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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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Banking

Heritage Bank Wins Five Awards at People Magazine, FICAN Awards

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Heritage Bank People Magazine FICAN Awards

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

Heritage Bank has again shown that it is one financial institution in Nigeria many will aspire to be like and this was demonstrated at two notable awards ceremonies, where the lender went home with five different awards.

The bank, which prides itself as Nigeria’s most innovative banking service provider, was the cynosure of all eyes at the 2021 Human Resource (HR) People Magazine Awards and at the Finance Correspondents Association of Nigeria’s (FICAN) 30th-Anniversary Conference and Awards.

The firm was given the HR Champion Award (for MD/CEO, COO), Most Outstanding Engagement Strategy for over 1000 Employees and the HR Leader Award (for Heads of HR).

It was also awarded at FICAN with Platinum Awards presented to the MD/CEO, Mr Ifie Sekibo and Heritage Bank for Outstanding Support towards FICAN and Financial Reporting.

The bank further won the prestigious awards in recognition of the leadership of Heritage Bank in Human Capital Development (HCM) for putting employees first and ensuring that its people management and engagement strategies are second to none and in celebration of its MD/CEO’s leadership style. The bank was also recognised for Outstanding Support towards Financial Reporting in Nigeria.

This was Heritage Bank’s first time participating in such an event as HR practitioners, as the financial institution had the opportunity to enter three award categories.

Over 20 established brands from different industry sectors were also said to have participated in the several keenly contested award categories, which cut across various areas of people management and development. Despite the formidable competition and the very rigorous screening process, Heritage Bank emerged as the winner in the series of awards won.

Commenting on the awards, the Divisional Head, Human Capital Management, Ms Abike Wesey, expressed gratitude to the organisers for believing in Heritage Bank and the leadership of the bank for their support to employees’ welfare.

“We are ecstatic to have received this honour and are extremely grateful for the leadership of Executive Management, for giving us wings to fly right in our corner and always willing to listen.

“It was indeed a remarkable moment for us, as we strutted up the dais, with heads held up high and proud, amidst the cheer and accolades from the HR community, well represented at the event; especially in an event of such calibre, being recognized in a gathering of doyens & captains of Industries for our exceptional accomplishments in a widely acclaimed, challenging year – it was definitely no small feat,” Ms Wesey said.

According to her, “The award and commendations go a long way to show that our people management & engagement strategies are truly working, and we are committed to doing more in our world to keep the Heritage flag flying. We identify with our Heritage, because, winning is our heritage.”

The HR Awards is very unique because of its process and organisation. The organisers are usually not aware of the winners till the day of the event, the same time the results are revealed per category and award submissions are made on a peculiar website – comparable to none in West Africa.

The judges are respected & prominent former heads of HR, selected from five different countries and from various industries, with cutting-edge experience who judge the contestants on global best practices.

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Banking

FairMoney Gets BBB/A3/Stable Ratings from GCR

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FairMoney

By Adedapo Adesanya

MyCredit Investments Limited, which trades as FairMoney, has been assigned an investment grade issuer rating (BBB/A3/Stable) from Global Credit Rating (GCR).

The digital bank obtained investment-grade ratings, BBB (NG) Long Term, and A3 (NG) Short Term with a stable outlook driven by its ungeared position, robust liquidity, resilient balance sheet, sound underwriting practices, and a strong growth trajectory since its inception.

According to the agency, this stable outlook rating reflects expectations that MyCredit Investments Limited is evolving and will show strong overall performance metrics over the medium term.

GCR further noted that cash flow and leverage was a positive rating factor and business growth is expected to remain steady over the next 12 – 18 months.

Over time, FairMoney Nigeria has significantly grown its loan book whilst showing strong profitability.

Non-performing loans (NPLs) have been maintained at a stable yet declining rate over the last year of operations. This is a testament to the company’s advanced underwriting practices which has positioned it as the leading digital lender in Nigeria.

