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Contempt judgement: FirstBank to challenge court decision

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First Bank of Nigeria Limited has said it will challenge the decision of Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court at the Court of Appeal.

The bank said in a statement that it had ordered its counsel to take all constitutional steps to challenge the decision in order to set the records straight.

According to the bank, the motion granted on June 6, 2018 committing its chairman and managing director, is a persistent and unprovoked use of judicial processes to intimidate, harass and threaten its operations.

The bank said the contempt case originally involving Chief Isaac Agbara and Shell Petroleum Development Limited, Shell International Petroleum Limited, and Shell International Exploration and Production BV, involved it because Shell was its customer.

It explained that Shell approached it to issue a bank guarantee to satisfy Shell’s compliance with Justice Buba’s order on August 5, 2010, and it did with a disclaimer.

The statement said the guarantee was concluded, adding, “This guarantee shall be governed by and subject to all the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and shall not be construed to fetter or limit the constitutional rights of parties, including their right of appeal.”

 

READ FULL STATEMENT BELOW:

FirstBank of Nigeria Limited (FirstBank) was not a party to the suit and earlier order of Honourable Justice I.N Buba dated 14th June 2010 in respect of which His Lordship has now committed the Board Members of FirstBank for contempt. In view of the fact that FirstBank and its Board members were not parties to the earlier orders of Honourable Justice Buba, over which he subsequently assumed jurisdiction in respect of contempt outside the face of the court, and His Lordship’s earlier orders did not direct either FirstBank or its Board members to perform any obligation, neither did it impose any task on FirstBank, suffice to say that FirstBank did not and could not have disobeyed any order made by Honourable Justice I.N Buba in Suit No: FHC/PH/CS/231/2001 Chief Isaac Osaro Agbara & 9 Ors. V. Shell Petroleum Development Ltd, Shell International Petroleum Ltd and Shell International Exploration and Production BV (Shell) made on 14th June 2010, since there was no order made against it.

2. It is pertinent to note that Shell that was the party and defendant to Honourable Justice Buba’s earlier judgment and Orders has not been held to be in contempt.

3. On 5th August 2010, Honourable Justice Buba, in Suit No: Suit No: FHC/PH/CS/231/2001 Chief Isaac Osaro Agbara & 9 Ors. V. Shell Petroleum Development Ltd, Shell International Petroleum Ltd and Shell International Exploration and Production BV (Shell), directed Shell to provide a Bank Guarantee in respect of the judgment sum which His Lordship had earlier made in the same suit on 14th June 2010, comprising both special and general damages (in the judgment sum) in the following sum as follows:

I Special Damages in the sum of N1,772,460,585.00 (One Billion, Seven Hundred and Seventy Two Thousand, Four Hundred and Sixty Million, Five Hundred and Eighty Five Thousand) – Allowing for the interest for delayed Payment for 5 years from 1996 at a modest Mean Central Bank of Nigeria deregulated Rate for that volume at 25% per annum amounting to a total of N5, 407, 777,246.00 (Five Billion,
Four Hundred and Seven Million, Seven Hundred and Seven Thousand, Two Hundred and Forty Six Thousand).

ii. Award of Plaintiffs’ Claim of 25% of the said sum till the date of Judgement and thereafter 10% of the Judgment debt till payment

iii. Award of Plantiffs’ Claim against the Defendant in punitive terms of General Damages in the sum of N10, 000,000,000.00. (Ten Billion) TOTAL: N17,180,237,831.00 (Seventeen Billion, One Hundred and Eighty Million, Two Hundred and Thirty-Seven Thousand, Eight
Hundred and Thirty-One Naira),

4. Shell, as FirstBank’s customer, approached it to issue a Bank Guarantee to satisfy Shell’s Compliance with the Order of Honourable Justice I.N. Buba of 5th August 2010, and FirstBank obliged Shell’s request by issuing the Guarantee. Specifically, the Guarantee concluded as follows:

This Guarantee shall be governed by and subject to all the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and shall not be construed to fetter or limit the constitutional rights of parties, including their right of appeal

5. Shell appealed the decision of Honourable Justice I.N Buba awarding various monetary claims against it to the Court of Appeal in Appeal No: CA/PH/396/2012 and on 23rd October 2013, the Court of Appeal struck out the said appeal on the ground that Shell did not pay sufficient filing fees. Shell immediately appealed the decision
of the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court in SC. 693/2013.

