N5.5bn Debt: Ecobank Floors Honeywell At Supreme Court
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.
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.
OnePipe Secures N2.25bn Collateralized Loan from TLG Capital
By Aduragbemi Omiyale
A collateralized credit facility worth N2.25 billion designed to enable the provision of credit services to the informal sector in Nigeria has been secured by OnePipe.
The debt security-backed loan was provided by a pan-African alternative investments firm, TLG Capital, for the firm to scale up its operations and provide inventory finance to small shops in Nigeria.
According to a statement, the deal was completed by the TLG Africa Growth Impact Fund (AGIF), and it represents TLG Capital’s 34th investment.
OnePipe is a fast-growing financial infrastructure company that enables merchants to access goods on credit from larger distributors who work with OnePipe.
The company has built an extensive network of field officers and partners, including banks and payment service providers. It has also secured a strong roster of equity investors, including Atlantica Ventures, P1 Ventures, Norrsken Foundation, Techstars, Tribe Capital, V&R Associates, Canaan Partners, DFS Labs, Ingressive Capital, Acquity, Raba, Saison Capital, The Fund, and Two Culture Cap.
The investment by TLG Capital will allow OnePipe to expand its operations with a vision of becoming a leading provider of financial services to the informal sector in Nigeria.
According to the International Labour Organization, the informal sector accounts for over 85 per cent of employment in Africa.
Providing financial access to this sector is crucial for economic development and poverty reduction. OnePipe’s model is well-positioned to address this need, and TLG Capital’s investment will help to support this effort.
The CEO of OnePipe, Ope Adeoye, said, “TLG’s extensive experience structuring debt in Nigeria and their deep network across Africa, particularly in venture, made them the partner of choice as we look to scale. TLG is our first debt partner and has been a powerful resource in planning our growth and balance sheet strategy.
“Through this partnership, we’re looking to build the infrastructure to provide credit and payment services to the two-thirds of Nigerian business owners who don’t have access to effective and practical banking services.”
An investment professional at TLG, Isaac Marshall, while commenting on the transaction, said, “Nigeria’s $220 billion cash-based informal sector comprises 38 million enterprises that are the most neglected segment of Nigerian businesses, avoided by both the fintechs and traditional financiers.
“With a clever product to help these businesses to obtain both credit and better purchasing terms on their goods, OnePipe has pioneered a model that can provide sustainable income growth to tens of millions of micro-enterprises.”
TLG Capital’s investment in OnePipe aligns with several Sustainable Development Goals, including SDG 1 (No Poverty), SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), and SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure).
By providing credit to informal micro-businesses, OnePipe is helping to create sustainable income growth and promote economic development.
Participants Learn Compliance Requirements at Stanbic IBTC Trade Export Webinar
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
A trade export webinar to educate export business owners on the various regulations and compliance requirements, the best practices for finding the right partners, managing risk, using trade barometers, and building trade relationships with potential clients has been organised by Stanbic IBTC Bank, a subsidiary of Stanbic IBTC Holdings Plc.
The idea of the programme was to empower participants with the knowledge and resources needed to succeed in the export trade sector.
During the webinar themed Getting Your Business Export Ready, attendees gained valuable insights on successfully navigating the complexities of exporting goods and services in the export trade sector.
During his opening remarks, the Head of Enablement and Ecosystem at Stanbic IBTC Bank, Mr Olufemi Oyekola, noted that the exchange of goods through export and import activities determines the economic status of a nation.
He stated that the trade sector was a catalyst for rapid economic growth, which fosters international relations between countries, noting that an economy that would flourish must place more emphasis on exports than imports.
On his part, the Head of Africa China Banking at Stanbic IBTC Bank, Mr Chigozie Onyeocha, stated that, “At Stanbic IBTC, we are constantly on the lookout for the latest trends that support our agenda for business growth.”
Mr Onyeocha added that the webinar aimed to empower export business owners with the knowledge to prepare for headwinds, as World Trade Organization (WTO) economists predict a 1.0 per cent increase in global merchandise trade volumes, down sharply from the previous estimate of 3.4 per cent.
The panel session at the webinar featured seasoned veterans of international trade, who shared their experiences and provided practical advice to help businesses succeed in the global marketplace.
They also discussed the latest trends and developments in the industry, such as the trade barometer, the importance of e-commerce, trade growth of 2023, Africa-China Trade Solutions offerings, and exporting non-oil products.
The panellists included Bamidele Ayemibo, Lead Consultant, 3T Impex Trade Academy; Ifeoma Abdul, Manager, Trade Finance, Business and Commercial Clients, Stanbic IBTC Bank; Lu Fan, Senior Manager, Business Development, Africa China Banking, Business, and Commercial Clients, Stanbic IBTC Bank and Oluwaseun Odunsi, Export Trade Specialist, TPS Trade, Stanbic IBTC Bank.
Others were Philip P Myburgh, Executive Head, Trade and Africa China, Business and Commercial Clients, Standard Bank Group; Chigozie Onyeocha, Head, Africa China Banking; Olajumoke Bello, Head, Enterprise Banking, Stanbic IBTC Bank and Olufemi Oyekola, Head, Enablement, and Ecosystem, Stanbic IBTC Bank.
Attendees also learned about the services offered by Stanbic IBTC Bank to support their export operations, including trade finance, foreign exchange hedging, and international payment solutions. Stanbic IBTC Bank is committed to businesses in their efforts to expand globally.
CBN Prohibits Use of Merchant POS Machines for Deposits, Withdrawals
By Aduragbemi Omiyale
The use of merchant point-of-sale (POS) terminals by supermarkets, stores and other small business owners for the deposits and withdrawals of funds has been prohibited by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
The apex bank, in an Exposure Draft of the Regulatory Framework for Agent Banking in Nigeria, said owners of merchant POS machines are not permitted to carry out cash-in, and cash-out transactions as such functions are for another category of agent banking operators.
In the draft, the bank, while listing a set of prohibited activities for agents, said, “Agents shall not use purchase option PoS Terminals for cash-in and cash-out transactions.”
It also said the agents permitted to accept cash deposits and withdrawals have a limit they must not go beyond.
The CBN emphasised that agents must not “accept deposit or allow withdrawal above an amount which shall be prescribed, from time to time, by the bank,” and must not “charge customers fees outside regulated fees regime.”
The central bank explained that it came up with these rules “in the exercise of the powers conferred on the bank by Section 2 (d) of the Central Bank of Nigeria Act, 2007 and Section 57 (2) of the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act (BOFIA), Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.”
The guidelines cover the operations of agent banking and the licensing of super agents, provide minimum standards and requirements for the operation of agent banking in the country, as well as the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders involved in agent banking.
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