Commenting on the ratings, co-founder/CEO of FairMoney, Mr Laurin Hainy, affirmed that the ratings reflect FairMoney’s resilient business model, international best practices, strong management team and a diversified employee base.

“The milestones achieved since our incorporation within the digital banking space indicates that the Group is on track to achieving its vision of building the leading Neo-bank in emerging markets,” he stated.

Mr Laurin added that the company was focused on superior customer satisfaction and ensuring enhanced value for investors.

“As a customer-first organisation, we are proud that this rating will create yet another win-win situation in the Nigerian market. FairMoney will be able to further serve our customers while providing a solid and secure investment target to institutional investors in our home market Nigeria,” he said.

FairMoney was incorporated in 2017 and has wholly-owned subsidiaries in Nigeria (FairMoney Nigeria) and India (FairMoney India). Both companies are owned by the Paris-based parent company Predictus SAS.

Recently, FairMoney raised a $42 million Series B round with international participation.

The company also launched a N10 billion Private Note programme. The first series of the private note was launched successfully earlier this year and saw participation from a number of the leading reputable institutional investors in Nigeria.

The Investment-Grade rating places FairMoney in a favourable position to access funding from the Nigerian capital markets to finance its strong loan book growth.

The company also plans on launching the second series of the Private Note shortly.

FairMoney Nigeria is a digital consumer and SME lender, and provider of digital financial services in Nigeria. The company recently obtained its Microfinance Bank License from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

FairMoney has created a product that offers near-instant digital loans 24/7 directly via its mobile app. It offers transfer and payments solutions, including bill-pay and airtime purchase, debit cards and other digital banking services.

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Banking

First Bank Partners NIBSS to Promote Digital Payment Convenience

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First Bank Sympathy Letter

By Sodeinde Temidayo David

Nigeria’s top first-generation financial institution, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, has announced its partnership with the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) on its recently launched Nigeria Quick Response (NQR) Payment Solution, in a bid to improve customer digital payment experience.

This was revealed by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of First Bank, Mr Adesola Adeduntan, who noted that the NQR is an innovative payment option implemented for all financial service providers.

“We are delighted with the adoption of the Nigeria Quick Response (NQR) payment solution, an initiative by Nigeria Interbank Settlement System plc (NIBSS) which has been instrumental to easing and promoting payment convenience with the use of mobile phones,” the CEO expressed.

As stated by Mr Adeduntan, the NQR is designed to promote quick and fast transactions by scanning the code on one’s mobile device.

He noted that the NQR is set to promote the vision of the bank, embracing technology to deliver quality and satisfactory services.

“At First Bank, we recognise the indelible role technology plays in promoting businesses across diverse frontiers and we remain committed to reinventing our technology infrastructure to meet global standards whilst being committed to staying true to our mantra in always putting You, our customers First,” he stated.

This new initiative reduces costs for merchants and banks in delivering instant value for a person to business (P2B) and person to person (P2P) transactions by simply scanning to pay.

Unlike other QR schemes, the NQR is implemented with reduced charges that are cheaper for merchants.

The initiative is accessible on the bank’s payment infrastructure as the NQR code can be used to make payments through one’s FirstMobile App and it is also available for the merchant in facilitating their business activities.

The touchpoint and use cases of the NQR payment solution include convenience stores, supermarkets, shopping malls, pharmacies, ride-hailing or taxi payments, bus fares, tolling booths payments, vending machines, e-commerce sites, online businesses amongst many others.

To access the service, customers are expected to launch the FirstMobile App and select QR payment. Afterwards, NIBSS can be chosen as a payment provider, then the seller’s NQR barcode can be scanned.

The amount is inputted for the transaction would be followed by a request for personal identification number (PIN) validation to generate an instant confirmation of the transaction successfully.

On the other hand, merchants are to visit any First Bank branch closest to them for service enrollment.

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