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Mary Akpobome Not Suspended—Heritage Bank

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Mary Akpobome Not Suspended—Heritage Bank

Mary Akpobome Not Suspended—Heritage Bank

By Dipo Olowookere

The management of Heritage Bank has refuted news reports making the rounds that one of its Executive Directors, Mrs Mary Akpobome, has been suspended from the bank.

It was alleged that the experienced banker was sent on an indefinite ‘loan recovery suspension’ because of some bad loans she pushed through.

But Heritage Bank, in a statement issued on Wednesday in Lagos and made available to Business Post, refuted the allegation, saying “Mrs Mary Akpobome remains a valued Executive Director of the Bank.”

Heritage Bank was reacting to a story published on an online news platform, SaharaReporters, which it titled, ‘Heritage Bank sends Ali Baba’s Wife on Loan –Recovery Suspension.’

In the statement, the management of the financial institution said it strongly disclaimed “all allegations made on the news blog that Mrs Akpobome or any other member of our board and management have in any way engaged in any fraud whatsoever.”

It explained that, “Financial institutions have credit policies governing its processes and management. These policies are designed and enforced to ensure efficiency and effectiveness in the entire credit chain.”

“Heritage Bank has never been controlled by any one individual or ‘powerful’ individual(s) as deceitfully stated by Sahara Reporters.

“Heritage bank is a legal entity, and like any other public liability company, is managed by an efficient management and board accountable to all its stakeholders,” the bank stressed.

“We find the insistent and vehement attacks particularly by Sahara Reporters appalling, malicious, unprofessional and unethical.

“Consistent with our core values, we are resolutely committed to strict adherence to regulations and to our service contract with all our stakeholders,” the statement said.

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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Banking

Union Bank Secures IFC’s $30m Loan to Finance Trade, SMEs

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Union Bank $30m loan

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

A loan worth $30 million has been secured by Union Bank of Nigeria Plc from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to support small businesses in the country.

It was gathered that the credit facility would boost access to finance for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Nigeria and support increased trade, as it would enable the bank to expand lending to hundreds of businesses operating in critical sectors in the country, including food, healthcare, manufacturing, and services.

The $30 million loan will allow Union Bank to increase trade financing and working capital lending to Nigerian businesses, including those whose cashflows have been strained by recent disruptions in global and local markets.

“As a bank, we are deeply committed to enabling success for SMEs. We understand the critical role of small businesses in leading Nigeria’s economy towards growth.

“This funding from IFC will enable us to extend financial relief to our customers during this difficult time. I am confident that the funds will help these businesses harness opportunities and preserve jobs,” the chief executive of Union Bank, Mr Mudassir Amray, said.

Also commenting on the development, IFC’s Senior Country Manager for Nigeria, Liberia and Sierra Leone, Mr Kalim Shah, said, “Strengthening supply chains and trade flows through working capital financing sets the stage for faster growth and economic diversification in Nigeria.

“IFC’s partnership with Union Bank is part of a wider strategy to ensure the flow of goods and services are sustained despite global trade disruptions.”

The credit facility to Union Bank is being made through IFC’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Working Capital Solutions Envelope, which was launched in 2020 to provide funding to existing IFC clients in emerging markets that will then extend new loans to companies affected by the economic impacts of COVID-19.

Recent disruptions to the global economy following COVID-19, including from rising inflation and limited access to finance, have left many businesses in Nigeria, particularly SMEs, struggling with supply chain shortages, increased cost of doing business and limited trade growth.

The partnership with Union Bank underscores IFC’s commitment to supporting smaller businesses in Nigeria, helping them preserve and create jobs and access critical inputs.

The loan is supported by the blended finance facility of the International Development Association’s Private Sector Window, which mitigates the financial risks associated with investments in sectors like SMEs and agribusiness.

IFC has an active investment portfolio of $2.3 billion in Nigeria – the second largest in Africa after South Africa – across sectors including agribusiness, healthcare, manufacturing, infrastructure, technology, and financial services.

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Banking

New Notes: CBN Directs Banks to Payout Maximum N20,000 Daily Via Tellers

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New Naira Notes

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) have been directed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to pay their customers the new Naira notes a maximum of N20,000 daily.

This was contained in a statement issued on Thursday, February 2, 2023, by the apex bank, signed by its spokesman, Mr Osita Nwanisobi.

According to the CBN, this development is to ease the sufferings Nigerians are going through to access the new banknotes from their banks and other channels.

Earlier, Business Post reported that commercial banks were not paying their customers because of a cash crunch. Most banks were unable to honour the cash withdrawals of their customers because they had no new notes to pay and were not allowed to pay with the old currency notes.

