Their views are likely to be advanced to shareholders by the company
on Monday at an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) at its
headquarters in the Togolese capital Lome to vote on governance
Several current and former senior bank officials rejected the claim
as false and said it was an effort to divert attention from
governance problems which, they asserted, started once Tanoh became
chief executive in January 2013.
Ecobank <ETI.LG> is divided over the leadership of Tanoh, an Ivorian
who was vice president of the World Bank's International Finance
The bank's main shareholder Public Investment Corporation of South
Africa said in a letter on Saturday Tanoh should be dismissed
immediately, accusing him of governance breaches and of failing to
On February 13, the executives on Tanoh's top management team called
for him to step down to resolve a leadership crisis.
Former directors Babatunde Ajibade and Kolapo Lawson, who served on
a board that now has 12 members, said criticism of Tanoh is rooted
in fear by other senior executives that his willingness to reform
governance may expose past problems.
In interviews, both men declined to spell out those alleged failures
in detail. But Lawson said in a resignation letter dated February 7
and seen by Reuters that they stemmed from "the ETI public offering
of 2008", which refers to the bank's flotation on the Nigerian stock
ETI, or Ecobank Transnational Incorporated, is the name of the bank
group's formal name.
"The institution has an unfortunate legacy of executive
mismanagement that was deliberately and carefully concealed from the
board," said Ajibade's resignation letter, dated February 6 and also
seen by Reuters. Ajibade is a corporate lawyer.
Ajibade and Lawson said their concerns were first raised last August
5 when Tanoh presented an interim report to the board, spelling out
possible breaches prior to his tenure that he said needed to be
Evidence of those purported breaches should emerge in a report by
professional services firm EY that was commissioned by the bank,
Lawson told Reuters, calling allegations against Tanoh that have
occurred since that board meeting a "smokescreen".
"There was great resistance, and that resistance continues to this
day. The board doesn't want to release the results of the EY
report," Lawson said.
"They want to get rid of him before the EGM," he added.
An Ecobank spokesman declined to comment. Tanoh was unavailable for
comment, and has previously declined to speak about the issues while
investigations are ongoing.
[to top of second column]
The current and former senior officials dismissed Ajibade and
Lawson's claims and said governance standards were strictly upheld
during the tenure of previous CEO Arnold Ekpe.
The former directors' views were merely an attempt to divert
attention from this fact, said the officials, who declined to be
identified. Ekpe declined to comment.
The officials said Lawson's credibility on the matter was tarnished.
Lawson stood down as chairman in October, saying he did not want to
preside over the governance review, before sending his letter of
resignation from the board on February 7.
In 2013, he owed Ecobank Nigeria roughly $10 million indirectly
through businesses he owned and a further 1.4 billion naira ($8.5
million) of borrowings that was sold to Nigeria's so-called "bad
bank", the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON). AMCON
owns 8.09 percent of Ecobank stock.
The debt portion owed to the bank has now been paid, Ecobank said.
In a separate letter to Nigeria's Securities and Exchange Commission
(SEC), dated January 20, Tanoh calls for further investigation of
what he called previous transgressions.
"Subsequent to my assumption of office ... I became aware of
improper financial offences at ETI that have not been done in the
best interest of investors or the institution," said the letter,
seen by Reuters.
It was not immediately possible to reach other board members. Top
executives have declined repeated requests for comment.
($1 = 164.9500 Nigerian nairas)
(Additional reporting by Chijioke
Ohuocha in Lagos; editing by Daniel Flynn and Dale Hudson)
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