Renowned economist Prof. Pat Utomi yesterday told an Ikeja High Court that the late Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi
and others conspired to steal Platinum Habib Bank otherwise known as Bank PHB from its original shareholders.
Utomi told Justice Lateefat Okunnu in the ongoing trial of the former managing director of Bank PHB, Francis Atuche, his wife, Elizabeth, and a former Chief Financial Officer, Ugo Anyanwu, how the Presidency perfected plans to hijack the bank.
He gave the testimony during the trial of the defendants accused of stealing N32.2 billion belonging to the bank.
Utomi did not, however, expatiate on how the government implemented its agenda to hijack the bank from the original shareholders.
Led in evidence by Atuche’s counsel, Chief Anthony Idigbe (SAN), Utomi, a major shareholder in the bank, said: “The late President Yar’ Adua invited me to the villa and subsequently brought a petition against the Bank PHB and made some allegations against it.”
Adding that the former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Michael Andoakaa (SAN), was in attendance at the meeting with President, Utomi said: “Immediately I left the villa, I called and warned Atuche that there was a decision in the villa to go after Bank PHB.
“There was an attempt to steal Bank PHB by public officials and I warned Atuche about it.”
Utomi also referred to a book written by President Yar’Adua’s former Senior Special Adviser (Media). Mr. Segun Adeniyi, in which he claimed that it was decided in the villa that they would go after Bank PHB.
He also told the court that he had discussions with the CBN governor on the possibility of removing Atuche from the board of the bank and this proposal was accepted to CBN.
Testifying further, Utomi said the reform process carried out by CBN was targeted at certain individuals rather the financial institutions.
He said: “Following the reformed process by CBN with no consultation, the bank was forcefully taken over by the CBN officials. I later discovered the bank was declared not to pass the distress test.”
Utomi told the court that Bank PHB was one of the top rated banks in the country at the time, adding that no matter the yardstick used, the bank ought to have been rated high then.
He said prior to the takeover of the bank in October 2, 2008, the bank was among the top eight Nigerian banks with assets of over N1trillion under Atuche’s management.
Utomi explained that the CBN invited Bank PHB at a time to rescue Spring Bank and it rescued Spring Bank and also made it attractive for prospective investors.
He said Bank PHB built its assets significantly and was able to make case for Spring Bank.
Utomi said: “As at 2008 to 2010, Bank PHB was confirmed to be a very strong bank. It was in the list of first to sixth banks in the country as at then.”
Utomi testified that Bank PHB was a high growth bank since 2005 to 2009 where it had a quantum leap of capital base from N25 billion in 2005 to N1 trillion in 2008, adding that in most countries of the world, it would be considered as an extra ordinary high growth enterprise.
He said he had a fair amount of shares in the bank and till date, nothing had been communicated to him in respect of his investment.
Utomi, however, said he had challenged the forcible takeover of Bank PHB in court.