By Dipo Olowookere
One of the major headaches of banks in Nigeria is the recovery of loans to customers and because of this, many of them are reluctant to grant credit facilities.
It was only recently financial institutions were forced to issue loans to their customers when the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) mandated them to meet a loan-to-deposit ratio of 60 per cent and later to 65 per cent.
The interpretation of this CBN policy is that 65 per cent of a bank’s total customer deposits must be given out as loans. Failure to adhere to this directive attracts fines from the apex bank. A few of them have been sanctioned for this infraction.
The idea behind this, according to the central bank, was to ensure that funds are made available to the real sectors of the economy, especially the manufacturing, the SMEs and others, so as to spur economic activities and boost the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP).
The banks reluctantly adhered to this instruction and those who failed were punished, but the issue of loan recovery was not fully addressed despite the rise in credit bureau agencies in the country.
But to strengthen the financial system and ensure quick loan recovery process, the Senate is looking to come up with laws that would punish loan defaulters.
On Tuesday, a bill for an act to establish a unified scheme for a sound financial system passed second reading at the Senate and was referred to the committee on banking insurance and other financial institutions for scrutiny, with a mandate to report back in four weeks.
According to the sponsor of the bill, Mr Sani Musa, when passed into law, banks would have the authority to track loan defaulters’ account in any financial institution in the country through the Bank Verification Number (BVN).
When this is done, the bank would be empowered to recover the loans from the bank account of the defaulter.
He further said the law will provide penalties for breaches and violations of obligations, thereby enhancing the loan recovery process across banking sectors in Nigeria.
“Before the deregulation of our banking system, the ability of our banks to recover loans has been the bedrock behind the collapse of many commercial banks with a dire consequence to many innocent account holders, which have resulted in the collapse of their businesses, loss of savings and even death.
“In many instances, most economies have consequently experienced high level and increasing rates of unemployment as a result of such negligences of the credit system.
“Today, the situation in Nigeria has become very serious and seemingly intractable and thereby frustrates our effort as a nation toward private driven economy as well as economic diversification and growth.
“In light of the above, there is only one obvious option left for any country where policy measures failed, which is to urgently enact legislation that will address the problems once and for all,” Mr Sani submitted.
Speaking further, the lawmaker described lending as the core business of commercial banks, noting that if they are unable to grant loans because of a bad recovery process, the nation’s economy might suffer for it.
“Credit is seen as the bloodstream of the banking business [and] the [current] situation in Nigeria demands an injection of a healthy bank credit and recovery system that will effectively fasten the pace of growth,” he added.
In his contribution, his colleague at the red chamber, Mr Tolu Odebiyi, said, “I think this is a very timely bill and it will safeguard our economy and creditors from defaulters.”
On his part, the Deputy Senate President, Mr Ovie Omo-Agege, who presided over the session, applauded the sponsor of the bill, stating that, “Clearly, there are challenges in the sector that we need to address and this bill seeks to do just that.”
Zenith Bank Assures Budding Entrepreneurs Necessary Support to Succeed
By Aduragbemi Omiyale
Budding entrepreneurs in Nigeria have been assured by Zenith Bank Plc of all the necessary support they need to succeed and become corporate organisations capable of employing many people.
The Group Managing Director/CEO of Zenith Bank, Mr Ebenezer Onyeagwu, who gave this assurance last Wednesday, disclosed that this was why the bank organised the second Zenith Tech Fair themed Future Forward 2.0.
At the keenly contested hackathon session, the sum of N53 million was won by the participants, with Ecotutu, a cleantech company making cooling affordable and accessible for businesses, especially in the agricultural sector, emerging as the overall winner and taking home the grand prize of N20 million.
This is in addition to a mentorship programme with Seedstars, a company dedicated to implementing high-quality capacity-building programmes for entrepreneurs in emerging markets.
The first runner-up, Foris Labs, an app-based platform that allows students to conduct science experiments individually and in groups interactively via their mobile phones, won N15 million and a mentorship programme.
The second runner-up, Finva, a start-up which helps creditors offer credits at low risk, won N10 million as well as a mentorship programme.
Other finalists who took home N1 million each were Sanwo, Itinu -Ev, Eduvacity, Green Bii, Zion Robotics, Sono Care, Base, and I grow Africa.
Addressing guests at the Eko Convention Centre, Mr Onyeagwu announced that “all finalists would be enlisted into our incubation lab for grooming and mentorship.
“Our expectation is that we are going to scale and grow them just like the zenith brand. So, looking at what we have gone through, I can tell you that so much iron has been loaded on fire. The only thing left is to activate the digital talents, tech skills and entrepreneurship that would culminate in a new digital economy for Nigeria.”