6.Despite the pendency of Shell’s appeal to the Supreme Court, an Undefended List suit and garnishee proceedings were commenced against FirstBank in Suit No. BHC/208/2013 and FHC/PH/CS/432/2013. FirstBank responded to these suits by,
maintaining that, in the light of Shell’s pending appeal to the
Supreme Court in SC. 693/2013, the Guarantee had not yet crystallised, whilst Chief Isaac Agbara & Ors., insisted that payment was due on the guarantee. While Suit No.
FHC/PH/CS/432/2013 was struck out, judgment was given on the Guarantee dated 12th December 2012, by the High Court of Rivers State on 17th January 2014 enforcing the Guarantee given in respect of the cumulative sum of N80,344,284,716.89 (Eighty Billion, Three Hundred and Forty-Four Million, Two Hundred and Eighty-Four Thousand, Seven Hundred and Sixteen Naira, Eighty-Nine Kobo). Whilst judgment was given in the suit against FirstBank , sued thereat as ‘FirstBank PLC’, the Court of Appeal struck out the appeal filed by FirstBank for the reason that it appealed in the name
of FirstBank PLC, the name by which it was sued and judgment given against it at the trial court but it did not have a right to appeal in the name of FirstBank PLC, since FirstBank PLC is not a juristic person. FirstBank has filed a subsequent appeal against that decision to the Supreme Court in SC. 511/2017.

7. Meanwhile, Shell’s appeal against the Court of Appeal decision which activated the Undefended List Suit in BHC/208/2013 and the Court of Appeal decision in CA/PH/29M/2014 succeeded and the Supreme Court set aside the Court of Appeal’s decision in CA/PH/396/2012. In the face of that decision, Chief Isaac Agbara & Ors., now contend that the decisions given in their favour enforcing the guarantee in BHC/208/2013 and CA/PH/29M/2014 are now academic and of no use. Their current position thus validates
the position of FirstBank that the Bank Guarantee cannot crystallise with the pendency of an appeal against a decision by Shell for the simple reason that if the appeal becomes successful, in the same way, Appeal No.: SC/693/2017 succeeded, the monetary judgment will no longer exist, and the basis of the Guarantee will have become eroded.

8. In allowing Shell’s appeal in SC. 693/2013, the Supreme Court directed the Court of Appeal to re-hear the appeal. The appeal was re-heard and on 6th June, 2017, the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal on the ground of an alleged
irregularity in the time Shell filed its brief of argument despite the fact that the same Court of Appeal had, on the day the appeal was heard, deemed the briefs of argument of Shell and the respondents as having been properly filed and served. In effect, Shell’s appeal against the judgment of Buba J., dated 14th June 2010, has neither been heard or dismissed on its merits. Shell subsequently filed an appeal to the Supreme Court in SC. 731/2017 and same has been scheduled to come up at the Supreme Court on 16th October 2018.

9. Despite the pendency of Shell’s appeal, Chief Isaac Agbara & Ors., on 8th June, 2017, commenced another Undefended List suit against FirstBank on the basis of the second decision of the Court of Appeal in the Rivers State High Court in Suit No: PHC/1583/2017, now alleging entitlement to the sum of N122,533,403,392.12 (One Hundred and Twenty-two Billion, Five Hundred and Thirty-three Million, Four Hundred and Three Thousand, Three Hundred and Ninety-two Naira, Sixteen Kobo) on the Guarantee issued in the cumulative sum of N17,180,237,831.00 (Seventeen Billion, One Hundred and Eighty Million, Two Hundred and Thirty Seven Thousand, Eight Hundred and Thirty One Naira).

