A civil society group dedicated to the promotion of democracy and championing anti-corruption causes, Global Integrity Crusade Network (GICN) has dragged a former Chairman, Board of Directors of Unity Bank Nigeria Plc, Thomas Akoh Etuh before the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for alleged serial financial crimes.

In a petition dated June 4th, 2024 and addressed to the EFCC Chairman, the group drew the attention of the EFCC to a legion of crimes allegedly perpetrated by Mr Etuh while serving as Unity Bank boss a few years ago.

Signed by Edward Omaga, the President of the GICN, the group accused Etuh of insider abuse and fraudulent conversion of depositors’ funds into personal use among other allegations.

The petition titled, “Call for action,” read in part, “We have recently uncovered an avalanche of documents showing that Thomas Akoh Etuh can comfortably be adjudged as “the worst enemy of banking in Nigeria”. He was first appointed as Pioneer Vice Chairman of Unity Bank Plc on 22nd April, 2014 having garnered over two decades experience in the public and private sectors of the economy.
“Before this time, Thomas Akoh Etuh served as a Director in several companies in Nigeria and equally chaired a number of Board Committees in Unity Bank Plc. On 23rd January, 2015 he was appointed as Chairman, the Board of Directors of Unity Bank Plc and confirmed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). This followed the resignation of the former Chairman, Alhaji Lamis Shehu Dikko who left to pursue his political aspirations.”

For the 33 years he held sway as Chairman, Board of Directors of Unity Bank Plc, GICN alleged that Mr Etuh committed serial infractions so much that he ought to be in prison rather than walking freely on the streets.

“Within the period under review, a previously healthy Unity Bank Pic led by Thomas Akoh Etuh found itself completely hollowed out after giving out hundreds of billions of naira in non- performing loans (NPLs). The Bank was reduced to meticulously cooking its books while secretly operating with negative share capital for the better part of a decade.
“As a way of pretending to solve the bank’s woes, Thomas Akoh Etuh opted to sell its interest under some distressed condition to a younger competitor named Providus Bank Plc, even while he continued to lavish stupendous amounts of money on his personal business interests,” he petition further read.

The group claimed that TAK Continental Limited “Belonging to Thomas Akoh Etuh was listed by the Assets Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) as owing Unity Bank Plc the sum of N411. 59bn making it the 22nd biggest debtor owing Nigerian bank.
By the time Etuh retired in 2017, the group alleged that about seven companies with links to Etuh accounted for about N27bn out of the Unity Banks non-performing loans of over N400bn.

Etuh according to GICN did not act alone, accusing board members and regulators of conniving with the ex-Unity Bank boss.

“The Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act (BOFIA) 2020 and the CBN’s Prudential Guidelines contain multiple clauses that criminalizes pretty much everything described above. The Prudential Guidelines for example, state that the maximum amount that can be given as a loan to a single borrower or group of related borrowers is 20 per cent of the bank’s shareholder funds.

“Thomas Etuh claimed that Unity Bank’s shareholders’ funds stood at N431bn when he took charge, going up to N480BN by the time he left. Pulling aside the assumption that Unity Bank has, been running with negative shareholders’ funds since 2016, if we are to use his dodgy math, his NPL portfolio of N29Bn grossly exceeds the prudential guidelines both in the case of N31 Billion SHF (93.5 percent) and N80 Billion SHF (36.25 percent),” the group argued.

Anchoring its prayers on the whistle blowing policy of the Federal Government, GICN called on the EFCC to immediately arrest and prosecute Mr Etuh, stating that “This will go a long way in proving to the overwhelming population of Nigerians that the EFCC is truly committed to tackling the menace of criminality headlong, no matter who is involved.

“We contend that the action of the Lagos State High Court presided over by Justice L.A. Okunnu when he discharged Thomas Akoh Etuh on 21 September, 2021 of complicity in the money laundering charges preferred against Francis Atuche and Ugo Anyanwu is wrong, unacceptable and reprehensible.
“It is impossible for Francis Atuche and Ugo Anyanwu to be convicted while Thomas Akoh Etuh who is regarded as the “father of fraud in the banking sector would remain a free man till date.”
The group also expressed its readiness to appear before the EFCC for purpose of writing statement and presenting more indicting documents capable of substantiating the weighty allegations contained in petition against Mr. Etuh.

It also called on the EFCC to direct the CBN to remove all the Directors of Unity Bank to pave way for a thorough probe of the accounting books to ascertain the depth of shady deals perpetrated during the reign of Etuh.

The petition was copied to the President, CBN Governor, AMCON MD, Director General, National Crime Agency, UK, among others

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