Described as a huge success by participants, the two-day Tech Fair featured presentations on the leading technological innovations that cut across different aspects of life, such as Artificial Intelligence, Computing, Machine Learning, Blockchain, Robotics, Big Data, FinTech, Augmented Reality, Data Analytics, 5G and Communication Technologies, with the keynote address, The Future of Banking: Digital Transformation Journey, delivered by Brett King, the renowned futurist, bestselling author, award-winning speaker, founder of Moven and Author of Bank 4.0.
The event also featured a goodwill message by the founder and Chairman of Zenith Bank, Mr Jim Ovia.
Other eminent IT practitioners from top global brands who also made presentations included Tarik Alatovic, Senior Partner, McKinsey; Juliet Ehimuan, West Africa Director, Google; Ola Williams, Country Manager, Microsoft Inc.; Andrew Uaboi, Vice President/Head, Visa West Africa; Mrs Rakiya Mohammed, Director of Information Technology, CBN; Chris Lu, Managing Director, Huawei Technologies Nigeria, and Dame Ms Adaora Umeoji, Deputy Managing Director of Zenith Bank Plc, amongst others.
Appeal Court Exonerates Zenith Bank, Fines Real Integrated & Hospitality
By Dipo Olowookere
Justice Muhammed Sirajo of a court of appeal sitting in Lagos has upturned the judgement of Justice O.O. Abike-Fadipe of the Lagos State High Court against Zenith Bank Plc.
On March 8, 2022, Justice Abike-Fadipe directed Zenith Bank to pay Real Integrated & Hospitality Limited an interest of 15 per cent per annum on N872.8 million from May 17, 2011, when the advanced payment guarantees expired till judgment and thereafter at the rate of 10 per cent per annum until final liquidation.
The company and the Gombe State Universal Basic Education Board (Gombe SUBEB) had sued the lender for an alleged breach of contract after Zenith Bank, on October 7, 2011, did not allow the firm to withdraw funds from its account.
Dissatisfied with the ruling, the financial institution filed an appeal in suit number CA/LAG/CV/262/2022.
Ruling on the matter on Wednesday, the three-man panel of the appellate court unanimously upturned the judgement of the lower court on the ground that the trial court was wrong to have presumed that the bank withheld the full account statement of Real Integrated in the light of Exhibit C6 (the comprehensive Statement of Account of Real Integrated), which was tendered by the bank for a limited purpose.
The court further held that there was no need for the lower court to have invoked Section 167 (d) of the Evidence Act, 2011 against the bank and, thereafter, awarded a cost of N200,000 against Real Integrated & Hospitality Limited and in favour of Zenith Bank.
Business Post gathered that the counsels of Zenith Bank, led by Prof. Fabian Ajogwu (SAN) and Mr Sylva Ogwemoh (SAN), had challenged Justice Abike-Fadipe’s decision to award N2.5 million against the bank as the cost of the action in favour of Real Integrated.
The legal team argued that the lender acted in full compliance with its contractual obligations in line with the Advanced Payment Guarantee (APG) contract and that the trial court was wrong in its judgement.
CABS Zimbabwe Secures $10m Loan to Support Growth Strategy
By Dipo Olowookere
A $10 million credit facility has been obtained by Central Africa Building Society (CABS) Zimbabwe, a member of the Old Mutual Group, from Norsad Capital.
The impact investor and private creditor provider approved the loan to the bank to support its growth strategy, as the funds would be used to offer loans to CABS Zimbabwe’s export clients, particularly in the agricultural sector.
“This investment aligns with Norsad’s sectoral theme of Financial Institutions as well as the impact focus on financial inclusion and sustainable livelihoods, the Investment Director at Norsad Capital and transaction lead, Ms Carol-Jean Harward, said.
“The transaction will capacitate the exporting industry by providing working capital and capital expenditure facilities to sectors in agriculture and manufacturing.
“We are excited to partner with CABS as it plays a catalytic role in unlocking opportunities to enable local farmers and SMEs to export both regionally and internationally,” she added.
In his remarks, the Deputy Managing Director of CABS, Mr Cecil Ndoro, said, “Norsad’s funding will help strengthen CABS’ balance sheet by providing medium-term funding as well as capacitating the exporting industries by providing working capital and capital expenditure facilities, thus boosting the country’s foreign currency earnings.
“As CABS, we will deploy the funds to the productive export sectors, notably agriculture, manufacturing, mining, and tourism.
“The focus will be on the generation of foreign currency, creation of employment and value chain financing for the benefit of industry players and the economy at large. The investment will promote entrepreneurship, enable growth, and improve livelihoods.”
CABS is one of the top three banks in Zimbabwe and was established as a building society in 1949 before being granted approval by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) in 2011 to engage in full commercial banking operations.
The lender has 38 operational branches, over 900 agents, and the largest Point of Sales machine network of about 25,000 countrywide. This adds to its digital banking offering, which includes Mobile, Internet, and WhatsApp Banking.
The agricultural sector is key to Zimbabwe’s economy for domestic production, exports, and employment; hence, Norsad’s facility supports sustainable livelihoods and builds a better Africa by impacting lives.
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