The management of Fidelity Bank on Thursday said its managing director, Nnamdi Okonkwo, did not jump the administrative bail granted him but “has been away on medical leave.”
The bank also claimed in an unsigned statement posted on its website that the leave was approved by the board of the bank.
The reaction followed a PREMIUM TIMES’ reports on Wednesday which revealed how the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) took into custody the surety of the bank’s MD after the suspect jumped the administrative bail granted him by the commission.
Chris Ezem, who stood as surety for the Fidelity Bank boss, was arrested by EFCC operatives on Wednesday after Mr Okonkwo failed to report to the commission’s office.
“The [Fidelity Bank] MD failed to report to be served his charges,” a source at the commission who declined to be named because he was not authorised to speak on the matter also told PREMIUM TIMES on Wednesday.
Mr Okonkwo is facing a 14-count charge of conspiracy and money laundering alongside a former director at First Bank, Dauda Lawal, before a federal judge.
The EFCC claimed that the suspects alongside Lanre Adesanya and Stanley Lawson conspired with former petroleum minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, to conceal $153 million in 2015.
A suspect is deemed to have jumped administrative bail if the person fails to physically present himself/herself on any of the agreed times.
Tony Orilade, the EFCC acting spokesperson, confirmed the development to PREMIUM TIMES Wednesday night, saying the surety would be charged to court if Mr Okonkwo fails to produce himself.
“The person he (Mr Ezem) stood bail for has disappeared and all efforts to invite him… he has refused to honour the invitation extended to him,” Mr Orilade added.
“It is important for Nigerians to know the implication of standing as surety for anybody.”
But the bank on Thursday said the MD did not jump bail but travelled for medical reasons.
“Our attention has been drawn to recent online media reports that Fidelity Bank MD/CEO has jumped bail,” it said in its unsigned statement Thursday.
It added that the bank MD has been away on medical leave, which was duly approved by the Board, since December 4.
“The Bank informed the CBN Governor of this development as the MD/CEO was unable to attend the annual Bankers Committee retreat held between December 8 & 9, 2018, on account of this. An Executive Director represented the bank,” the statement said.
“The Bank received a letter from the EFCC about 48 hours ago, requesting for the attention of the MD/CEO. The Bank responded to the EFCC immediately that the MD/CEO was on medical vacation and gave an indicative date that he will report to the Commission.
“The Bank also attached the following documents to the response; the leave approval by the Board Chairman and the letter sent to the CBN Governor on the inability of the MD/CEO to attend the Bankers Committee retreat.
“We are therefore shocked by the misleading reports in the online media and have provided the above clarifications to set the records straight.”
Although the statement was yet to be posted to the Nigerian Stock Exchange as at Thursday afternoon, Fidelity Bank said it is a responsible corporate citizen and its staff members, including the MD, conduct their operations in line with the laws of Nigeria.
PREMIUM TIMES’ efforts to speak to the bank’s spokesperson proved abortive Thursday afternoon.
Earlier on Monday when the matter came up at the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court, Mr Okonkwo was absent in court. He was also not represented by a lawyer.
The matter was thereafter adjourned till December 14 to enable the to EFCC serve the charge sheet to all the defendants.
The anti-graft agency often grants administrative bail to suspects who are being investigated and requires them to physically report periodically to the commission’s office.