In the statement released today, the central bank said it “noticed the queues at Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) across the country and an upward trend in the cases of people stocking and aggregating the newly introduced banknotes they serially obtain from ATMs for reasons best known to them. Also worrisome are the reported cases of unregistered persons and non-bank officials swapping banknotes for members of the public, purportedly on behalf of the CBN.”

The bank said to ease the pressure, the Governor of the CBN, Mr Godwin Emefiele, “has directed deposit money banks (DMBs) to commence the payment of the redesigned Naira notes over-the-counter (OTC), subject to a maximum daily payout limit of N20,000.”

However, the CBN warned “Nigerians, particularly those at social functions such as birthdays, weddings and funerals, to desist from disrespecting the Naira or risk being arrested by law enforcement agencies,” stressing that, “The Naira is our legal tender and symbol of national pride. Therefore, let us respect it and handle it with care.”

The apex bank urged “members of the public to embrace and adopt other payment channels for their transactions.”

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N5.5bn Debt: Ecobank Floors Honeywell At Supreme Court

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Honeywell Ecobank suit

Ecobank scored a major victory at the Supreme Court on Friday as it won in a N5.5 billion debt dispute against Honeywell and its sister firms, Anchorage Leisures Ltd and Siloam Global Ltd.

The Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by Honeywell Flour Mills Limited challenging the judgement of the Court of Appeal in the debt dispute with Ecobank Nigeria Limited.

The five-member panel of the Supreme Court, led by Justice Tijjani Abubakar, delivered the judgement that Honeywell, Anchorage, and Siloam were indeed indebted to Ecobank.

In the lead judgement delivered by Justice Emmanuel Agim, the Supreme Court declared the verdict of the Court of Appeal, which said Honeywell and its sister companies are still indebted to Ecobank.

“I affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeal, setting aside the decision of the Federal High Court, granting the reliefs claimed for by the appellants (Honeywell).

“I hold that the appellants’ claim at the trial court fails, and it is hereby dismissed. “The appellants shall pay the cost of N1 million to the respondent (Ecobank),” Justice Agim said.

By the instant judgment of the apex court confirming the indebtedness of the named customers to the bank, the lender can now proceed to recover from the debtor customers the total outstanding debt of N5.5 billion, including all the accrued interest from 2015.

In the wake of the legal tussle, Mr Oba Otudeko, Honeywell Group chairman, had told a Court of Appeal that the sum was owed by individual companies. These companies include Anchorage Leisures Limited, Siloam Limited, and Honeywell Flour Mills Plc.

Mr Otudeko maintained that his companies had paid N3.5 billion as of December 12, 2013, as the full and final payment for the N5.5 billion debt as agreed by the parties at a July 22, 2013, meeting. With the latest Supreme Court judgement, the companies remain indebted to the bank.

Background

On August 6, 2015, Honeywell and its sister firms, Anchorage Leisures Ltd and Siloam Global Ltd, sued Ecobank before the Federal High Court in Lagos over repayments of a N5.5 billion debt.

In the suit, the companies urged the Federal High Court in Lagos to declare that “having paid the sum of N3.5 billion in cumulative settlement of their total outstanding indebtedness” (of N5.5 billion) to Ecobank, “they owned no further debt obligation” to Ecobank “arising from their banker-customer relationships.”

As a result, they also asked the court to hold that Ecobank “was obligated to issue letters of discharge, release collaterals by which the prior indebtedness was secured.” In addition, Honeywell and its sister companies begged the court to compel Ecobank to “update” their status on the “Credit Risk Management System Portal of the Central Bank of Nigeria.”

But in its defence, Ecobank argued that an agreement was reached between it, Honeywell, Anchorage and Siloam on July 22, 2013, “for a definite settlement of N3.5 billion to be paid in terms of N500 million immediately and the balance of N3 billion before the exit of the CBN examiners from” Ecobank’s offices. Ecobank had contended that the repayment agreement period was for six months as it rejected Honeywell and its sister companies’ request to “pay the balance over a one-and-half-year period in three equal half-yearly instalments.”

The bank informed the court that the debt repayment agreement “lapsed in August 2013.” But in its judgement, the judge, Ayokunle Faji of the Federal High Court, upheld the arguments of the Honeywell Group and granted their prayers.

Dissatisfied with the verdict, Ecobank in 2015 approached the Court of Appeal. In its decision, the appellate court overturned the judgement of the Federal High Court, setting the stage for the Supreme Court’s appeal, which was resolved in favour of the bank.

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