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INVESTIGATION

Homeowners accuse CMB Building Company, its CEO Mbagwu of fraud, petition EFCC

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The residents of Pearl Garden Estate and Pearl Nuga Park Estate located at Sangotedo in Lekki/Ajah area of Lagos State have petitioned against the CMB Building Maintenance and Investment Company Ltd to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over alleged fraudulent mortgage of some of their homes to secure unapproved bank loans.

Meanwhile, the association of homeowners in the estates have barred representatives of CMB, a building and maintenance firm owned by Kelechukwu Mbagwu from maintaining the homes at Pearl Nuga Park Estate and Pearl Garden Estate.

The separate petitions dated May 28, 2019 and addressed to the EFCC Chairman, Mr Ibrahim Magu, were signed by Mr Patrick Olowokere, the President of Pearl Nuga Estate and Reverend Adesola Adebawo, President of Pearl Garden Estate respectively.

According to the petitioners, CMB obtained a mortgage from Wema Bank Plc using the affected homes at Pearl Nuga Estate as collateral without the knowledge or consent of the affected homeowners.

Image: Repossessed property at Pearl Gardens Estate from fraudulently-obtained bank loan

“The affected homeowners, namely; Bridget Eko, Osagie Aimiehnoho Jude, Mr Akinola Alabi, Mrs Oluwadara Alabi, Nosakhare Igbinobi and Amos Gaga, paid CMB for those houses to be built and had taken possession of their houses from CMB at different times.

“CMB and Mr Mbagwu fraudulently withheld the title deeds of the houses from the affected homeowners as it withheld those of several other homeowners within the estate,” they alleged in a petition duly acknowledged and signed by the EFCC, copy of which was obtained by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

However, the bank has begun a recovery of the six houses within the estate following the failure of CMB, the property developer, to repay the loan, according to the petitioners.

Similarly, Pearl Garden Estate also accused CMB of using the homes of four of their members — Mr and Mrs Michael Bassey, Mr Oyeleke Jegede, Mr Larry Amaraibi and one Mr Felix — who had already paid in full to allegedly obtain a N10 million loan from Diamond Bank (now Access Bank).

Meanwhile, the association of homeowners in the estates have barred staff or representatives of CMB from Pearl Nuga Park Estate and Pearl Garden Estate.

The petitioners said, “We have no other choice but to believe that other houses of our members and homeowners within the estates may be the subject of similar fraudulent mortgages.’’

Another resident, Mr A. Akeredolu, said: “Some of us have waited endlessly for the commencement of the ‘fictitious’ Pearl Royale Scheme, Pearl Garden Extension and Pearl Nuga Park.

“We paid for these in full since 2010 but have yet to be shown the location of our purchases, let alone the allocations.

“We know projects fail, but they have yet to make any official statement or promise of refund. These people are so bold and fearless, one wonders who is backing them!”

All efforts by our reporter to reach Mr. Mbagwu for his angle to the allegations proved futile as calls and text messages placed to his mobile line were not responded to as at press time.

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INVESTIGATION

Ex-staff fights embattled billionaire Onajite Okoloko‘s Notore Chemical Industries, wins in court

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Ex-staff fights embattled billionaire Onajite Okoloko‘s Notore Chemical Industries, wins in court
Embattled billionaire, Onajite Okoloko, CEO - Notore Chemicals Industries

The National Industrial Court, Lagos Division, has ordered Notore Chemicals Industries Plc, owned by embattled Nigerian billionaire Onajite Okoloko’s, to pay Mr. Ayodele Balogun, a former employee of the company the sum of N20, 525, 999 (Twenty Million, Five Hundred and Twenty-Five Thousand, Nine Hundred and Ninety Nine Naira, Sixty Kobo only) as outstanding balance of his gratuity payment due to him since 2013.

The court also awarded in favour of the ex-staff the sum of N1, 000,000.00 (one million naira) cost of action within one month, failing which it attracts 10% interest rate per annum until fully liquidated.