10. During the pendency of the Undefended List action before Honourable Justice S.O. Iragunima, of the Rivers State High Court, Chief Isaac Agbara & Ors., on 7th September, 2017, commenced a Winding Up Petition against FirstBank at the Federal High Court in Abuja to enforce the Guarantee against FirstBank , claiming entitlement to the sum of N122,533,403,392.12 (One Hundred and Twenty-two Billion, Five Hundred and Thirty-three Million, Four Hundred and Three Thousand, Three Hundred and Ninety-two Naira, Sixteen Kobo) arising from the judgment of the Court of Appeal in Appeal No.CA/PH/29M/2014 which is on appeal to the Supreme Court in SC. 511/2017. Parties joined issues in this petition and on 13th December 2017, the Honurable Justice Tsoho, in a well-informed decision, dismissed the petition and awarded costs of N500,000.00 (Five Hundred Thousand Naira) in favour of FirstBank and against Chief Isaac Agbara & Ors.

Chief Isaac Agbara & Ors did not appeal and have not appealed the decision of Tsoho J. dismissing their winding up petition on the enforcement of the same judgment of Buba J, and on which Buba J. has now convicted officials of FirstBank for contempt outside the face of the court.

11. Despite the foregoing, Chief Isaac Agbara & Ors. filed another winding up Petition against FirstBank in the Federal High Court, Lagos Judicial Division, before Honurable Justice Aikawa on 14th December 2017, repeating verbatim the pleadings and content of their dismissed winding up petition by Tsoho J., arising from the same judgments of Buba J. earlier mentioned. This Winding Up petition became the third in the series of cases filed and lined-up by the same judgment creditors against FirstBank, in respect of the enforcement of the Bank Guarantee earlier mentioned.

12. Not done yet, the same judgment creditors, Chief Isaac Agbara & ors., during the pendency of their winding up Petition before Aikawa J., in the Lagos Judicial Division of the Federal High Court, commenced garnishee proceedings before Alagoa J on 5th January 2018, of the Owerri Judicial Division of the Federal High Court, in respect of thesame Guarantee, asking the court to enforce same in satisfaction of the judgment of Buba J. given on 14th June 2010. The said garnishee proceedings was later transferred to the Lagos Judicial Division and is also pending before Buba J.While the said garnishee proceedings was pending, the same judgment

creditors (Chief Isaac Agbara & Co.) commenced contempt proceedings against the Chairman and Managing Director of FirstBank of Nigeria Ltd in Suit No. FHC/L/NRJ/1/2018 on 19th March, 2018 before Buba J; by respectively filing Forms 48 and 49 dated 26thFebruary, 2018 and 2nd
March, 2018 respectively. FirstBank of Nigeria joined issues with the judgment creditors, both in the form of a preliminary objection and on the substantive subject of the contempt proceedings.

13. While the Bank respects the institution of the judiciary, however, it states with much respect, that:

a. No liability is due from it to Chief Isaac Agbara & ors. from the Bank Guarantee issued and dated 17th December 2012.

b. Further to (a) above, no law criminalises breach of an undertaking, how much more criminal liability for imprisonment upon such alleged breach.

The Bank further states that in respect of the same contempt proceedings in which the Honourable Justice Buba has convicted its officials, garnishee proceedings for the enforcement of the same judgment are pending before the same Buba J., which he has adjourned to 19th June 2018.

In effect, before the same Buba J., the Bank is subjected to two proceedings, one penal and one civil, for the enforcement of the judgment of the same Buba J. It is worthy of note that no court has awarded any monetary liability against FirstBank and in favour of Chief Isaac Agbara & Ors.

