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Diamond Bank Shareholders Panic Over New Revelation

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Diamond Bank Shareholders Panic Over New Revelation

By Dipo Olowookere

In recent times, Diamond Bank Plc has been in the news mostly for the wrong reasons, which has left many people wondering what will happen to their investment in the financial institution.

This fear worsened yesterday when a reputable businessplatform, Proshare Nigeria, published a letter purportedly written by theformer Chairman of the bank, Mr Oluseyi, Bickerstheth, to key shareholders and stakeholdersin the industry.

The letter detailed how some directors, who were later forced out of the firm, kicked against alleged corporate governance abuse by some key elements of Diamond Bank, including its CEO, Mr Uzoma Dozie.

Mr Bickerstheth even said there was an initial agreement for Mr Dozie to resign from the company from January 3, 2019 to allow a new management team, but that he refused to honour this alleged agreement.

He further said contrary to the denials, there were actually moves to allow Access Bank takeover Diamond Bank.

Already, the revelations made by the Chairman has sparked new reactions from shareholders of Diamond Bank, who want the relevant authorities to quickly take decisive steps to avert another loss of investment like it happened few months ago with the defunct Skye Bank, which was nationalised to Polaris Bank.

Those who spoke with Business Post said the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) must not allow the sweat of many investors to go down the drain again.

“The relevant agencies must act fast to avert another crisis,” an investor in the stock market told us on Tuesday.

“Though the chairman did not really say anything new to us, he only confirmed what some of us have been saying about the crisis in Diamond Bank,” another investor said.

Below is the unedited letter purportedly written by Mr Bickerstheth.

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS AT DIAMOND BANK PLC –NEED FOR URGENT ACTION

This letter is written without prejudice and is intended as an instructive, unvarnished, and factual rendition of the truth, for posterity sake. My overall and irrevocable interest remains ensuring the reversal of the declining fortunes of DIAMONDBNK, as well as ensuring that no party, however and wherever placed, threatens the survival of Diamond Bank and the integrity of the Nigerian financial system. It is my hope that all concerned remain faithful to the objective requirements and fiduciary obligations of their positions of stewardship.

I speak on behalf of myself as chairman of DIAMONDBNK and 3 other non-executive directors (NEDs) of the Bank namely Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi, Mrs Juliet Anammah and Mrs Aisha Oyebode. As individuals and as a group of professionals with direct knowledge of the events captured below, I state emphatically our dissociation from any dangerous abuses of office highlighted below, and insist that proper governance be maintained in this, and all other cases. I assume that the CBN did not have all the facts prior to now; if so, it is my assessment that it is not too late for the CBN to do the correct thing by insisting on the Board oversight of the underlying matters, as referenced in our prayer in this letter.

We are all technically independent directors of DIAMONDBNK as we do not represent the interest of any specific shareholder but the interest of all the stakeholders especially those whose investments have made Diamond Bank what it is today as a systemically important bank in Nigeria.

As Independent non-executive directors, we are all very concerned and motivated particularly by concerns of a bank that now appears to be adrift with no direction and leadership, exacerbated by misinformation and counter information within the media. The most recent being the assertions in the media on Monday November 12, 2018 that the bank is to be acquired by Access Bank only for that to be denied by Access Bank, which has now totally dissociated itself from any such transaction. Also DIAMONDBNK has also dissociated itself from the assertions in the media. I have elected to ignore comments from various quarters that the Access Bank transaction is favored by the CEO, and the very loud boasts by the CEO himself that the Access Bank transaction has been endorsed by our regulator, to the exclusion of all other options being considered by the board; as I have also chosen not to speculate on the incentives and motivation for his haste and the evident abuse that will be perpetuated if any such deal is allowed to go through without following due process.

1.  Our Position

DIAMONDBNK’s performance has continued to decline. Current forecasts indicate the bank will close 2018 on significantly lower profit (or even a loss situation) than planned. Management was not able to attend the Q3 Analysts call and we are aware that S&P has downgraded the bank’s credit rating. The bank had neither declared nor paid any dividend since 2013 and the Bank was only meeting the CBN Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) by the grace of CBN forbearance and the current financial position of the Bank does not show any signs of improvement.

The Bank is in dire need of recapitalization. Nonetheless, the Board remains the foremost governing body of the bank with the fiduciary responsibility to protect the interests of all shareholders, thus, all recapitalization proposals including potential acquisitions can only be by a full Board for consideration and approval.

