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Court Orders First Bank MD to Sign Sympathy Letter

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First Bank Sympathy Letter

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

First Bank of Nigeria Limited has been directed to pay the benefits of one of its deceased staff, Mrs Chika Chukwu, within 30 days, Business Post reports.

This directive was given by Justice Faustina Kola-Olalere of the Port Harcourt division of the National Industrial Court.

The court further orders the financial institution to write a sympathy letter to the husband of the late employee, Mr Ori Chukwu, which must be signed by its Managing Director.

Ruling on the matter, the judge said the lender must pay Mr Chukwu, who is now the administrator of the estate of Mrs Chukwu, N963,504.68 as benefits in addition to N250,000 as the cost of action.

Mr Chukwu had approached the court to compel First Bank to pay him the sum of N4 million as compensation under the Workmen’s Compensation Act, but the judge disagreed with him.

According to the deceased’s husband, First Bank only paid a one-year basic salary of his last wife, who prior to her demise in 2006, was an employee of the bank, to assist the family with burial expenses and has failed to pay the other entitlements despite repeated demands.

But First Bank, through its counsel, Mr Rotimi Aremu, maintained that it had paid the amount of money payable to the family of its late staff upon her death; and averred that the bank insurer for the death of the deceased employee was paid less of the deceased indebted to the bank.

The lender argued that the action of Mr Chukwu was statute-barred and liable to be dismissed on the ground that the action was filed over five years provided under the Limitation Law of Rivers State.

It also informed the court that the claimant had failed to show his right to demand, neither as the husband of the deceased nor as a dependant of the deceased.

The bank stressed that the Letter of Administration issued in Mr Chukwu favour was just a letter of authority to an administrator, not evidence of a marriage between him and the deceased.

According to First Bank, it was not a necessary party to the suit, as the compensation due (if any) to the claimant was to be borne by the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund Management Board and urged the court to dismiss the claim in its entirety.

This argument was countered by Mr Chukwu through his counsel, J. U. Ikorogbudu, explaining that a dependent was someone who relies wholly or partly on the income of the deceased employee.

He denied that the deceased was indebted to the defendant, urging the court to assume jurisdiction and grant the reliefs sought.

Justice Kola-Olalere, while delivering the judgment after careful evaluation of the submission of both parties, dismissed the objections and held that from May 11, 2009, when the case in question was filed in Rivers State High Court to September 23, 2016, when it was struck out for lack of jurisdiction, the limitation period stopped running and then continued running again from September 24, 2016, to August 18, 2017, when the action was filed at the NIC.

The judge held that the deceased was not indebted to the bank before she died as no document was shown to prove to the contrary

“The defendant has admitted receipt of the sum of N963,504.68 from its insurer for the death of the deceased employee; therefore, I hold that the defendant is to pay to the claimant, the admitted sum of N963,504.68 as the deceased/employee’s death in service benefit in line with the provision of clause 5.8.3 (d) of Exhibit C.5 before the court in this case.”

Aduragbemi Omiyale is a journalist with Business Post Nigeria, who has passion for news writing. In her leisure time, she loves to read.

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Banking

First Bank Reacts to Rumoured ‘Acquisition’ by Otedola

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First Bank Otedola

By Dipo Olowookere

One of the news items that has dominated the business space in the past few days is the rumoured takeover of FBN Holdings Plc, the parent company of First Bank of Nigeria (FBN) Limited, by Mr Femi Otedola, a businessman in the country.

It was reported that he has ‘acquired’ the lender by pumping about N30 billion into the shares of the company at the stock market, making him the single largest shareholder.

This was linked to the recent rise in the trading volume and value of FBN Holdings equities at the Nigerian Exchange (NGX) Limited, which has spurred questions from various quarters.

But in a statement issued on Friday, the management of FBNH said it was not aware of the businessman emerging as its new shareholder, though it pointed out this could have happened as its shares are always available for purchase at the market by anybody.

In the notice signed by the company secretary, Seye Kosoko, the bank said once it receives notification from Mr Otedola, it will promptly inform the regulators about it as required.

“The attention of FBN Holdings has been drawn to media reports today, October 2021, purporting that a certain individual has acquired a significant shareholding interest in FBN Holdings, therefore making him the majority shareholder of the company.

