Court Orders First Bank to Pay Customer N266m for Breach of Contract
By Dipo Olowookere
First Bank of Nigeria Limited has been ordered by a federal high court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, to pay one of its customers, Mr Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), a notable lawyer in the country, the sum of N266.4 million as general damages against the bank for mismanaging his share portfolio investment account.
The verdict of the court was as a result of a suit filed Mr Agbakoba against First Bank claiming sundry reliefs.
In his statement of claim filed before the court by a partner in the law firm of Agbakoba and Associates Babatunde Ogungbamila on behalf of the human rights lawyer, he alleged that as a result of bankers/customer relationship between him and the bank; sometime in 2008, the bank introduced its margin trading facility to him, which he accepted.
He said First Bank explained to him that the bank’s customers were to purchase shares with the advanced margin trading facility and pledge the shares to the bank.
The bank, for a management fee, was to professionally manage the advanced facility by selecting the broker and securities the facility would be invested into.
He said the bank would also prepare all the paper work needed, provide information about the funds’ holdings and performances and reserved the power to exit should the fund diminish to a threshold that could impair the economic underpinnings of the investment and left the bank’s exposure uncovered.
According to the customer, the bank claimed to possess the requisite knowledge, skills and expertise to seamlessly manage the investment in a win-win situation under terms and conditions that limited the exposure of the customers who were to rely on the expertise of the bank to manage the investment.
Consequently, the bank requested and encouraged him as a customer to take the margin loan contract.
On the strength assurance, the plaintiffs applied for a margin trading facility of N200 million with the plaintiff and the bank opening a joint special reserve lien account with the Central Securities Clearing System (CSCS), whereby First Bank Limited was the sole signatory to the lien account.
The plaintiff said he also provided shares worth N60 million as his own contribution in line with the margin trading facility agreement.
It was fundamental to the margin loan agreement that if the plaintiff was unable to regularize the account within 5 days following the margin call, the bank has the duty to sell the shares and apply the value of the shares appreciate to cover the required margin.
However, the plaintiff averred that the bank did not take reasonable care to ensure the performance of the contract and observe compliance with all terms and conditions of their agreement in relation to the transaction as the bank failed to monitor the stock market and advise the plaintiff accordingly as it was obliged by the margin loan agreement, while the value of the shares continued a steady decline the plaintiff was utterly left in the dark regarding the value of the share portfolio in spite of repeated demands by the plaintiff for information from the bank.
In a particular of the fraudulent inducement, First Bank held itself out as possessing the requisite knowledge, skills and expertise to seamlessly manage the investment in a win-win situation while offering the plaintiff the product, consequently the breach of the margin trading facility agreement, fraudulent misrepresentations and mismanagement of the plaintiff’s account by the bank occasioned huge loses to the plaintiff.
The principal sum of N200 million was completely lost, the plaintiff paid a total sum of N250,434,639.13 in liquidation of the margin loan account excluding interest and other charges.
It was disclosed that the plaintiff’s 30 percent equity contribution valued at N60 million was completely lost and N40 million out of this would have been saved if the shares were sold at the second trigger point, N768,454,85 cost of cancellation of transfer of the debt to AMCON.
During hearing of the case, Mr Agbakoba testified for himself and tendered 22 exhibits.
However, in amended statement of defence filed before the court by Professor G. Elias (SAN), First Bank, while denying almost the claims of Mr Agbakoba, contended that it is not in any way liable to the plaintiff either in contract or tort as the plaintiff was aware of the volatility of the operations of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) and the speculative nature of the price of the stocks traded thereon and voluntarily assumed the business risks involved therein by applying for the loan from the bank and applying for the loan proceeds to buy shares, thereon the bank has never been the plaintiff’s investment manager.
He said the bank’s obligations were limited to the administrative of the facility itself, not the shares. The said administration involved the bank taking steps to ensure payments of the principal sum and the interest and monitoring movements on the bank’s lien account not share account by debiting and crediting relevant accounts towards repayment of the facility.
He said the bank was never a “joint venture” participant in the shares investment business undertaken by the plaintiff with the facility proceeds.
According to him, the bank’s role in the facility transaction was that of a lender and not that of a co-investor or asset manager.
Consequently, the bank denied that it acted in breach of contract or breach of any legal duty, therefore the plaintiff is not entitled to any sum as the plaintiff’s claims against the bank are vexations and without merit and should be dismissed with substantial costs.
In his judgment, Justice Muslim Hassan held that, “I am in agreement with the submission of learned counsel for the plaintiff that the bank failed to honour its contractual obligation as contained in the margin loan agreement and as a result the plaintiff suffered damages.
“The position of the defendant is akin to a situation where a party to a contract in the absence of any agreement to the contrary takes a benefit of a contract and refuses to accept liability as a result of his inaction or negligence, no court in Nigeria would allow that.
“From the foregoing, I hold that the plaintiff has proved his case against the defendant. I hereby make the following orders.
“An order is made against the bank for the payment of N20 million as general damages against the bank for mismanagement of the plaintiffs share portfolio investment.