The Diamond Bank Board has 5 “independent” NEDs and the action of the CEO in now attempting to remove 4 of these 5 NEDs, after the fact, was prejudiced and selectively done to undermine the independence of the NEDs. The insertions and “acceptance” of their purported resignation, contrary to the decision of the full board in a meeting, to rescind the decision, was in bad faith and is ultra vires and of no consequence and effect. This attitude of the CEO in fact aligns with the CBN examiners’ observation referenced in paragraph 3 below regarding corporate governance where the management takes actions either without notifying the Board or without securing Board approval as has been seen even in matters concerning the investment vehicle of the CEO’s family.

Further, according to CAMA and SEC Rules, only the Board can accept/approve the resignation of a director. Thus, an acceptance by an executive such as the CEO being null and void and illegal suggests that an acceptance by the CBN based on this illegal action by the CEO appears to have been done hastily.

Indeed, the said resignation of the 4 NEDs never came into effect in law and the Bank through its Board at the meeting of October 22 2018 continued to hold them out as Directors with no dissent from any director. The 4 NEDs remain on the board of Diamond Bank unless and until they have tendered their valid letters of resignations and the Board has accepted same.

2. Background and Context

Following several directors reaching their expiration of tenor in 2016/2017, the board decided in alliance with international best practice to have a more professional and independent membership, and, therefore, brought in additional professionals to help steer the Bank. These board members are myself, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi, Mrs Juliet Anammah, Mr. Dele Babade, Mr Idris Mohammed, Mr. Chris Ubosi and Mrs Aisha Oyebode. And the board recently recommended Mr. Oghogho Akpata to the board awaiting confirmation from the CBN

The board identified the need to inject equity into the bank. In addition, the bank had several financial obligations due in 2019, which the board insisted the funding should be in place by end 2018 (before the Nigerian elections). To improve the viability of the bank, the board had approved the sale of its subsidiaries outside Nigeria as this would be expecting to lead to, subject to the CBN approval, a reduction in the minimum CAR from 15% to 10% upon conversion of the bank to a National Bank (from International Bank).

The board then discussed the options for raising capital and one of the key shareholders indicated interest in injecting more equity into the bank but on condition of a change in management. Observing the issues of performance, the board then decided to first determine the capital requirement by appointing advisers to review the loan book. The result of this evaluation was expected at the end of October 2018 and we presume this has been received by the bank

The Central Bank examiners, in August 2018, had highlighted potential gaps in corporate governance based on transactions which, from their assessment, executive management had not disclosed to the board as it ought to have. Specifically, the examiners highlighted the new corporate head office which was under construction and observed that the progress in terms of cost and status of progress was not captured in any board minutes and indeed was not discussed nor was any budget approval for cost increase discussed or presented to the board.

With the examiners’ concerns, new capital being contemplated and declining performance of the bank in the past 4 years, the Non-executive directors (NEDs) critically assessed the quality of executive leadership of the Bank and the need to strengthen the leadership. A key shareholder CSSAF DBN Holdings demanded an immediate removal of management principally the CEO but the Board favored a less drastic approach to minimize disruption and also enable the Board secure new leadership.

After several discussions, the CEO, of the Bank who is also a representative of the second largest shareholder Kunoch Ltd agreed to resign effective January 3, 2019 but would not tender his letter to confirm his verbal notification. In response, the representative of CSSAF DBN Holdings therefore at the Board meeting held on October 18, 2018 put forward a motion for the removal of the CEO with immediate effect. This was despite continuous negotiations and attempts by members of the Board, to provide an amicable solution to this impending shareholder fight and reaching several tentative agreements, which were frustrated by both parties. Nonetheless due to technical reasons and reluctance of board members regarding an immediate removal of the CEO, the vote for the removal of the CEO was postponed, pending legal clarifications, which could not be provided by the Company Secretary.

