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Court Freezes N19bn Belonging to Ex-Bank PHB MD Atuche

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francis atuche

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

A Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja has frozen the assets and funds worth N19.2 billion belonging to Mr Francis Atuche, a former Managing Director of the defunct Bank PHB Plc.

The funds are domiciled in 24 different banks in Nigeria, including Citi Bank Limited; Ecobank Nigeria Limited; First Bank of Nigeria Plc; First City Monument Bank (FCMB); Globus Bank Limited; Fidelity Bank Plc; Keystone Bank Limited; Lotus Bank Limited and Mainstreet Bank Plc.

Others are Polaris Bank Plc; Platinum Mortgage Bank Limited; Providus Bank Limited; Stanbic IBTC Nigeria Limited; Standard Chartered Bank; Sterling Bank Plc; Wema Bank Plc; Zenith Bank Plc; Unity Bank Plc; Titan Trust Bank Limited, Union Bank of Nigeria Plc and others.

On August 17, 2021, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) filed an ex parte application to freeze the assets and money and on Tuesday, August 1, it was approved by Justice Lateefat Okunnu.

Recall that in June 2021, Justice Okunnu sentenced Mr Atuche to six years imprisonment, while the former Chief Financial Officer of Bank PHB, Ugo Anyanwu, was sentenced to four years for stealing and conspiracy to steal to the tune of N25.7 billion.

The judge, while sentencing the duo, had ordered them to make restitution of the sum of N25.7 billion to the federal government to replace the funds stolen from the public to bail out the bank.

While filing an order to freeze the assets and funds of the ex-Bank PHB MD, counsel to the EFCC, Kemi Pinheiro (SAN), informed the court that 15 persons, as well as 22 firms, were used by the convicted former banker and Anyanwu to launder the funds.

Pinheiro listed the individuals to include Anthony Atuche, Emeka Patrick Atuche, Paul Okobi, Felix Oyiana, Moruf Kazeem Adisa, Olatunji Abiodun, Daniel Enebeli, Aina Olugbenga, Augustine Nwabueze, Omonua Benedict, Oliver King Nduaaron, Dr. Chris Ike Ogbechie, Mr. Murat Bektaslar, Attah Omataikpo Olukemi and Thomas Etuh.

The EFCC counsel further stated that the firms, in which Mr Atuche has an either direct or indirect interest are Aqua Harvest Limited, Hubmart Stores Limited, Hubmart Limited, Sapphire Capital Management Limited, Homeland Real Estate Company Limited, Malechi Foods Limited, Homeland Meridian Partners Limited, Promise Investment Limited and Temple Cottage Hotel Limited.

Others are Wegas Properties Project Limited, Buckhead Construction Limited, Claremount Management Services Limited, Afco Associates Limited, Platinum Capital Limited, Ghazali Yakubu Investment Limited, The Financial (Services) Company Limited, Venture Resources Limited, Elizabeth-A Company Limited, Signature Partners Limited, Purplepay Technologies Limited, Oakwood Asset Management Limited and Conesto Nigeria Limited.

Justice Okunnu granted the 12 prayers of the applicant and held that, “An order is made restraining the first defendant (Atuche) whether by himself or acting through the persons or entities listed or such other persons including but not limited to his family members or agents, from removing, alienating, disposing of, dealing with or diminishing the value of assets, proceeds of economic and financial crimes or otherwise in the name of the first defendant.”

The judge also held that “the assets or funds included those held indirectly by or for Atuche’s benefit, whether solely or jointly held, that are located in Nigeria or worldwide.”

Justice Okunnu further ordered the freezing of any bank account being run and operated by Mr Atuche “personally or jointly, whether in his personal name or otherwise or with the Bank Verification Number (BVN) 22295357230 in any of the respondent banks to the tune of N19,178,253,050, pursuant to the restitution order made by this honourable court on June 16, 2021.”

Mr Atuche and his privies, including his lawyers, were also barred from presenting to the above-listed banks “any mandate or instruction for the withdrawal of any money and/or funds standing to the credit of any of their accounts to the tune of N19,178,253,050.”

Justice Okunnu, who also restrained the banks from honouring any such instruction from Mr Atuche and his privies, further held that, “A mandatory order of injunction is made directing the named respondent banks to file within 48 hours of service of this order of this honourable court on them returns of the Statements of Account of the first defendant (personally or jointly) whether in his personal name or otherwise or with the Bank Verification Number: 22295357230 and the accounts of persons and entities listed in the aforementioned Schedules A and B maintained with them.

