Nigeria’s Access Bank Plc said its Group Chief Executive Officer, Herbert Wigwe, was not arrested last week contrary to rumours that circulated across social media.
Rumour had it that the business executive was arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), in connection to the recent court judgement against former Abia State governor, Orji Uzor Kalu, and his company, Slok Nigeria Limited.
In a statement signed by Access Bank’s Company Secretary and issued to the Nigerian Stock Exchange, it was clarified that Herbert Wigwe was merely invited by the EFCC for talks on how to resolve the issue.
Here’s the issue: Apparently, Slok Nigeria Limited received an undisclosed amount of loan from Diamond Bank Plc long before the defunct bank was acquired by Access Bank in 2019. Slok Nigeria had used its assets as collateral. Following Diamond Bank’s acquisition, Access Bank automatically inherited the Slok Nigeria loans.
In late 2019, the former governor was found guilty on several counts of fraud and sentenced to prison. The judge also ruled that his company – Slok Nigeria Limited – be liquidated and its proceeds handed over to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Note that this second aspect of the ruling elicited controversy, as many Nigerians wondered why Slok Nigeria Limited was not handed over to the Abia State Government instead. After all, the former governor allegedly stole money from the people of Abia, not from the Federal Government.
In the meantime, Access Bank had its own concerns over the ruling. As noted earlier, Slok Nigeria Limited had used its assets as collateral when it collected loan from Diamond Bank Plc. Liquidating the company and giving the proceeds to the government could mean that the bank could lose its money and the assets that were used as collateral.
It was in a bid to mediate over the issue that Access Bank officials (including Herbert Wigwe the MD), were invited for interrogation/dialogue. The statement from Access Bank went further to disclose that the meeting between the bank and the EFCC was “fruitful” and that it is believed that the issue has been resolved. Parts of the statement reads thus:
“Given the differing interests of the Commission and the Bank on the assets of Slok deriving from the court’s recent judgement on Slok, the Commission had invited for interrogation officials of Access Bank who were handling the Bank’s recovery efforts on Slok credit including its Group Managing Director.
“Following fruitful engagement between the Bank and the Commission, we are of the opinion that the issues relating to the Slok investigation has been resolved.”