The CEO, at the October 18 2018 meeting, had a financial adviser appointed by the executive management without reference to the board to present to the board various strategic options for recapitalization either through an internal rights issue or possible merger with other Tier 1 banks. While the board stated that this was to have been presented to the board capital raising committee, it allowed the presentation to be made. The presentation, though based on 2017 financials was still very high level and, was well received by the Board and the board directed that the recommendation be passed on to the capital raising committee of the bank to evaluate this along with all other options being considered – new injection of capital by the shareholders, merger with a local bank or position to partner with an international bank not currently operating in Nigeria

On Friday October 19, 2018, due to the lack of clarity on the motion for immediate removal of the CEO, the representative of CSSAF DBN Holdings informed board members that as a majority shareholder CSSAF DBN Holdings would call for an Extraordinary General Meeting to remove the CEO since the board had not voted on the matter. The 4 NEDs then decided that it was becoming a shareholder fight, which they felt could have been averted either by the CEO tendering a letter indicating his resignation effective January 3, 2019 or by CSSAF DBN Holdings accepting to give the Board the responsibility of ensuring the issue is resolved amicably. Purely on this basis, the 4 NEDs wrote to resign their appointments immediately by emails to the Company Secretary to allow the 2 shareholders resolve the impasse

The action of the 4 NEDs had the desired purpose of forcing the key shareholders, with the intervention of the CBN, to resolve the impasse. The CEO eventually wrote the letter indicating he would resign from the bank effective January 3, 2019. This letter was written on Diamond bank corporate letter head, addressed to the CBN Governor and forwarded to the Bank Chairman (who had purportedly resigned.). With the letter and the substantive matter seemingly resolved, the 4 NEDs, after tremendous pressure by all parties concerned to rescind their resignation including the representatives of CSSAF DBN Holdings, Kunoch Limited and the CEO himself, on Sunday October 21 2018 sent emails to the Company Secretary notifying her of their decision to rescind their resignation given that the impasse had been resolved.

Another positive and significant outcome was the delivery, by the majority shareholder, of its intent to inject further capital into the bank since their condition that the CEO be removed had been met (by his resignation notice)

The CEO then called for an emergency board meeting on Monday October 22, 2018 to request a mandate for the CEO and executive management to review and conclude on a potential strategic merger as an option for recapitalization. The company secretary sent formal notices to all the 13 board members and all 13 board members (including the 4 NEDs who had previously and purportedly resigned and rescinded their resignation) were on the call. It was most disturbing when the CEO, who was on his way out, vigorously sought exclusive powers to negotiate and conclude the terms for the alleged acquisition of Diamond Bank by Access Bank, a development that had never been tabled before the Board, and which, (if and whenever received) like other expressions of interest, should be subjected to objective evaluation by the Board and its Advisers. This sought mandate was not given to the CEO for the reasons stated above.

The CEO’s resignation letter was also discussed and the CEO stated his preference thatthe letter be regarded as a private letter and excluded from board minutes.

The Chairman stated that given the implications of its content for the bank which had been discussed by the Board, it had to be included in Board minutes. Immediately after the meeting the Chairman sought the legal advice of the Company secretary who confirmed that given the NSE listing rules, the letter was material and the NSE should be formally notified. The Chairman then asked the Company Secretary and the Chairman of the Board Governance and Personnel Committee to review the Rules, following which the Company Secretary was to proceed in compliance them. The further action of the CEO on October 24th truncated this process and as of writing, the minutes of the October 22nd meeting have not been circulated and it is not certain if the bank has formally notified the NSE of the CEO’s impending resignation on January 3rd 2019.

The strategic option was again referred to the Capital-Raising Committee, which met immediately after the board call; the committee is made of 4 NEDs and 3 Executive Directors (including the CEO).

The Capital-Raising Committee agreed to consider 5 Advisers. It was further agreed that the Terms of Reference would be drafted by one of the members and the Advisers were to be contacted within 48 hours of the meeting.

It came as a total surprise to all the NEDs of the bank to read in the media on October 24th that 4 NEDs had resigned to create room for a potential investor planning to invest in the bank. This was patently untrue. These deceptive and invalid media stories have amplified in volume and tone, with the latest being a convenient and self-serving story in the November 12th, 2018 edition of The Nation newspaper, wherein the position long canvassed by the outgoing CEO was portrayed as the position of the Board and Bank.

For emphasis, the Board has never received any expression of interest by Access Bank for any form of merger or acquisition involving both Diamond Bank and Access Bank. If and when that is received, our principled position remains that the criteria must be defined by the Board; all valid and competent interests objectively assessed, and a determination made in the transparent and fiduciary cause of protecting and preserving the legitimate interests of the shareholders, depositors, staff, and other stakeholders of the bank.

