The Executive Director in charge of Public Sector at First Bank, Mallam Dauda Lawal, has revealed that he was arrested and questioned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) because of his close relationship with the former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Deziani Alison Madueke.
In a statement issued in Abuja Wednesday, Mallam Lawal said his relationship with the former Minister was a purely professional one and he was never used by the former Minister to siphon public funds as alleged against him by the anti graft body.
According to him, while in the custody of the EFCC, he was “questioned by the EFCC over his alleged role or complicity in the alleged $25million acquisition of the Le Meridien Hotel in Port Harcourt.”
While denying any involvement in the acquisition of the said property, Mallam Lawal said “This allegation is malicious and without substance in any material particular. It must be stated clearly that Lawal is completely oblivious of the ownership status of the said hotel neither is he directly or remotely aware of any transaction involving the former Minister on this hotel”.
He warned that the present situation where by the anti graft agency pronounces somebody guilty even before being put to trial is antithetical to the universally accepted norm of being innocent until proven guilty.
“The danger in the current narrative is the unfortunate tendency to misinterpret every relationship to be based on fraudulent foundations especially where the verdict of guilt has been pronounced on one of the parties way in advance of a formal trial.
“It is difficult for one to state his side of the story where the long knives have been drawn to hack down anybody connected to the “guilty” party. This attitude is not only poisonous to the concept of liberty but also inimical to the universally accepted principles of presumption of innocence until one is convicted in a free and fair trial.
“The implication of this mob mentality on the career of professionals is the limitation of their productive energies for fear of vilifications so such as this. Mallam Lawal has had a distinguished banking career rising from the very base to the pinnacle of the profession” he noted.
While explaining his relationship with the former minister, the banker said: “As the Executive Director in charge of Public sector of the bank, it is incumbent on him to build the necessary bridges to attract all the benefits the bank can muster from the financial operations of the public sector. ”
“The former minister, given the influence she wielded within the government and operations in the oil sector was certainly an asset to any Corporate Organization especially the banks.
“All the banks in Nigeria and abroad actively sought to have banking relationships with her because she sat atop a sector which is the prime revenue spinner for the country. It is to Mr Lawal’s credit that the First Bank group participated actively in offering financial services to the oil industry under Mrs Madueke.
“It must be emphasized that this relationship was purely professional and no laws were violated in the pursuit of it. We were bound by strict professional ethics and we never jeopardized the name of the bank while transacting in the oil industry or any other industry for that matter.
“His accomplishments have attracted recognition in the global banking network. He is viewed as one of the shinning stars of the industry who is looked upon to entrench the reforms put in place to strengthen the sector. He is experienced enough to know the consequences of any unethical behaviour .
“He is also conscious of the huge responsibilities that lie ahead as he advances his baking career. He is therefore not that myopic as to wilfully engage in a scheme that will tarnish his name.
“Lawal is aware that not everyone will be happy with his steady rise in the banking sector. It is not surprising that those who feel unhappy with his career advancement will spare no effort to throw mud at him. However, to concoct allegations like this one in order to halt his upward movement is uncharitable and indeed ungodly.
“He remains a banker with impeccable records of integrity, innovation and performance in the industry and he considers challenges like this to be one of the thorny paths to success. He remains undaunted and is prepared to perform even better in his present and future responsibilities.
“For the purpose of emphasis, Mallam Lawal Dauda has never been a conduit for movement of illicit funds neither has he been involved in the purchase of any hotel either here or elsewhere. This much was told to the EFCC during his interrogation. “The future is better assured when we apply the principles of fairness rather than the haste to crucify especially based on unfounded rumors simply because they fit our prejudiced mindset” he said.