“A further order is made directing service of the order made herein on persons affected thereby including, in particular, the persons and entities listed in Schedules A and B. by way of advertisement in either The Punch or Thisday or The Guardian newspaper.”

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Zenith Bank to Give Akwa Ibom N4.7bn Loan for Auto Plant

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Zenith Bank customer

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

The government of Akwa Ibom State is planning to obtain a loan of N4.7 billion from Zenith Bank Plc for the establishment of Mimshac Automobile Assembly Plant.

The auto plant is to be located in Ikot Ukap, Itu Local Government Area of the state.

Governor Udom Emmanuel, a former director at Zenith Bank, approached the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly for approval of the credit facility.

Mr Emmanuel, in a message forwarded to the Speaker of the House, Mr Aniekan Bassey, and read by the Clerk, Mrs Mandu Umoren, at plenary on Tuesday, explained that the loan will aid the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Akwa Ibom State Government and Mimshac Digital Ltd Automobile Plant for the sum of $10 million (about N4.7 billion at the exchange rate of N470/$1.

Udom Emmanuel

According to the Governor, the said amount from Zenith Bank will help “finance the procurement of Semi Knocked Down and Complete Knocked Down (CKD) parts for the assembling of 85 stainless steel, 20-seater luxury buses.”

He further explained that the money will also facilitate the training of 20 persons recommended by the state government on the assemblage and manufacturing of vehicles in Israel.

In a statement posted on its Facebook page on Thursday, the Akwa Ibom House of Assembly said the loan request was supported by lawmakers, who said it would boost the economy of the state and create more jobs for the teeming unemployed youths.

The lawmakers assured that the House will continue to support Governor Emmanuel in his quest to leave the state better than he met it.

The Speaker, while speaking after the loan request approval, directed the Clerk to communicate the resolution of the parliament to Mr Emmanuel.

Akwa Ibom Speaker

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Digital Banking – A Catalyst for Economic Growth and Financial Empowerment

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Standard Chartered Bank Nigeria

By Lamin Manjang

Think back to a time when the word ‘Bank’ came to mind. It conjures images of long queues, tally numbers, paperwork to complete, pressure to process transactions within working hours, awaiting physical approvals on transactions.

Fast forward to more recent times with the impact of technology and financial literacy, the word ‘Bank’ connotes different reactions to many people. Personalized financial growth, opportunities for business collaborations, access to foreign investment opportunities, transferable generational wealth and financial security all on one’s terms are some of the prevailing thoughts for customers.

Customers now have access to information around the clock at the touch of their fingers and as such can determine what financial needs they want their financial partners to meet. The union of innovation, digital literacy and collaborative opportunities to provide financial services, gives us the solution that is Digital Banking.

Digital banking in Nigeria has evolved significantly over the last five years to become an important part of our daily activities, driving e-commerce, wealth creation, payment solutions, financial empowerment, and improved standards of living.

In a world of digital banking and with innovation and technology positioning itself as the future of payments and wealth creation, there are several opportunities for financial institutions to tackle some of the country’s biggest challenges around job creation, economic empowerment and financial inclusion for youths while being a catalyst for efficiency within the sector.

As with any endeavour towards automation, curiosity with heightened caution is expected primarily around the impact on employment opportunities and business sustainability. However, the reality is that with digitization comes immense opportunities for employees in any organisation to acquire new skills that position them for the future working environment which will be predominantly digital.

Digitization fosters efficiency. For example, it broadens and extends a bank’s ability to reach existing and new customers, previously unreachable due to the limitations of the physical brick and mortar branches. Digitisations simplifies manual processes through automation; reduces delays encountered by end-users; creates new job opportunities, thereby creating multiple opportunities for reskilling, upskilling, and redeploying of employees into new roles.

At Standard Chartered, we are a listening and customer-centric financial institution. We are focussed on understanding how our customers want to transact; how we can improve on the products and services that are important to them while ensuring a smooth delivery method to these solutions.

A growing number of our customers are telling us that they want financial solutions that they can access and utilize anytime and anywhere from the convenience of their own mobile devices.

They want to be able to access investment opportunities 24/7 on the go at their fingertips and equally connect with our customer care specialists who can support them whenever they have any queries. Continuous optimization of our digital banking solutions enables us to meet these financial needs.