Further to this media article, on October 25th the CEO further sent letters to the 4 NEDs purporting to accept their resignation. The Company Secretary also posted a notification of the resignation of the 4 NEDs on the NSE issuers’ portal and finally the CEO sent a letter from the CBN which was addressed to him and in which the CBN accepted the resignation of the 4 NEDs and instructed the CEO to find replacements.

Since then there have been media reports with varying renditions of the facts.

This letter has been necessitated by the following:

    The seeming lack of regulatory / procedural clarity regarding the purported resignation of four directors to which it is important that the three regulators; CBN, SEC and NSE jointly or severally make a pronouncement directly to the bank on these matters having now been apprised of the facts in the foregoing and other consultation they may have had.

    The need to maintain corporate governance in the bank and protect the interest of all the shareholders of the bank.

Our Prayers

    That all regulatory bodies copied in this letter objectively review the foregoing and address this matter promptly in a manner that restores confidence not only in Diamond bank as an entity but in the financial system as a whole.

    That the said regulatory bodies continue to support the Board of Diamond Bank in discharging its fiduciary responsibility in protecting the interests of all shareholders and stakeholders.

    That the Board be allowed to convene the Board strategic meeting as planned for Q4 2018 to discuss the above matters and decide the way forward.

We trust that at this particularly crucial time, the Central Bank of Nigeria and indeed all the regulatory bodies copied in this letter will take necessary steps to prevent the manifest erosion of corporate governance in any bank, as this could very easily have negative and far reaching systemic effects.

Yours Sincerely,

SEYI BICKERSTHETH

CHAIRMAN, DIAMOND BANK PLC

cc:    

·         President, Nigerian Stock Exchange

·         Director General, Securities and Exchange Commission

·         Chairman, CSSAF DB Holdings

·         Chairman, Kunoch Limited

·         Chairman, African Capital Alliance

Dipo Olowookere is a journalist based in Nigeria that has passion for reporting business news stories. At his leisure time, he watches football and supports 3SC of Ibadan. Mr Olowookere can be reached via dipo.olowookere@businesspost.ng

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Stanbic IBTC Bank Offers Clinics, Labs N1.5bn Interest-free Loans

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Cheap Loans

By Dipo Olowookere

Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc has partnered with ISN Medical, a healthcare-focused company, to make procurement of medical diagnostic and healthcare products in Nigeria easier for practitioners.

ISN Medical is a leading supplier of medical diagnostic products and services in Nigeria, with over 40 years of operations.

Stanbic IBTC Bank, a subsidiary of Stanbic IBTC Holdings Plc, as part of its efforts to further strengthen the system and give Nigerians access to quality and affordable healthcare, has created N1.5 billion interest-free loans to clinics, medical laboratories, diagnostic centres, and other healthcare providers for the procurement of medical diagnostic and healthcare products.

“We are happy to be part of this partnership. We believe that there are several benefits that both parties can derive from this collaboration.

“The loan facilities will go a long way in enabling healthcare providers to have access to up to N1.5 billion in medical equipment finance.

“We believe that our goal of enabling healthcare providers easy access to finance is achievable, especially through ISN Medical, a foremost supplier of medical diagnostic products and services in the country,” the CEO of Stanbic IBTC Bank, Mr Wole Adeniyi, said.

Business Post gathered that the N1.5 billion credit facility is part of the N10.2 billion provided by the lender to boost the country’s healthcare system in fulfilment of its corporate social investment initiative pillars in education, economic empowerment and health.

Recall that in 2021, the bank provided a N6.7 billion loan facility for the building of BAZE University Private Teaching Hospital in Abuja and then created a N2 billion special fund for healthcare providers to buy equipment and improve health care delivery.

Mr Adeniyi promised that Stanbic IBTC Bank would continue to engage in strategic partnerships that would be of great benefit to Nigerians seeking to access affordable and quality healthcare in addition to growing the health sector of the country.

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Elendu Seeks Adoption of Blockchain for Dispute Resolution in Banks

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Nigerian Banks

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

The co-founder and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Appzone, Mr Uche Elendu, has called for the adoption of blockchain technology for dispute resolution in banks.

According to him, financial institutions and their customers cannot do without having issues, especially with the increased rate of fraud in the financial system, but technology can be deployed to make the resolution process seamless.