“An order is made against First Bank for the payment of the sum of N200 million principal sum lost by the plaintiff as a result of the bank’s breach.
“An order is made against the bank for the payment of the sum of N40 million to the plaintiff which would have been saved out of the plaintiff equity contributions were the shares sold at the second trigger point.
“An order is made against the bank for the payment of the sum N768,454,85 to the plaintiff being the cost of cancellation of transfer of the debt to AMCON.
“An order is made against the defendant for the payment of the sum of N5.6 million for loss of dividend that accrued from plaintiffs Diamond Bank shares in April 2008.
“Payment of the sum of N5 million as a cost of this action is refused as the plaintiff failed to prove how he arrived at that figure, more so the plaintiff cannot transfer his legal fees to the bank.
“An order for the payment of interest on the judgment sums awarded against the bank in favour of the plaintiffs from the date of judgement at the rate of 17 percent per annum until judgment sums are paid.”
Farmer Praises Stanbic IBTC for Innovative Agribusiness Financing Solutions
By Aduragbemi Omiyale
A poultry farmer, Mr Haissam Nawan, has commended Stanbic IBTC Bank, a subsidiary of Stanbic IBTC Holdings, for supporting the agricultural sector in Nigeria by designing innovative agribusiness financing solutions tailored for stakeholders in the industry.
Mr Nawan is the director of Sayed Farms Limited, a company which produces and distributes day-old chicks and frozen poultry products across the country.
He testified to how the lender has aided the achievement of his business vision, which is to be one of the biggest poultry producers in the country and engage in beneficial partnerships with small and medium farmers in Nigeria.
“We have witnessed massive expansions, starting from dealing with broiler production only to diving into other aspects of poultry production, including the sale of frozen meat. Stanbic IBTC played a pivotal role in this growth.
“What sets Stanbic IBTC Bank apart is how they handhold you through the growth process with proper guidance and financial structure. Indeed, they are your trusted strategic partner for growth,” Mr Nawan said.
The Head of Commercial Clients Coverage at Stanbic IBTC Bank, Mr Babatunde Akindele, reiterated the determination of the bank to continue to support the growth and development of the Nigerian agricultural sector.
“Agriculture is pivotal to national growth, and its value chain house the goldmine for consumption and exportation. We will continue to ensure expansion in the sector through valuable partnerships such as we currently have with Sayed Farms,” he said.
The Stanbic IBTC Agribusiness financing solutions are structured to support production, processing, and logistics requirements across agricultural value chains.
The bank offers credit facilities for agribusinesses that minimize risks, are versatile, and can be used for finance raw materials, vehicles and other logistic needs, and all forms of equipment.
As the Head of Agribusiness at Stanbic IBTC Bank, Mr Wole Oshin, puts it, agribusinesses are critical for sustainable development and job creation in the country. Accelerating an inclusive agricultural sector will enhance a vibrant economy with extensive enterprise development, he noted.
“We are passionate about providing short-medium term financing solutions to solve the needs of crop and livestock producers, processors, their distribution chain, and other value chain players,” he disclosed, noting that Stanbic IBTC recognises the importance of agriculture to the Nigerian economy, and the organization is intentionally developing initiatives and fostering partnerships that support players in the sector.
Payday Raises $3m to Expand Footprints in UK, Canada
By Adedapo Adesanya
Payday, a pan-African neo-bank, has announced a $3 million Seed round led by Moniepoint Inc (formerly TeamApt) to continue boosting financial presence across Western markets, especially the United Kingdom and Canada.
The new round saw contributions from HoaQ, DFS Lab’s Stellar Africa Fund, Ingressive Capital Fund II and angel investors participating in the round. The angel investors who participated in Payday’s seed round are Mr Dare Okoudjou, Founder and CEO of MFS Africa and Mr Tola Onayemi, CEO of Norebase.
In addition, existing investors, Techstars, Angels Touch, Ingressive Capital & Now Venture Partners, made follow-on investments in this round.
This new round of funding brings Payday’s total investment to $5.1 million, following the over $2 million pre-seed round closed in 2021.
The new capital raised is for licensing to get their UK entity and operations off the ground while expanding to Canada. The company will also grow its talent base by 40 per cent to 50 employees, many of whom will come into its customer success department.
Also, the round sees two new talents join its co-founding team, Mr Elijah Kingson, Payday’s CPO and Mrs Yvonne Obike, Payday’s COO. The former previously led product design for subscription products at Revolut, the London-based neo-bank with over 25 million customers, while Mrs Obike drove MSME growth at Nigeria’s Bank of Industry, the country’s oldest and most significant development institution.
In January, it launched version three of its product, Payday 3.0, signalling an evolution into a super app with features such as local bill payments, virtual naira cards, and payment links.
In February 2023, Payday became a payment partner for Starlink, operated by SpaceX. Thus, it provides a payment method for its users in Nigeria and Rwanda, where Starlink can be purchased on the continent.
Payday claims it has processed an average of 40,000 transactions per day worth millions of dollars and adds 100,000 users monthly, bringing its base to 330,000 users.