In December 2021, as part of the digitization journey we embarked on a few years ago towards enhancing our processes, we closed down 10 of our branches in Lagos and Abuja and made significant investments towards optimizing our operating channels, products and service solutions to suit the demands of our clients.

The decision, with the approval of the regulator, was also driven in response to changes in customer transaction behaviour. We have witnessed significant adoption of our digital banking services by customers as most of them continue to prioritize convenient banking over the need to visit any of our physical locations to access our products and services.

In addition to our customer-centric digital strategy, we pride ourselves in the implementation of a forward-looking People Strategy where we proactively plan our workforce needs to fulfil our Business Strategy.

The banking landscape is very dynamic with rapidly changing customer needs. This year, in response to this, we continue to strategically prepare our employees for the future working environment which will be primarily digital. We continue to upskill, equip, and redeploy employees especially those impacted by the closure of the branches in Lagos and Abuja to ensure career growth and stability for our employees this year.

But digitization is not just for the advantage of our customers and employees only. Digitisation provides an opportunity to positively impact the communities too.

The importance of quick access to finance for example cannot be undervalued and with financial exclusion still being a barrier in some parts of Nigeria – digital innovation in banking can influence positive transformation within the sector.

Recently the bank launched its Agency Banking service as part of its Digital Banking proposition to clients across Lagos. This builds on the launch of our world-class digital bank in December 2019. SC Mobile, the Bank’s mobile app has practically put the bank in the palms of the client as clients are able to open new accounts end to end, transfer funds, effect static data changes, get cards delivered to their doorstep, invest in real-time etc.

We equally launched our Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) service, *977# which caters to clients who may not have access to internet service and wish to transact. These are just some of the initiatives we continue to drive in support of CBN’s financial inclusion agenda to empower Nigerians.

We have taken a ‘Capturing the Digital Initiative’ approach that ensures that over 70 per cent of the most common service requests can be handled by our digital bank with distinct benefits such as a zero charge on all interbank transactions, zero charges on SMS notifications and free delivery of cards to customers regardless of location. We remain forward-thinking on how best we can continue to simplify and improve our customers experience with the bank.

From the 2020 NIBBS report, customers between 25 and 34 years old carried out 36% of all interbank instant payments. With an estimated 60% of the Nigerian population setting the tone for adopting innovative technology, it is essential to welcome the latter while also firmly holding the former by striking a balance in responding to customer-specific needs.

Digital banking is no longer a series of financial transactions and services. It is an innovative solution towards providing empowerment and creating sustainable prosperity for our clients, colleagues and the community. This is the future and we are all encouraged to adopt and maximize these changes for the benefit of all.

Lamin Manjang is the CEO of Standard Chartered Bank Nigeria.

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KPMG Ranks Ecobank Among Top Five Customer-centric Nigerian Banks

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ecobank customer forum

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

Ecobank Nigeria Limited has been ranked among the top five customer-centric financial institutions operating in the country.

The ranking was done by a leading audit and professional services company in Nigeria, KPMG, in its 2021 survey of Nigerian banks.

Ecobank Nigeria was number five in the study in the Wholesale (Corporate) Banking category of the KPMG Customers’ Experience and Satisfaction Survey.

When compared with the previous year, the lender moved eight places higher, which was a significant improvement.

The top banks in order of rating include Citibank, Standard Chartered Bank, FCMB, Zenith and Ecobank Nigeria.

KPMG explained that Ecobank and other leaders in the segment demonstrated digital banking excellence with higher transaction volumes; adding that they were seen as partners to corporates and also move quickly to address and exceed customer needs.

“Our annual banking survey continues to provide an independent platform for banks and other organizations to acquire this outside-in perspective and understand the voice and priorities of Nigerian customers.

“This year, our results reveal a very competitive landscape in the race for the customer and at the same time, customer feedback that recognizes the effort and innovation of Nigerian banks,” the respected firm stated.

Specifically, it stated that, “In the report, we explore, in more detail, key priorities for corporates such as transaction banking support as well as the payments experience for retail customers.”

The KPMG Nigeria Banking Industry Customer Experience Survey has been held annually for the last 15 years with the 2021 edition themed Changing Customer, Changing Priorities.

The experience survey measures the performance of lenders in the country in terms of their relationship with their account holders and other users of financial services. They are usually rated in three categories – Retail, SME and Wholesale.

The 2020 survey covered 15,056 retail customers, 1,856 SMEs and 332 commercial/corporate organisations. Respondents were selected from customers who have interacted with their banks in the last six months.

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