MD Olukayode Pitan Arrest; Why Was Ex-bank of Industry Arrested, Detained

Olasupo Olusi was announced and appointed as the new managing director and chief executive officer of the Bank of Industry (BOI) on October 19, 2023, who appointment followed the voluntary resignation of his predecessor, Olukayode Pitan.

Mr Pitan reportedly resigned while President Bola Tinubu was busy ousting appointees put in place by his predecessor, some people speculated at the time that Mr Tinubu possibly requested the BOI CEO to voluntarily step down so he (President Tinubu) could put his own man in that position, while his second term of five years has just began

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) received intelligence regarding alleged mismanagement of public funds by the leadership of BOI, which was headed by Mr. Pitan. Following extensive investigations, EFCC operatives took action against Mr Pitan on 16 October 2023. On that day, he was apprehended in Lagos and transported to Abuja, where he underwent questioning and was held in custody.

The banker was held in detention until 18 October, when he was granted administrative bail by the anti-graft agency. The following day, 19 October, the presidency announced Mr Pitan was resigning and that he was being replaced by Mr Olusi, a former World Bank economist and development finance expert.

Neither the government nor Mr Pitan revealed that certain transactions during the banker’s tenure at the 60-year-old real sector lender were under investigation by the EFCC. As a result, he either voluntarily resigned or was forced to do so. In the press statement announcing his resignation and appointment of a replacement, Mr Pitan was not implicated in any wrongdoing.

It has been over three months since Mr Pitan’s release on bail, yet no charges have been filed against him. The EFCC seems hesitant to reveal any information regarding the financial matters under investigation. When contacted on Tuesday, Dele Oyewale, the head of media and publicity at the anti-corruption agency, assured that he would investigate the case and provide an update. He has not done so as of the time of filing this update. He has not responded to any follow-up attempts to contact him.

However, insiders revealed that during his time in detention, Mr. Pitan faced questioning regarding BOI’s management of a $750 million loan received in 2018 from foreign banks, intended to aid small and medium-sized businesses nationwide.

The loan was arranged by the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) and sourced from a syndicate of 16 lenders, including Afreximbank itself, the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development, British Arab Commercial Bank Plc and four Nigerian banks based in the UK. The facility was provided at a low interest rate for a period of five to seven years.

The loan was arranged to help the BOI address the funding gap for MSMEs, which was estimated at N700 billion. Mr. Pitan shared this information with journalists during Afreximbank’s 25th Anniversary and annual general meeting in Abuja in 2018. In addition, it was mentioned that the facility was designed to support companies in the creative industry, manufacturing, and gender-based businesses. The goal is to address the issue of unemployment and promote economic growth for small and medium-scale entrepreneurs. The loan was guaranteed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and distributed to beneficiaries through commercial banks.

According to sources, the EFCC is currently investigating the loan’s handling and disbursement due to allegations of misconduct made by certain individuals. According to our sources, instead of immediately distributing the funds to the beneficiaries, certain BOI officials allegedly decided to invest it in fixed deposit accounts and earn returns before eventually transferring it to the CBN.

According to our sources, approximately 130 private accounts related to the issue are currently under investigation. During the questioning, Mr. Pitan was asked about the origin of a specific amount of N211 million that was discovered in his Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) account.

Mr Pitan this week, has chose not to disclose any information regarding his interaction with the EFCC and the circumstances surrounding his arrest and detention. He, on the other hand, firmly denied any misconduct in his management of the $750 million loan. “All foreign proceeds into BOI are transferred to CBN,” he stated. The full amount of $750 million was paid into CBN. CBN has fully repaid Afreximbank as the loan has reached its expiration date.

When questioned about the loan management during his tenure, Mr. Pitan confidently stated, “I want to assure you that I have never been involved in any questionable activities, unlike those spreading false information with malicious intent towards me and the bank.”

When asked about the N211 million in his account, the top banker confidently stated that as a senior member of staff, he is entitled to various facilities, such as mortgage loans, and more.

The Head of Corporate Communications at BOI, Hadiza Olaosebikan, declined to provide a comment when contacted by PREMIUM TIMES. “I regret that I am unable to provide any answers,” she stated over the phone.

However, an official of the bank, who asked not to be named because he is not a spokesperson for the organization, assured me that the $750 million loan was not mishandled in any way. “According to the speaker, there was a clear intention from Tinubu’s supporters to oust Pitan from his position and replace him with their preferred candidate,” he explained. They made an accusation and used the EFCC to force Pitan out of office. The man’s resignation is indeed unfortunate.

However, Mr Pitan clarified that he voluntarily resigned and was not compelled to do so. “Mr Pitan resigned voluntarily from BOI,” he informed me. His resignation has been accepted. The official statement from the government confirmed that.”

Mr Pitan assumed the role of managing director of BOI in May 2017 under the leadership of former Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who served as Nigeria’s acting president during President Muhammadu Buhari’s absence in the UK. Mr. Buhari decided to extend his tenure for another five years, reappointing him in March 2022.

Mr Pitan serves as an ordained pastor at the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), overseeing Region 51 (Tabernacle of David) of the church, which is based in Ajah, Lagos.

Throughout his extensive banking career of over three decades, he held prominent positions as an executive director at Unity Bank and FSB International Bank Plc.

He held the position of chairperson for the Association of Nigerian Development Finance Institutions and served as the director representing West Africa on the Board of the Association of African Development Finance Institutions.

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