Speaking on the new round, Mr Favour Ori, CEO and Founder of Payday, said, “This investment represents a significant milestone for our company, and we are grateful for the trust and commitment shown by our existing and new investors.
“We’re thrilled that this round of funding will lay the foundation for the continued growth of our platform as we expand our services to a wider audience.
“Our passion for empowering individuals and businesses with convenient and secure payment solutions is tangible. This funding will allow us to do so even more.”
Commenting on Moniepoint’s first-time investment in the company, CEO Tosin Eniolorunda says, “At Moniepoint, we’re excited about the unique things Favour and the team are doing with Payday. Personally, I connect deeply with his drive, technical depth, and desire to execute. The urge to encourage that fire inspired us to want to be a part of this.
“More important is the alignment in our goal to provide financial happiness by addressing key payment pain points—Moniepoint with merchants and Payday with individuals. We see a potential to leverage their infrastructure further to deepen our suite of financial services for merchants, and we’re looking forward to all that’s to come”.
Mrs Maya Horgan Famodou, Founder and MD at Ingressive Capital, said, “Favour is one of the savviest entrepreneurs I have met. He knows how to assess, execute, and pivot exactly when necessary. Hence why Payday has seen such explosive growth. This is certainly a gem in our portfolio. I’d bet on Favour and Payday again any day, both to realise the transformational value and also to make us proud with an exit the ecosystem will reference for years to come”.
Mr Sunil Sharma, Managing Director at Techstars Toronto, stated, “A word that best describes Favour Ori is relentless,” says Sunil Sharma, Managing Director of Techstars Toronto and one of the earliest investors in Payday. I was struck by his personal story, which took him from Nigeria to the US for his computer science degree and some valuable early work experience, then to Rwanda to establish a team, then to the UK and back to the US in pursuit of growth. Favour is always in search of opportunity, and nothing can get in his way.”
Payday was launched by Mr Ori in June 2021 from Rwanda to facilitate global payments from and to Africa, with a widespread use case for remote African workers to receive payments from their employers and spend anywhere in the world. Its incorporation in Rwanda and admission into Techstars Toronto accelerator made it the first time the latter admitted a Rwandan startup into its three-month accelerator programme.
The fintech startup allows those on the continent and in the diaspora to send and receive money in 23 currencies, including USD, GBP, and EUR, from over 130 countries. Thus, Africans who work remotely can receive their money in foreign currency and withdraw in the currency of their choice using virtual Mastercard and Visa cards. Alongside Rwanda, Payday is operational in Nigeria and, more recently, the United Kingdom.
Kuda Increases Women in Product Team by 87%, Engineering Team by 144%
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
A financial technology (fintech) company operating in Nigeria and the United Kingdom, Kuda, has disclosed that it has continued to give equal opportunity to its male and female employees.
According to the Chief People Officer at Kuda, Ms Rosie Hewat, “Over the past year, we have increased the number of female hires by 133 per cent, grown the number of women on our Product team by 87 per cent and increased the female members of our Engineering team by 144 per cent.”
She further said, “We’re also proud to announce that the ratio of female-to-male employees at Kuda is now 1:1,” noting that these deliberate equity-promoting initiatives have made Kuda remain “a workplace of reference.”
Ms Hewat noted that to promote equity and raise advocacy for women’s inclusion and visibility, Kuda came up with a month-long series of activities to commemorate this year’s International Women’s Day.
International Women’s Day is a global event celebrated annually on March 8 as a focal point for giving proper attention to the rights of women and issues about their well-being, such as gender equality, reproductive rights, and protection against violence and abuse. The global theme for this year’s IWD is Embrace Equity.
Built around the theme, the goal of Kuda’s IWD activities is to seek more opportunities for women to make progress in their personal and professional lives, as well as to reposition women for economic growth and success in careers and businesses.
The IWD activities planned to stretch the entire month of March include a showcase of the impact that Kuda has made in promoting gender equity from 2022 to 2023. The showcase will also include the company’s further commitment to gender equity.
“As an equal opportunity-promoting organisation, we are passionate about promoting a healthy work environment where everyone, irrespective of gender, can aspire, reach the top of their career and realise their personal goals.
“We have always been intentional about building an organisation where gender equity is an obvious norm, and we are excited to report that we have made progress with reflecting this core essence, particularly within our Engineering and Product teams. This is a part of our growth process, and we will continue to work towards building the type of workplace we dream of,” she stated.
She revealed that over the past year, steps taken by Kuda to promote gender equity include fine-tuning its school-to-workplace internship programme aimed to imbue young engineers and product managers with the requisite skills for career progression.
Other steps include the development of a recruitment model that incentivises peer referrals, offering more opportunities for product management trainees to become product managers at Kuda, and the expansion of the Engineering and Product teams to onboard more women into leadership roles.
More progressive initiatives are being championed by the company’s woman-led Diversity, Inclusion and Equity committee.
Ms Hewat disclosed further that the company, in 2022, bolstered career growth for 20 young women it sponsored to the Africa Girls in Tech boot camp.
The programme, in partnership with Africa Agility, afforded the beneficiaries opportunity to learn tech and product skills and helped them get internships at tech startups or start freelancing.
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