Accra - Top executives at pan-African lender Ecobank have asked chief executive Thierry Tanoh to step down to resolve a crisis of leadership, according to an e-mail sent by the bank’s deputy chief executive.

The e-mail to the bank’s interim chairman does not specify any grievance against Tanoh but alleges long-running governance problems are having negative effects on the bank.

It raises pressure on the leader of one of sub-Saharan Africa’s largest financial institutions before an extraordinary general meeting due to be held on March 3.

Ecobank’s governance is in the spotlight partly because of an inquiry by Nigeria’s Securities and Exchange Commission. This began after its then finance director, Laurence do Rego, whom the bank had suspended, told regulators she had been put under pressure to mis-state the lender’s 2012 financial results. Ecobank rejected her accusations.

The commission has yet to publish a report on its inquiry. However, it said last month that there was no clear vision and strategy at the bank, inadequate transparency in recruitment procedures and conflicts of interest. It also cited weaknesses in the board’s ability to manage its own activities, monitor management, evaluate performance and oversee ethical behaviour.

The e-mail seeking Tanoh’s resignation was sent last Tuesday by Albert Essien, the deputy chief executive, to interim chairman Andre Siaka. Neither responded to requests for comment.

The e-mail was signed by Essien and three other senior Ecobank managers. All four are on a five-member group executive committee, which sits on Ecobank’s 12-member board.

Under proposals before the extraordinary general meeting to shake up the bank’s board, the four would all lose their seats. Tanoh would be the only member of the executive committee to remain on the slimmed-down, seven-member interim board.

Former Ecobank chairman Kolapo Lawson said the bank’s difficulties were not related to governance and it was wrong to pin problems on any individual. Lawson stepped down as chairman in October last year, saying he did not want to preside over the bank’s governance review process.

“It is all a power struggle and that is how it has been from day one. People have amassed significant stakes in the institution and want to see how they can take control,” he said, without saying who was involved. – Reuters