Contrariwise, the same Federal High Court which has now convicted the officials of FirstBank, had earlier dismissed all the claims of the same Chief Isaac Agbara & Ors. in the Winding Up Petition filed against FirstBank, on the same guarantee and in respect of the same sum and judgment of Buba J.

It is interesting to note that, the decision of Buba J in respect of
contempt was given in the most recent of the various (5) suits
filed by Chief Isaac Agbara & ors to enforce the Bank Guarantee. Some of the suits filed before same are still pending, including one before the same Buba J. This is also without prejudice to the appeals pending at the Supreme Court in respect of the same subject, and which appeals are borne out of the Constitutional right of appeal donated by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended). We are compelled in total deference to the Supreme Court as the apex adjudicatory body in Nigeria to pose the following questions:

I. If Shell’s appeal to the Supreme Court in SC. 731/2017 succeeds, will there still be any rights inuring in favour of Chief Isaac Agbara & Ors.

ii. Arising from (i.) above, could the court have rightly condemned and convicted officials of FirstBank during the pendency of the appeals to the Supreme Court

iii. Assuming Chief Isaac Agbara & Ors had obtained payment under the Bank Guarantee after the initial judgment of the Court of Appeal in CA/PH/396/2012, as they attempted to do through the use of the same type of court actions which they have now instituted, will irreversible damage and injustice not have occurred to both the Nigerian Judicial and financial system after the Supreme Court decision in SC. 731/2017.

14. FirstBank of Nigeria Ltd has been in business since 1894, (124 years ago); and since then, it has demonstrated to all and sundry that it is a leading corporate citizen in Nigeria, and a foremost provider of financial services. The Bank states humbly that it has been a partner to the Federal Republic of Nigeria and all Nigerians in the task of development and nation building. Its positive footprints are seen all over the country. As a law abiding corporate citizen of Nigeria, the Bank respects the judiciary; as such, it has instructed its counsel to take all the constitutional steps with immediate effect to challenge the decision of Buba J. to the Court of Appeal.

15. Finally, in the face of constant, persistent and unprovoked
use of judicial processes to intimidate, harass and threaten the
Bank, it has decided to remain calm, steadfast and unflinching in its resolve to continue to provide first-class services to its teeming customers within and outside the country. FirstBank further asserts that it will always defend its interests within the ambit of the law and seek redress for any temporary injustice done to it. The Bank is not aware and has not been advised as to the provision of any law in Nigeria which allows the use of criminal contempt to enforce monetary judgement or obligations.

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BUSINESS

​Keystone Bank: Emerging whiz-kid on the banking block

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By: Felix Onajite

Since the financial crisis that enveloped the global market a decade ago, the profitability and reputation of banks has been under tremendous pressure worldwide, Nigeria inclusive. Whilst the banking industry is now regaining its health, the entrant of fintechs and neo-banks in the industry is posing a new threat. This digital disruption is changing the traditional way through which customers obtain financial services, hence putting more pressure on banks’ profitability.

However, a bank in Nigeria, Keystone Bank Ltd, is challenging the status quo by making transformation and profitability appear like a mere walk over as revealed in its achievements within a short time span. From the perspective of the results on ground, it appears to be a great time for Keystone Bank. In just one year of AMCON’s divestment, the bank has changed its narrative from “one of those banks” to a financial institution to be reckoned with and as a result is experiencing an influx of business minded customers.

Keystone Bank’s ambitious and holistic transformations have taken industry watchers by surprise, and the industry itself by storm. Besides the revamping of its branches across the nation and bolstering its workforce, it has invested substantially in technology and developed fully integrated service models that enable its customers enjoy banking services through a wide range of channels.

The bank’s journey to reckoning had been long and winding, which necessitated a takeover by the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) in 2011.

However, its acquisition by Sigma Golf – Riverbank consortium seemed to trigger a turnaround as it precipitated a change in the management team to the one that holds the magic wand for the positive outlook it has been experiencing to date

On taking over, the new management team led by its Group Managing Director/CEO Mr. Obeahon Ohiwerei drew up a holistic and integrated approach to business modernization which elevated the bank to deliver a superior customer-centric experience.  The impact of this change reflected positive results in its Q1 report card, which, from all indications, is a restoration of customers’ trust in its system.

