An Abuja based anti-corruption Civil Society Group named Transparency Advocacy for Development Initiative (TADI) has sued the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, the Founder/Chairman of Zenith Bank Plc, Jim Ovia and 4 others over the appointment of Ebenezer Onyeagwu as the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the financial institution.
In an Originating Summons marked FHC/ABJ/CS/29/2021 and filed on Thursday, January 14, Counsel to TADI Abiodun Babalola claimed that Onyeagwu’s emergency was an aberration and a violation of the Code of Corporate Governance for Banks and Discount Houses in Nigeria, which kicked towards the appointment of blood relations to the place. According to him, Onyeagwu is allegedly related by blood to Ovia, being the Founder of Zenith Bank.
Babalola requested the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja to declare that by the true interpretation of Section 2.3.3 of the Code made by Central Bank of Nigeria in May 2014 pursuant to the powers bestowed on it by the Central Bank of Nigeria Act, 2007 and Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act, 1991 the appointment of Onyeagwu, as the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Zenith Bank Plc is in gross contravention of the Code.
He additionally sought a declaration ‘that Ebenezer Nduka Onyeagwu joined as 2nd Defendant in the suit is unqualified based on Section 2.3.3 of the aforesaid Code to be appointed as Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Zenith Bank Plc being the 3rd Defendant by virtue of his blood ties and or relationship with Jim James Ovia, that is the 1st Defendant.’
He urged the ‘Honourable Court to make an order directing the Central Bank of Nigeria headed by Godwin Emefiele to forthwith exercise its powers under the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act, 1991 as well as other extant laws by relieving the 2nd Defendant of his appointment as Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Zenith Bank Plc on account of his blood ties and or relationship with the 1st Defendant and replacing him with another qualified person.’
He demanded that order of exemplary damages in the sum of N1 Billion be made against the Central Bank of Nigeria and its Governor, ‘sued as the 4th and 5th Defendants respectively, being the apex authorities regulating the financial activities and operations of Banks and other Financial Institutions in the country for approving the appointment of Ebenezer Nduka Onyeagwu as Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the 3rd Defendant on 1st June 2019 even when they were aware that he lacked the qualification to occupy the said position due to his blood ties and or relationship with the 1st Defendant.’
TADI in its supporting affidavit maintained that the resolve to seek redress against the Defendants ‘was based mostly on its mandate to work with relevant stakeholders for purposes of preventing corruption in any establishment that holds public funds, spends public funds or is regulated by government authorities such as the Central Bank of Nigeria. No date has been fixed for hearing the case as at the time of filing this report.