By Dipo Olowookere
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Tuesday, September 18, 2018, informed Justice Muhammad Idris of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos how a suspended Branch Manager of Heritage Bank Plc in Yenogoa, Mr Iwejuo Nna Joseph, allegedly concealed funds through his son’s account.
The defendant was arraigned alongside Dudafa Waripamo-Owei, a former Senior Special Adviser on Domestic Matters to former President Goodluck Jonathan, on June 11, 2016, on a 23-count charge of conspiracy to conceal proceeds of crime to the tune of N1.6 billion.
While cross-examining Joseph who gave evidence in his defence, the prosecuting counsel, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, asked him to confirm that he deposited various sums of money including N9.5 million on January 22, 2014 to his son’s bank account.
In response, Mr Joseph, who disclosed that his son was born on December 28, 2006 and that he opened an account for him soon afterwards, answered in the affirmative.
The defendant, also confirmed depositing a sum of N5 million in his son’s account on February 3, 2014, among others.
When asked where the money came from, the defendant said it must have been from the account of Ebiwise Resources owned by his family.
He said a sum of N9 million, for instance, was transferred from his son’s account to the Ebiwise Resources account, which he and his wife jointly operate.
The defendant further stated that his company once got a contract from the Bayelsa State government to construct a Sport Academy building.
“We submitted an application for the job. There were so many buildings and they allocated one to us.
“Our company was paid N41million for the contract by the Bayelsa State government,” he said.
Asked if he disclosed to his bank that he was also a government contractor, Mr Joseph answered in the negative, adding that “I did not disclose it because it was not necessary. But my colleagues knew about the family business.”
He said he was even encouraged by his bank to open bank accounts for his family members as a young marketer.
Also, when the prosecution counsel pointed out to the defendant that he placed a sum of N200 million in a fixed deposit account on October 21, 2013, the defendant replied that he did not know.
When Mr Oyedepo drew his attention to the fact that his salary was N309,000 per month as at then, the defendant responded that he could not remember exactly how much he earned in a year “due to the fact that the monthly package varied.
“I have been on suspension since EFCC began investigating my account.
“I’m not aware that the bank has dismissed me, but I’ve not been going to work because of investigation into this account.
“Since I arrived EFCC on May 10, 2016, I have not been paid.
“The prosecution counsel also pointed out irregularities on the defendant’s Secondary School certificate, wherein his date of birth reads: June 7, 1974, but the defendant told the court that he was born on March 24, 1972.
In view of this, when asked if he ever tried to correct the date with the West African Senior School Certificate Examination, WAEC, he answered “No, because I felt it was not necessary.
“I presented the certificate to my then employer (Omega Bank) and i did not think it was necessary to change it because it happened years ago”, he said.
Earlier, while being led in evidence by his counsel, Ige Asemudara, Mr Joseph had denied all the allegations brought against him by the EFCC.
He said he was denied food for two days while in the EFCC custody and was kept incommunicado.
He also claimed that the statements he wrote were not voluntary, but were dictated to him.
He said: “All the statements I made were without a lawyer,” he said.
“They are not true. They’re false, with the intention to intimidate and humiliate me. I urge the court to discharge and acquit me.”
The defendants allegedly used different companies to launder the money between June 2013 and June 2015.
We Have Done Well to Stabilise Nigerian Banking Sector—NDIC
By Aduragbemi Omiyale
The Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) says it has performed the duties of keeping the Nigerian banking sector stable since its inception about 32 years ago.
Chairman of the NDIC, Mrs Ronke Sokefun, disclosed that the agency has ensured that members of the public have a strong belief in the financial system in the country.
According to her, the NDIC, when necessary, provides financial assistance, technical assistance to Deposit Money Banks (DMBs), Microfinance Banks (MfBs) and Primary Mortgage Banks (PMBs).
She further said in addition, the insurer assists financial institutions with mergers and acquisition, purchase and assumptions, as well as the application of the bridge bank mechanisms.
“Besides deposit protection, prompt resolution of bank failure in Nigeria by the NDIC in its over 32 years of its existence has succeeded in steering the banking sector off systemic failure and collapse of public confidence, thus safeguarding the role of financial safety net,” Mrs Sokefun said on Thursday at the 2021 NDIC retreat for members of the House of Representatives Committee on Insurance and Actuarial Matters in Lagos.
The NDIC boss noted that, “It is only when all these options could not rescue a bank that it is allowed to go into liquidation.”
She said so far, a total of 467 DMBs, MfBs and PMBs have been completely liquidated or undergoing the process of complete liquidation.
“As of date, 49 DMBs, 367 MFBs and 51 PMBs are either completely liquidated or undergoing the process of complete liquidation by the NDIC, following the revocation of their operating licenses by the Central Bank of Nigeria,” Mrs Sokefun informed the lawmakers.
Otedola, Odukale First Bank Leadership Tussle Excites CBN
By Aduragbemi Omiyale
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has expressed satisfaction with the power tussle between Mr Femi Otedola and Mr Taiwo Hassan Odukale, over who owns the single largest shareholding in First Bank of Nigeria, also known as FGN Holdings Plc.
The duo recently became a news item over the issue after it was announced that Mr Otedola was now the single largest shareholder in the financial institution. The company later released a statement, stating that Mr Odukale was the largest shareholder.
On Tuesday, after the last Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting for 2021, the Governor of the CBN, Mr Godwin Emefiele, while addressing reporters, said the development was a testament to the positive decisions taken by the apex bank to keep First Bank alive.