The bank for the half-year ended June 30th, 2018 recorded a profit before tax of N5.83bn, compared to a loss of N6.78bn over the same period in 2017. Deposit grew by 51%, from N206bn to N312bn between June 2017 and June 2018

From evolving technologies to changing customer expectations to new regulatory demands – it has never been more important for banks to come up with the right strategies for digital transformation and innovation; the Ohiwerei team nonetheless made this a reality at Keystone Bank. This entailed initiating partnership processes with foremost technology-enabled concerns to drive its digital revolution.

Its partnership with CeLD Innovations Limited to launch a ground-breaking loyalty reward initiative which involves the gifting of ‘CashToken’, is one of such moves. This innovative gift commodity, Cash Token, which was formally launched in Lagos on Thursday April 19, 2018 at a conference tagged “500 Top CEOs Conference – Unleashing – The Age of Hyper Consumer Centricity, is an electronic reward and celebratory gift commodity which costs only N30.

The initiative, according to CeLD, creates a chance for every customer in Nigeria to win life-changing cash rewards every Friday night on the National CashToken draws which is monitored by Alexander Forbes and audited by Deloitte. This initiative is designed to optimize customer loyalty investment for business, celebratory gift value optimization and public emotional equity for government.

The bank has also launched its revamped mobile banking application upgraded with new and exciting user-friendly features for a more convenient banking experience. Customers can now enjoy many benefits & access self-service options, such as, easy account opening, convenient self- booking and liquidation of fixed deposits, an expanded list of bill-payment options and easy activation of standing instructions & recurrent future payments.

Other notable features of the mobile App are, a “Switch Card ON/OFF option” which allows users to disable their cards temporarily if missing & re-enable at the click of a button, the “Hide Balance Feature” safeguards against third-party viewing and the “Meet Your Relationship Manager Option” allows users to call or email their account officers right within the app.

In addition, the Bank was the first in the sector to introduce the Chat-bot feature called OXYGEN which enables banking on Telegram and Facebook. It guides users through a whole range of desired transactions step-by-step.

Another first from the Bank is the Zero Data Banking feature that enable customers transact on their phones without data. Keystone Bank has remained the only Bank with this feature on its Banking App.

And for the first time in its operations, Keystone Bank also introduced a new SMART number for customer support, this eliminates the need for customers to remember multiple numbers while removing the uncertainty as to which of the lines are actively engaged.

These and many other moves leveraging technology and building a culture of innovation is fast repositioning the bank as a new whiz kid on the banking block, which, according to its group managing director, Mr. Obeahon Ohiwerei is a proof of the hard work and resilience of the board, management and staff of the bank.

Today, Keystone Bank’s branches are fast becoming a hub for transactional activities witnessing a huge footfall of customers trooping in to carry out transactions, open bank accounts and experience the innovative trends that the bank has introduced to its business. This overall experience has also been boosted by the enhancement of staff morale which inherently drives the commitment to serve their customers better.

From the look of unfolding events at Keystone Bank, it’s clear to see that, it’s just a matter of time before the bank starts operating in the first tier again.

– Felix Onajite, a financial analyst writes from Lagos, Nigeria.

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Forex: CBN boosts wholesale market, others with fresh $210m

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The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has sustained its intervention in the inter-bank foreign exchange market by injecting yet another sum of $210,000,000 into various sums of the market on Tuesday, August 14, 2018.

At Tuesday’s trading, the Bank offered the sum of $100,000,000 as wholesale interventions and allocated the sum of $55,000,000 each for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) forex window and the invisibles sector, for customers requiring forex for Business/Personal Travel Allowances, tuition and medical fees, among others.

