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Publication threats: Billionaire bank debtors​ lobby CBN Gov to save faces​

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  • Our decision meant to avert another banking crisis – DMBs

 

Fresh information reaching The Witness has revealed that some top Nigerian billionaires are currently lobbying the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele to save their heads following threats by chief executive officers of Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) in Nigeria to share details of chronic debtors and blacklist such.

The Witness reliably gathered from inside sources that since the disclosure of the decision by the bank CEOs, some top moneybags have continued to pressure the apex bank and its head honcho to intervene in the decision of the lender to give them time to clear up their debts.

Aside from this development affecting their businesses, bank debtors are more uncomfortable with the idea of making their names public, especially at a trying time like this. They are deeply afraid that the policy may throw them out of business, especially for those of them who need foreign exchange to operate.

Chronic debtors, analysts say, are those debtors who are unwilling to repay their loans to the banks.

The decision which the DMB’s are ready to implement to the letter, is aimed at forestalling the growing amount of non-performing loans NPLs, in the books of financial institutions to avert another banking crisis in the country.

Recall, CEOs of DMBs across the country recently agreed to share details of chronic debtors and blacklist such.

The bankers made this known after a meeting held to discuss how some debtors have been allegedly using law enforcement agencies to harass and criminalize bank CEOs.

In a statement, the group said the affected debtors are not ready to repay their loans. The group spoke in Lagos after reviewing what it called the “harassment and criminalization of banks’ CEOs by law enforcement agencies.” It noted that chronic bank debtors were now in the habit of enlisting law enforcement agencies including police, judiciary and state security to harass and criminalize bank CEOs, saying this was unacceptable. “Notably, these loan defaulters are known to have abused court processes as well as using social media to propagate their smear campaign against the banks,” the group said.

A communique issued following the meeting noted that these activities by the law enforcement agencies and the bank debt defaulters were capable of adversely affecting the banking system vis-à-vis the CEOs’ reputation amongst international banks, destroy the economy, and called for these to be checked and managed.

In order to tackle what they see as an emerging threat to banking business in Nigeria, the committee outlined a five-step resolution of actions that banks would need to take. The resolutions and planned actions were arrived at after members discussed and considered different options for dealing with the issue.

Specifically, the banks’ CEOs said there was an urgent need for all banks to cooperate and collaborate to identify and ex-communicate chronic debt defaulters, noting that this goes beyond “publishing names of such defaulters in national media (which is inevitable), but involves all banks speaking with ‘one voice’ and sharing information about those entities, and refusing to do further business with them until they settle their obligations.”

To avoid the kind of crisis that rocked the banking sector 10 years ago, the CEOs urged all agencies and stakeholders to step up and help fight the inherent menace of chronic loan defaulters.

According to the CEOs, the banking industry is the backbone of the Nigerian economy, therefore, it is the responsibility of all stakeholders – regulators, police, judiciary, corporate organizations and media to help save it from activities of delinquent debtors.

Besides, the group resolved that all cases of defaults would be presented and passed through the Bankers’ Committee Ethics Committee just as it intends to work with legal councils and come up with ways and strategies to manage related cases effectively without disrupting businesses and the system.

In a recent publication, Access Bank had threatened to publish the names of customers refusing to settle their debts in national dailies.

In a statement, the bank had said it is acting in line with a directive from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

“All Access Bank Plc (including former Diamond Bank Plc) debtors are directed to pay up their past due obligations in order to avoid punitive actions being taken against them,” the bank said.

The statement added, “Please note that we shall publish our debtors’ names in newspapers in two weeks.

“Similarly, in the event that these obligations are not fulfilled, we shall take such further actions against such delinquent individuals and companies as we may consider necessary and shall relentlessly pursue full recovery of all our debts.”

While experts appear to condemn the act of borrowing and refusing to repay the loans, they are more afraid of the bad implication it could have on the macro economy.

Managing director/CEO at BIC Consultancy Services, Dr. Boniface Chizea, in a chat with newsmen believes that since the CBN has autonomy it can take decisions in the best interest of the economy.

He, however, said the idea was good for the banks, but advised that caution should be applied in order to publish only names of those who actually owe.

”The autonomy of the Central Bank should have instrument autonomy which implies that the Central Bank should have unhindered freedom to decide on how best to achieve its mandate without any dictation from any quarters. If the Bankers’ Committee which the CBN chairs decides to publish the names of debtors, so be it.

“We just hope that in embarking on this name-and-shame approach, due care is exercised so that the names of actual debtors are published.

”We had an experience during the immediate past administration when a deluge of rebuttals and retractions followed an attempt to embark on similar exercise. We must avoid such embarrassments this time around.

“If names are to be published, due care must be exercised to ensure the names of only those culpable are published. It is embarrassing and unfair otherwise considering the potential damage to reputation such a move will occasion. It is not good for the creditors for their names to so published as most of these recalcitrant debtors are the juggernauts in our midst; the movers and shakers; the financiers of electoral campaigns who often think that because of their access to the powers that be they remain beyond the law.

”This is a last resort desperate measure meant to stem the wind of distress overtaking the banks leading to a harvest of bank failures. It is good for the banks generally as it has the effect of sanitizing the banks to restore them to sound health to continue to provide banking services, sustain the going concern and continue to return dividends to their many shareholders and stakeholders,” he concluded.

It would be recalled that the immediate-past CBN governor, now Emir Kano Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, had published names of those indebted to some of the banks that failed the second phase of the apex bank’s stress test in 2009.

Asset Management Company of Nigeria, AMCON had in 2013 called a governorship candidate in one of the South-south states of Nigeria a chronic debtor for his unwillingness to liquidate his debt to some banks.

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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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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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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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