A few months ago, the CBN sacked the board of FBN Holdings and First Bank of Nigeria Limited, its flagship bank, over a leadership tussle.
It was after the news that Nigerians knew that the central bank had been providing funds to the company as an intervention in order not to make it collapse because of huge non-performing loans (NPLs) bedevilling the organisation.
Justifying its decision to provide funding support to the lender on Tuesday, Mr Emefiele said First Bank, as the oldest bank in Nigeria, was too big to fail.
According to him, “If anything happens to First Bank, it means something has happened to the Nigerian banking system. That is why we are taking advice on how to get the bank afoot seriously.”
He then declared that First Bank was too big to be owned by an individual, adding that the tussle was good because “six years ago, as I said, because of an aggressive build-up of NPLs, the share price of First Bank was about N2. We took it up. Then, everybody was running away from the shares of First Bank.
“We have cleaned the balance sheet now, people are seeing that the money-making machine, First Bank, is back on its feet. They are in the race for profitability. They are now competing for the shares of First Bank. As of the last time I checked over the weekend, the share price was more N11.
“Why should I quarrel about that? “I am happy to see that they are competing for the shares. Of course, we all know that First Bank is so large that no single person can own it. In running the banks, they should see themselves as representing others.”
The leadership tussle between the two billionaires seems to have been put to rest after the clarification made by the National Pension Commission (PenCom).
First Bank had earlier said Mr Hassan-Odukale controlled a 5.36 per cent cumulative equity stake in the company through direct and indirect shareholding, stating that it was more than the 5.07 per cent holding of Mr Otedola.
Mr Hassan-Odukale’s stake rose to 5.36 per cent because of the addition of the stake of Leadway Pensure Limited, which he also has an interest in.
But PenCom explained that the shares of FBN Holdings purchased by Leadway Pensure belonged to Retirement Savings Account (RSA) holders and not Mr Hassan-Odukale because the funds actually belonged to a pool of investors, who are mainly Nigerian workers.
Heritage Bank CEO Clinches Banker of Year (SMEs & Agric) Award
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Heritage Bank Plc, Mr Ifie Sekibo, has been named as Banker of the Year 2021 under SMEs and Agric category.
The Heritage Bank CEO won this award at the New Telegraph 2021 Awards held recently in recognition of his leadership position in delivering sterling development and growth of the agricultural sector and the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
Receiving the award on behalf of the bank’s CEO, the Executive Director, Jude Monye stated that the bank was honoured and motivated to do more for the sustainability and growth of the Agric and SME sectors following the award received from the New Telegraph newspaper.
“We are highly honoured to receive the award as the Banker of the Year (SMEs & Agric) from the Board and Management of New Telegraph Newspaper.
“This validates the hard work and success story of the bank to create, preserve and transfer wealth across generations, as amongst other sectors of the economy, we have continued to ensure our efforts to support the Agric and SMEs sector in Nigeria counts.
“This is a result that will continue to motivate us to deepen our supports to Agric, SMEs sector and the economy at large for sustainable growth,” he assured.
Mr Sekibo vowed that in line with its core mandate to create and transfer generational wealth, the bank would continue to make farming profitable to stakeholders and attractive to the youth, as Heritage Bank had taken the front seat in financing critical agricultural projects in several states in the country, especially in Oyo, Kaduna and Zamfara and recently in Plateau Jos.
He noted that most of the ventures in the agriculture sector fall within the Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (MSME) sectors of the economy, which Heritage Bank in close collaboration with CBN has been championing.
According to him, in complementing the efforts of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Heritage Bank has made a huge success of the established agricultural schemes by making funds available to both small holder farmers and SMEs (Prime Anchors) in their efforts to increase agricultural output especially rice and wheat productions.
He explained that Heritage Bank has deepened support of small holders’ farmers and anchors in Ogun, Niger and recently Plateau state in rice and wheat seed and grain production under Prime ABP, which would help tackle gaps inherent.
“Heritage Bank in partnership with CBN is set to reverse the adverse trends by eliminating dependence on imported wheat which currently stands at over $2 billion and the unavailability of high yield wheat seed that stands at 63,000 MT through a strategic approach which would facilitate import substitution and promote self-sufficiency in the wheat value chain in Nigeria, by funding the local production of wheat and encouraging backward integration by wheat millers,” he stated.
Earlier, in a letter to congratulate him for his nomination as the Banker of the Year (SMEs & Agric) of the year 2021, the Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of New Telegraph, Mr Ayodele Aminu, explained that, “after a thorough scrutiny of Heritage Bank’s laudable support for Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs), as well the country’s agricultural sector, in the last one year by our Panel of Judges and Editors, we at the New Telegraph 2021 are pleased to award Heritage Bank, Banker of the Year (SMEs & Agric).”
Meanwhile, Heritage Bank has recorded notable success stories in the Agric and SMEs’ spaces which in 2017 the bank won the maiden award from CBN for Sustainable Transaction of the Year in Agriculture.
In 2018, Heritage Bank emerged as a winner in the Agriculture Category during the year’s CBN Sustainable Transaction of the year award. The Nigeria Agriculture Awards (NAA), announced Heritage Bank as the Agric. Bank of the Year. According to NAA, Heritage Bank was selected in recognition of its footprints in the Agribusiness space.
In 2019/2020, Heritage Bank secured mandate as Transaction Advisers and Settlement Bank on Agribusiness and Solid Minerals to Lagos Commodities & Futures Exchange.
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