Confirming the figures in Abuja, the Acting Director, Corporate Communications at the CBN, Mr. Isaac Okorafor, said the Bank was pleased at the performance of the naira, noting that the currency had continued to enjoy stability against the dollar and other major currencies of the world in recent times.

Okorafor reassured the public that the Bank would continue to intervene in the interbank foreign exchange market in line with its resolve to ensure liquidity in the forex market and maintain stability. He reiterated that the steps taken by the CBN in forex management had resulted in further reduction in the country’s import bills and accretion to its foreign reserves.

It will be recalled that the CBN last Friday, August 10, 2018, intervened in the Retail Secondary Market Intervention Sales (SMIS) to the tune of $327 million in the agricultural and raw materials and CNY 69 million in the spot and short-tenored forwards.

The naira continued to maintain its strong stand against major currencies around the globe, exchanging for N360/$1 in the BDC segment of the market on Tuesday, August 14, 2018.

Meanwhile, the CBN will on Wednesday, August 15, 2018, sensitize stakeholders in Abuja and the adjoining States on the Bilateral Currency Swap Agreement between the CBN and the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) signed on April 27, 2018.

 

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BUSINESS

Over 5000 entrepreneurs for 4th Tony Elumelu Foundation entrepreneurship forum in Lagos

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Africa’s leading entrepreneurship-focused philanthropic organisation, the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), has announced October 25, 2018, as the date for its 4thannual TEF Entrepreneurship Forum.

The largest gathering of African entrepreneurs and the broader entrepreneurship ecosystem will unite over 5,000 entrepreneurs, global investors, leaders from the African public and private sectors and developmental organisations at the Federal Palace Hotel, Lagos.  The event is a unique opportunity to generate ideas, forge networks and bring policymakers and the private sector together, in a spirit of robust debate and interaction. The 2018 cohort from the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme, as well as mentors and partners, will be present, as the culmination of their intensive twelve-week induction.

In keeping with the Foundation’s track record―most recently with President Macron of France―of bringing politicians face to face with the new generation of young business women and men shaping Africa, the Forum will include an interactive session with President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana, moderated by TEF Founder, Tony O. Elumelu.

The Forum will also feature the launch of the TEFConnect, the world’s largest digital platform for African entrepreneurs, dedicated to connecting African entrepreneurs and the entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Founder, Tony O. Elumelu, CON, stated: “In just four years, we have directly impacted 4,460 entrepreneurs, and we are beginning to see the results – job creation, ripple effects, but most importantly a recognition that Africa’s economic well-being is driven by entrepreneurs: female and male, large and small – they are the engine of our continent’s transformation. We will be championing and celebrating them. This year, we are truly achieving scale and impact; we received over 150,000 applications in 2017 alone, up from 20,000 applications in 2015. We are now calling on the current generation of African success stories and others to partner with us to see how we can all further create impact, genuinely transform millions of lives and increase the number of inspiring stories we will be hearing in Lagos”.

TEF CEO, Parminder Vir OBE stated: “The TEF Entrepreneurship Forum is the only event across the continent that brings together the complete African entrepreneurship ecosystem, demonstrating our commitment to capturing the whole continuum – from the entrepreneurs themselves, governments who must provide enabling environments, to capital, advice and perhaps most importantly access and network”.

Inspired by Tony Elumelu’s economic philosophy of Africapitalism and his vision to institutionalise luck and democratise opportunity for a new generation of African entrepreneurs, the Tony Elumelu Foundation has implemented one of the most ambitious entrepreneurship programmes globally.

The Programme is a 10-year, $100 million commitment to identify, train, mentor, and fund 10,000 entrepreneurs. Its goal is to invest in businesses that will generate at least 1,000,000 new jobs and contribute at least $10 billion in new annual revenues across Africa. In its 4th year, TEF Entrepreneurship Programme has empowered 4,460 entrepreneurs with a total investment of USD20million; 4,000 funded directly by the Foundation and 460 have been funded by partners.

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