As MD, Branch Manager, Two Others Face Criminal Charges
BY GBOGBOWA GBOWA
This may not be the best of time for First Bank of Nigeria (FBN) Plc as the financial giant is currently embroiled in yet another damaging blow to its operational integrity, following the reported arraignment in court of its managing director, one of its branch managers and two others over alleged forgery and illegal appropriation of funds.
Although the bank has denied the allegations, there are strong indications that the FBN Managing Director and its Utako Branch Manager, including two lawyers, Muftau Ande and Dibiaezue Chuks, purportedly working for the bank has been charged at the High Court, Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Division, with charge sheet number CR/266/2023.
It is believed that the FBN top officials and accused collaborators had successfully disposed a customer of the bank, Mr. Francis Chukwumah Nwufor who double as the proprietor of Whiteplain British School Abuja, of his property vide a legal instrument believed to have been obtained through unethical means.
In the charge sheet filed by the Federal Ministry of Justice, the five defendants were accused, among other things, of forging a “tripartite legal mortgage without the consent of the proprietor of Whiteplain British School, Mr. Francis Chukwumah Nwufor, with intent to commit fraud.”
The defendants were also accused of dishonestly dispossessing Nwufor of his property using the forged tripartite legal mortgage.
The prosecution claimed that the defendants had sometime in 2016, within the jurisdiction of the court, conspired to forge a tripartite legal mortgage without the consent of the proprietor of Whiteplain British School, Mr. Francis Chukwumah Nwufor, with the intent to commit fraud.
In the first count, the defendants were charged with forgery and criminal conspiracy contrary to sections 96 and 363 of the Penal Code. The prosecution further alleged that the defendants committed a criminal breach of trust contrary to Section 311 of the Penal Code, liable to punishment under Section 312 of the same law.
In the third count, the defendants were accused of dishonestly dispossessing Nwufor of his property while being entrusted with the tripartite legal mortgage.
Justice Jude Onwuegbuzie adjourned the case untill May 8 2023 for arraignment after the prosecution lawyer, Ndidi Ezinwa-Ukoha, said all the defendants had yet to be served with the charge.
In its publicized reaction however, the leading commercial bank debunked the allegation as spurious and ingenuously undertaken by a delinquent debtor to attract unmerited public sympathy.
The bank further explained that the purported sponsored online media reports by the supposed debtor was intended to embarrass the Bank and taint its loan recovery efforts, inclusive of the legal enforcement of its security collateral interest in accordance with the terms of the said loan.
FBN Thursday maintained that it would take all necessary legal steps to check any attempts by recalcitrant debtors to dip depositors’ funds under its custody.
Part of the bank statement reads: “Our attention has been drawn to a sponsored sensational report by some online publications on a charge brought against the Bank.
“While we will not be able to offer further comments as the matter is sub-judice, suffice it to say that the basis of the charge is a spurious allegation made by a delinquent debtor with the intention of embarrassing the Bank and tainting the Bank’s loan recovery efforts and legal enforcement of its security collateral interest in accordance with the terms thereof.
“We wish to assure our numerous customers, stakeholders and the general public that First Bank operates by the highest standards of ethical conduct and will under no circumstances involve itself in any act of illegality just as it will take necessary legal steps to check any attempt by recalcitrant debtors to fritter away depositors’ funds under its custody.
“Furthermore, First Bank remains focused on its mission of providing the best financial services to its numerous customers.”