In a judgement monitored by The Witness, and delivered by the presiding judge, Hon. Justice Nelson Ogbuanya, the court held that the company action credited to external advice which prompted the defence of ‘mistaken payment’ was not justified, and cannot override the obligation to pay outstanding balance due to the claimant.

The claimant- Ayodele was employed on 1st October 2008 as Chief Marketing Officer, that by a letter dated June 14, 2013, sent via e-mail on Wednesday June 19, 2013 he tendered resignation, and indicated that it would take effect on 1st October 2013, that as a result of his service to the firm spanning 5 years, that he has become entitled to payment of gratuity upon successful exit from the Company that a total settlement package was communicated to him via e-mail out of which only 50% was paid and all effort to get balance proved abortive.

In argument, the firm submitted that Ayodele did not attain the threshold of ‘continuous service greater than 5 years and up to 10 years’ to be qualified for monetary payment in addition to ‘Testimonial of Service’, which is the only package available for those who were in ‘continuous service up to 5 years’, under the company gratuity that the payment already paid to the Claimant was a mistake and it was because of the discovery of the error that the Defendant refused to pay the balance and also seeks refund of it.

Counsel to the firm further argued that the Claimant’s resignation becomes effective on date of receipt of the letter of resignation by the employer, and as such, the correct effective date of the Claimant’s resignation is June 14 2013 (submission date), and not the 1st October 2008 contained in the resignation letter that the Claimant’s case lacks merit and should be dismissed while upholding the counter-claim for refund of the sum already paid to the Claimant in error.

Counsel to the claimant U. U Njoku, Esq contended that the Defendant failed to tender its payroll to disprove that the Claimant was no longer in its pay roll as at 1 October 2013 urged the court to so hold and grant the reliefs sought.

Delivering judgment after careful evaluation of the submissions of both counsel and the processes filed, Justice Ogbuanya held that where date is not provided in the resignation, it takes immediate effect upon receipt of resignation, but when effective date is provided, it becomes effective on the last day of the notice period.

“I also note that it is part of the court’s equitable jurisdiction to preserve earned benefits, particularly those of pecuniary nature, and court usually tilts towards resolving such emerging controversy in favour of the beneficiary rather than in favour of one trying to take away or expropriate the benefit.

“From the tenor of the above provisions of the company Gratuity Policy, I find that once an employee attains 5 years of continuous service with the defendant, such an employee shall/must be entitled to not only cash payment as gratuity but also other testimonials and certificate of appreciation and or asset gift.

“In the circumstance of the claimant, I find that he has attained 5 years of continuous service with the defendant and there was no evidence disputing that he resigned willfully and there was no evidence of any skirmish of probe or low performance tainting his voluntary resignation. I so hold.” Justice Ogbuanya ruled.

In all, the court dismissed the counterclaim for lacking merit.

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INVESTIGATION

Lagos commissioner, Ajibola Ponnle’s rising profile

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Lagos commissioner, Ajibola Ponnle’s marriage crumbles
Ajibola Ponnle

Ajibola Yewande Olufunke Ponnle is the Lagos State Commissioner for Establishments, Training and Pensions.

Until her appointment,  she was the Registrar and Chief Executive Officer of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management, the industry regulator of the profession of Human Resource Management in Nigeria.

Born on the 9th of September, 1973, she has 25 years uniquely diverse professional experience. Building on her B.Sc. in Economics from the University of Ibadan and a M.Sc. in Organisational Psychology from the University of London, she gained key skills in the fields of finance, strategy, organizational development and human resource management, with a specialisation in executive/leadership and team coaching.

She is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management of Nigeria, Associate of the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria and an International Coach Federation Accredited Professional Coach.