“As a listed company, shares of FBN Holdings are publicly traded and sale and acquisition of shares are expected in the normal course of business. We operate in a regulated environment, which requires notification of significant shareholding by shareholders to the company, where shares are held in different vehicles, further to which the company will notify the regulators and the public as appropriate.

“The company is yet to receive any notification from the individual mentioned in the media report of such acquisition. FBN Holdings will always notify the appropriate agencies and authorities whenever it receives any notice of significant shareholdings by the shareholders and the company’s registrars,” the disclosure read.

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Banking

Femi Otedola Quietly Takes Over First Bank

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Femi Otedola First Bank FBN Holdings

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

There are reports that a billionaire businessman, Mr Femi Otedola, is coming back into the capital market on a big scale a few years after he offloaded his stake in Forte Oil, 75 per cent, which later became Ardova Plc under its new owners.

It is believed that business mogul has pounced on the crisis at FBN Holdings Plc, the parent company of First Bank of Nigeria Limited, which also recently had a board crisis, to take over the company.

According to reports, which is yet to be independently verified by Business Post, Mr Otedola, son of a late Governor of Lagos State, Sir Michael Otedola, is now the single majority shareholder of the first generation lender in Nigeria.

He is said to have acquired N30 billion worth of the company’s equities at the Nigerian Exchange (NGX) Limited, where the firm is listed.

In recent times, there has been an upward movement in the share price of FBN Holdings at the stock market and this has raised many eyebrows as some investors were asking what was driving the hike.

Mr Otedola is not new to the boardroom and it is believed that his entry into the banking space would cause a disruption and make him rub shoulders with renowned bankers like Mr Jim Ovia of Zenith Bank Plc, Tony Elumelu of United Bank for Africa (UBA), amongst others.

Some months ago, many observers were shocked when the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) sacked the boards of FBN Holdings and First Bank of Nigeria Limited and it was learnt that the financial institution has been on the life-support of the regulator.

The FBN Holdings board led by businessman, Mr Oba Otudeko was asked to leave and the CBN further ordered the bank to ensure that the debts owed by the directors, including Mr Otudeko, who sits on the board of Honeywell Flour Mills Plc, should be recovered.

A few months after this directive, shares of FBN Holdings and Honeywell have enjoyed a significant rise in value, causing people to ask questions.

If the latest information is correct, it would mean that Mr Otedola was likely the reason for the uptick witnessed in First Bank stocks at the exchange lately.

It means he will have a good representation on the board of the lender and turn its fortunes around.

First Bank is yet to officially inform the investing public about this development.

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Banking

Heritage Bank in Debt Crisis, Reps May Order CBN Takeover

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Heritage Bank CEO Ifie Sekibo

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

The banking industry in Nigeria may be plunged into another crisis if urgent steps are not quickly taken to address the issue so as to douse the looming tension.

Business Post reports that a few years ago, precisely in 2018, depositors and shareholders of Skye Bank were in a panic mood after the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) nationalised the lender to Polaris Bank Limited because of debts and the House of Representatives on Thursday raised an alarm that another financial institution, Heritage Bank, is allegedly swimming in huge debts.

The lower chamber of the National Assembly had invited the bank and its Managing Director, Mr Ifie Sekibo, to explain why the amount the company owes the federal government is more than its share capital, but he has failed to honour the request.

This action has infuriated the parliament, which has threatened to direct the CBN to take over the ownership of Heritage Bank if Mr Sekibo and the bank ignore their latest invite next Wednesday.

Mr Adejoro Adeogun, Chairman of the Adhoc Committee on Assessment and Status of All Recovered Loots, Moveable and immovable Assets from 2002 to 2020 by agencies of the federal government for Effective and Efficient Management and Utilisation, issued this threat at the resumed hearing of the committee yesterday.

“I need to send this message to Heritage Bank that we are not comedians here and we are not joking here. If Heritage Bank owes Nigeria more than its share capital, we will not hesitate to ask the National Assembly to write to CBN to take over Heritage Bank.

“They cannot be owing more than their share capital and feel too big to respond to invitations from the National Assembly. Clerk, you have to write them, give them till Wednesday next week. That is the last time we are going to give them,” an angry Mr Adeogun barked.

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