First Bank Loses Assets Over N182bn Debt

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By Aduragbemi Omiyale

All may not be well with First Bank Nigeria Limited, the flagship subsidiary of FBN Holdings Plc, a company listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE).

This is because moves have been taken to seize the lender’s assets over its decision to guarantee the damages awarded by a Rivers State High Court against an international oil firm, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, about 10 years ago.

A community in the oil-rich Niger Delta region of the country, Ejama Ebubu, had secured a judgement against Shell over an oil spillage about 50 years ago.

As at 2020, the damages and the accrued interest First Bank guaranteed for the energy company stood at $479 million (about N182.0 billion with an exchange rate of N379/$1).

Bloomberg, in a report on Thursday, disclosed that on Tuesday, January 12, 2021, officials of the court and the Nigeria Police were at the First Bank branch in Port Harcourt, to seize the asset.

It said First Bank confirmed this development but described it as “unjustified, illegal and a reckless misuse of the machinery of justice.”

About 50 years ago, pipelines belonging to Shell had issues and spilled its content in the waters of the community, affecting the living things in the water.

The community took the matter up but the oil company did not claim responsibility for the spill because it said it was caused by “third parties”, noting that it had already cleaned up the affected sites.

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