Mrs Ponnle started her career in 1994 with Arthur Andersen (now KPMG), thereafter, joined British American Tobacco as one of the founding pre-merger staff and left as a member of both the Finance and Marketing Senior Management teams. In 2004, she became an entrepreneur, setting up a series of companies including TeamBuilding Africa Consultancy, the regional representative of Team Building USA where she was at the forefront of shaping the experiential team development industry in Nigeria, serving also as visiting faculty on the Executive Management Programme at Lagos Business School. In 2015, she pioneered the establishment of the Nigeria Chapter of International Coach Federation (ICF) and served as the Founding Chapter President, a Trustee and a member of ICF EMEA regional leadership team.

She became the first Nigerian to earn the ICF Professional Certified Coach accreditation and also the first Core Energy Coach and Energy Leadership Master Practitioner in the country. In recognition of her contribution to the development of professional coaching in the region, she was selected as one of five founding members of the Africa Executive Coaching Council.

In January 2017, Ajibola launched the Centre for Core Coaching, dedicated to certifying professional life and corporate coaches, becoming the first programme in West Africa developed to meet the International Coach Federation accredited coach training standards. Ajibola is a seasoned learning facilitator and international speaker. A visionary, change champion and consummate professional who is fully committed to pursuing the ‘Human Agenda’ in the nation.

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INVESTIGATION

Ecobank Nigeria partners Lagos govt to clean up waterfronts

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Ecobank Nigeria to host Regional Trade Forum 2020

Ecobank Nigeria is partnering with Lagos State Ministry of Environment on Waterfront Clean Up Program to enhance the preservation of marine Ecosystem and effectively facilitate socio-economic activities such as transportation, power generation, irrigation and habitat to aquatic life.

The exercise, tagged “Cleaner Waterfront Our Pride”,  was flagged off on Thursday at the Lagos State Government, Ferry Jetty, Amuwo-Odofin.
In his comment, Engr. Joe Igbokwe,  Special Adviser to the Governor of Lagos State on Drainage and Water Resources, said the project was dedicated to cleaning Lagos waterfronts and educating people on ways of disposing plastic waste properly rather than dumping them into the gutter and how to preserve the Ecosystem in general.

Igbokwe who profusely commended Ecobank for its continual support on environmental sustainability issues noted that each and every one of the citizens and corporate bodies are stakeholders and must be involved in helping to preserve the environment, as it is a call to action for all.

Also speaking, the Managing Director, Ecobank Nigeria, Patrick Akinwuntan said the partnership to clear up Lagos waterfronts is part of the Pan African bank’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy to support environmental sustainability initiatives with a view to making the environment safer for living.

According to him, the partnership with Lagos State Government and other non- governmental organisations across the continent was in that direction.
He noted that the water bodies are priceless gifts of nature with huge aesthetic, tourism and economic values.

He lamented that these, however, had been subjected to all forms of abuse and degradation, including dumping and littering with solid wastes and all forms of debris.

The Managing Director who was represented by Tunde Dawodu, a General Manager in the bank, pointed out that there should be a culture change on the way we dispose of our garbage.
This he noted starts with every one of us. He noted that it was in recognition of this fact, that  Ecobank in May this year launched a campaign tagged: ‘Plastic Bottle for Cash’ to pick up four million bottles from Lagos drainages.

Under the initiative, Lagos residents were informed and encouraged to exchange plastic bottles for cash at designated locations across the State.
Of the 4 million target set, over two million used plastic bottles have so far been removed from the streets as the project continues to the end of the year.

According to him, “this initiative is part of our sustainability week for 2019, designed to create awareness on environmental sustainability and to buttress the fact that as a bank, we take time in helping to protect the environment where we operate. Ecobank is an environmentally friendly and socially responsible entity in alignment with the expectation of the Nigeria Sustainability Banking Policy of Central Bank of Nigeria.”

He noted that the 2019 campaign centered on cleaning Lagos and its environs of used plastic bottles along streets, drainages and waterways by collecting and recycling four million plastic bottles. “We hope to reduce this menace affecting our ocean marine life and threatening the food chain. As a responsible corporate organization, the bank will do all it takes to check the trend to ensure a safer living environment for every one of us”.

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