over the world.

After doing all these shameful acts with the complicity of some directors, she sat on the front row in church on Sundays and pretended to be pious. As it is now, Ibru has been sent back to a five star hospital where she is likely to spend her jail term, the same way convicted Tafa Balogun, former Inspector General of Police, who stole billions of police money, did. She may well serve her entire jail term in this hospital. This is unacceptable.

How can a person destroy so many lives and be allowed to go with such a mild punishment? Nigeria is not a banana republic where anything goes. Culprits must be punished according to the severity of their crimes to serve as a deterrent to others who engage in criminal acts.

There are many more Cecilia Ibrus out there, acquiring properties with public money. They steal and think they will never be caught. The case of a woman who killed her husband in Ibadan this week over N70 feeding allowance for the family is a pointer to what mega corruption can lead to. Corruption has created endemic poverty in our country, with many families finding it extremely difficult to feed even once a day.

We call on judges handling other cases of bank managers and other corrupt public officials to ensure that justice is done and culprits are given stiff penalties. It is only then that Nigeria can move forward. It is only then that others will be deterred.