**Denies maltreating her
By Dipo Olowookere
One of the lenders in Nigeria, Diamond Bank Plc, has refuted reports making the rounds that it treated harshly a woman recently defrauded of her pension funds domiciled with the bank.
A consumers’ activist, Mrs Sola Salako Ajulo, who is also the President/Founder of Consumer Advocacy Foundation of Nigeria (CAFON), had posted on her Facebook wall that a pensioner, Mrs Comfort Ashaye, was allegedly chased away by a Diamond Bank Manager in Ikeja, Lagos after she had gone to lay complaint of her accumulated pension of N572,000 which developed wings from her account.
But Diamond Bank, in a response to Business Post enquiry on the matter on Thursday, said it was not true that its Manager maltreated the defrauded woman.
The financial institution said instead, when the matter was reported to them, the woman was comforted and given “better clarity on her account status.”
In the response sent through the lender’s PR agency, Prize Communications, Diamond Bank further said after its investigation into the case, it was discovered that the victim had given out her bank details to the fraudster, who pounced on the account.
Below is the reply by Diamond Bank to Business Post on the matter:
Mrs Comfort Ashaye came to the Diamond Bank branch sometime in March this year to transact and was told she had insufficient balance of N2 on her account. She expressed confusion and pain, but the branch manager took her into her office to comfort her and get better clarity on her account status.
Upon further probe, it was discovered that numerous mobile app withdrawals from her account in excess of N500k were made and she was asked if she had permitted/authorized any transaction by any means. She said no, but informed of a certain male that called her asking for her BVN details. She also informed that she hardly used her phone as it was always under her pillow at home.
Though she had the phone with her on that fateful day and she showed the branch manager and Diamond Bank staff the number that called her, which was a privately owned no (080).
Further investigations led the Diamond Bank staff to call the number which was answered but the guy also hung up as quickly as he picked it.
Mama’s phone also showed evidence of a 4 digit code, her mobile app pin, in her sent messages to this same unknown number.
She claimed that she lived alone and that all her children lived elsewhere.
However, Diamond Bank promised to investigate further to assist urgently. Her subsequent visit after the Easter break was with her son, who came and caused a scene witnessed by customers at the banking hall.
He rained abuses, threats, curses and even called Diamond Bank fraudulent. The bank security team came into the hall due to this and with the Diamond Bank staff tried to calm him, even mama also joined to plead on his behalf.
The Diamond Bank branch team confirmed to mama that the matter had been escalated to the fraud unit of the bank and that the unit had identified one of the fraudulent withdrawals to an account at Fidelity Bank and that they were contacted to block the account; though the funds had been moved since and the account owners also unreachable.
Following that feedback to mama Ashaye, the branch was visited by an investigative journalist, who wanted our side of the story before going public. As per their policy, he was asked to get the customers introductory letter as the customer’s information was private. However, he was informed of what transpired at mama’s initial visit and the fact that she was called by an unknown person and her pin sent to the same number. The journalist expressed surprise as these details were unknown to him. He reiterated that he could use same number to track the criminals as he had successfully done in the past.
He collected the branch manager’s details and promised to come back to the bank within two weeks, but nothing was heard from him again.
The investigation was also concluded and customer was fully briefed of her negligence and the bank was not liable.
However, she maintained that she won’t take that, emphasising that there must be an insider (from the bank involved in the fraud). This matter was since concluded in April after the son’s threat to deal with the bank.
Below is the original story as shared by Mrs Ajulo:
Diamond Bank Again!
Mrs Comfort Ashaye is a Pensioner. Her pension is paid into her Diamond Account (statement in pic). On March 28 2017, her total pension was withdrawn overnight by fraudsters. Total of N585k was wired out of the account, leaving Mama with a balance of N2.07!
According to Mama, she went to her branch opposite Motorways Plaza Toll Gate area of Ikeja and the Branch manager shooed her away without letting her make a formal complaint.
She reported to a radio journalist Mr Joseph Folorunsho who tried to investigate but the same branch manager (her name is Ijeoma) threatened to lock him up and called security to harass him. As we speak, Mama Ashaye cannot explain what happened to her money.
This is the 3rd case of fraudsters wiping out consumer’s funds via online or phone platforms from Diamond Bank.
Please help share Mama Ashaye’s story until Diamond Bank investigates and refunds her pension.
Union Bank Secures IFC’s $30m Loan to Finance Trade, SMEs
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.
New Notes: CBN Directs Banks to Payout Maximum N20,000 Daily Via Tellers
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.”
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.
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