Mr Elendu, while sharing his thoughts during his presentation at the Digital Pay Expo summit, submitted that blockchain technology will not only decentralise the process of moving money from one bank to the other but will help increase the level of visibility and transparency of the procedure.

At the two-day event sponsored by Appzone and put in place to discuss the possibility of accessing finance without a third party across the African continent through Decentralized Finance (DeFi), he said, “Financial institutions across the continent have continued to evolve, leveraging technology.”

“They have metamorphosed from the days of a heavy analogue process to a more digitized era, and with the continuous increase in the volume of banking transactions, it remains pertinent to continuously adopt newer and more sophisticated technology infrastructure to remain dependable, especially with payment settlements.

“For us at Appzone, we are firm believers in blockchain technology. Its decentralized nature not only makes it faster, cheaper, and transparent but also makes it sophisticated enough to enable real-time settlement,” he added.

Speaking further, Mr Ulendu said, “Having rolled out Zone, Africa’s first blockchain platform for payment processing in 2021, partner banks who have onboarded with us have seen a drastic change in their payment settlement process.

“Zone’s innovative architecture will reduce complaints from customers and provide banks with an opportunity to deliver delightful experiences on payment channels while also driving down costs.”

Developed in line with Appzone’s recent evolution into a payment infrastructure company, Zone is Africa’s first decentralized payment network that allows inter-bank transactions to be processed directly between banks on the Blockchain without the involvement of any intermediary.

With Zone, players in the industry should expect a reliable and scalable payment network that enables frictionless and instant payments, within and between every African country.

As more Nigerians get financially included, customers have continued to move away from cash and checks toward electronic payments.

This trend is a positive development for banks and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN); however, as card and online transactions grow, so does the number of disputable transactions and the incidence of fraud, putting pressure on dispute processes.

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Ecobank Offers Mouth-watering Cash Gifts in Super Rewards Season 3

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Ecobank Super Rewards Promo

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

The third season of a loyalty reward programme for customers designed by Ecobank Nigeria Limited has commenced and for two months, 100 customers will win N50,000 monthly.

The customer-focused initiative called Super Rewards Campaign, according to a statement from the company, will run from June 20, 2022, to August 21, 2022.

It was disclosed that two customers will also go home with N1 million each at the end of the season, with participation open to both new and existing individual customers of the bank.

The Head of Consumer Banking at Ecobank Nigeria, Mrs Korede Demola-Adeniyi, advised residents of Nigeria to “open an account with us or reactivate and fund your dormant account.”

“The Super Reward campaign, which was initiated by Ecobank in March 2021, is designed to promote a healthy savings culture amongst Nigerians and reward customers’ loyalty to the Ecobank brand.

“The success of season 1 and 2 campaigns followed by customers’ demand led to the introduction of Season 3. Both Seasons 1 and 2 have produced a total of 8 Millionaires and 1600 customers being rewarded N25,000 weekly in batches of fifty per week,”. she stated.

Speaking on the dynamics of the campaign, the Head of Consumer Products at Ecobank Nigeria, Ms Daberechi Effiong, said the conditions to qualify for the campaign are simple and easy to ensure both new and existing customers participate and get rewarded.

According to her, “New customers only need to open an account with a minimum of N5,000 while existing customers should make minimum deposits of N5,000. Customers with dormant accounts will also qualify when they reactivate and fund their accounts with a minimum of N5,000.”

“Rewards will be done monthly for the 2 months starting from July, 100 customers will be rewarded with N50,000 monthly. There will be two grand prize rewards of N1 million each at the end of the campaign,” Ms Effiong stated, enjoining those that are yet to open an account with the bank to do so to enjoy the benefits of the lender’s bouquet of products and services.

Ecobank Nigeria is a subsidiary of the Ecobank Group, the leading pan-African banking group with operations in 33 African countries and an international presence in four locations (London, Paris, Beijing, and Dubai).

The financial institution is a major player in the distribution of financial services in Nigeria, leveraging digital platforms including Ecobank Mobile App and USSD *326#, Ecobank Online, Ecobank OmniPlus, Ecobank Omnilite, EcobankPay, Ecobank RapidTransfer, ATMs, POSs and an extensive distribution network of over 250 branches and over 50,000 agency banking locations.

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