PIC gets its wish as Ecobank board replaces Tanoh with his deputy

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BR Ecobank 5681 Bloomberg An armed security guard sits beside an ATM operated by Ecobank in the Remera district of Kigali in Rwanda. Ecobank operates in 35 African countries. Photo: Bloomberg

Lagos - Ecobank Transnational’s board has named Albert Essien to replace Thierry Tanoh as chief executive.

The lender’s largest shareholder, the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), which invests the retirement savings of South African civil servants, had called for Tanoh to quit after allegations of mismanagement, which he denies.

Tanoh’s term as chief executive and director had ended yesterday, the Togo-based bank said on Tuesday.

Essien was the deputy chief executive and executive director for corporate and investment banking.

Laurence do Rego was reinstated as group executive director of finance and risk, the bank added.

The board met on Tuesday in Cameroon’s capital, Yaounde, after an extraordinary general meeting last week in Lomé. Shareholders decided to keep the 12-member board and approved a plan to improve corporate governance following recommendations by Nigeria’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

“We have faced challenges at the governance level in the recent past, but they aren’t insurmountable,” Essien said. “We have put in place a detailed governance action plan, which will strengthen us to meet these challenges.”

Nigeria’s regulator investigated the lender after Do Rego told the SEC in August that Tanoh and former chairman Kolapo Lawson planned to sell assets at below market value.

Do Rego said she was put under pressure to write off debts owed by a business headed by Lawson and to manipulate the bank’s results. Tanoh and Lawson have denied any wrongdoing.

Ecobank’s shares in Lagos declined 3.3 percent to 14.50 naira (R0.94) on Tuesday, extending this year’s fall to 10 percent.

Tanoh’s cellphone was busy when he was called for comment and he did not reply to an e-mail. Obi Adindu, a spokesman for the Nigerian SEC, declined to comment.

The PIC said on March 1 that it wanted Tanoh to resign immediately.

The chief executive had used “strange tactics” to stop Ecobank’s board meeting on February 25 and continued to use the “Ecobank platform and shameless abuse of the judicial system of Togo to pursue what we believe to be his own political and personal interests”, Dan Matjila, the chief investment officer of the PIC, said in a letter to the bank’s interim chairman, Andre Siaka.

Matjila declined to comment.

Ecobank operates in France and 35 African countries and has representative offices in Beijing, Dubai and London. In October it reported a 65 percent rise in profit to $250 million (R2.7 billion) in the nine months to September. – Bloomberg

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