Justice Lateefa Okunnu of Ikeja High Court has fixed September 16 for Professor Pat Utomi to give further evidence in the on-going case involving former Managing Director of Bank PHB, Francis Atuche, his wife on how the bank was taken over by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.
The economist turned politician was also expected to be cross-examined by the prosecution on his evidence that the trial of Atuche was premeditated by “a grand plot to take over the bank by some public officials.”
Utomi was the first defence witness in the on-going trial of Atuche, his wife, Elizabeth and former Chief Financial Officer of the bank, Ugo Anyanwu over alleged stealing of N25.7 billion from the bank.
Utomi, who claimed to be the Chairman of the Board of the bank, while Atuche was the Managing Director, said Bank PHB’s fixed assets had grown from N25 billion in 2004 to N1 trillion in 2008 before it was forcibly taken over by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on Oct.2, 2009.
He said there was a plot to take over Bank PHB by the current CBN Governor, Lamido Sanusi, which was confirmed by a former presidential spokesman, Segun Adeniyi in his book “Power, Politics and Death: A Front-Row Account of Nigeria Under the Late President Yar’Adua.”
He said petitions on minor allegations of “cheque-biting” made against the bank were even sent to the late president.
”As at 2009, Bank PHB was considered as a very strong bank . The CBN even invited the bank to help in rescuing Spring Bank which was distressed at that time,” Utomi said.
According to him, Atuche, apart from being the Managing Director,was also the majority shareholder of the bank.
He said:”I was told that if Atuche was removed, that it will be acceptable to CBN and Bank PHB will be left intact.The person that told me is the current CBN governor. He was a very good friend of mine until recently when these injustices were being carried out.”
The witness said the bank consequently failed its Stress Test following the refusal of the board to comply with Sanusi’s directive.
Utomi said: “The reason that I have come out now is the same reason that I came out on June 12 to protest against the annulment. That was why I allowed myself to be beaten mercilessly by policemen because I hate injustice.”
He added that as co-owner of Bank PHB, Atuche would have been very foolish to give out loans which could not be repayed to any company.
The professor of economy said Bank PHB was a high growth enterprise which necessitated the taking of certain risks.