Recently, the Innoson/GTBank story has gained so much media prominence, especially following the arrest of the Innonson chairman a few days ago by EFCC. Though the case is pending in court, Innoson has taken the battle to social media. There have been numerous sponsored social media campaigns against the Bank such as #BewareOfGTBank and #WhatIsWrongWithGTBank. The company has also gone Television, with its owner, Dr Innocent Chukwuma granting an interview to TVC, where he claimed he had obtained a judgement of N8bn against the bank. He added that the bank pleaded with him over their inability to pay, and that he graciously offered to accept shares of the bank as payment.
GTBank on their part has chosen to remain silent on the matter, perhaps trusting in the integrity of the legal system as against playing to the gallery. Many attempts by us to get the bank’s representatives to comment on the story has proven abortive. A staff of the bank who spoke under anonymity, stated “Irrespective of the issues we are facing with the company, Innoson remains a customer of the bank and we owe him a duty of confidentiality and to conduct ourselves in a responsible manner towards him”. This statement didn’t stop us from conducting our own investigations on the matter, and below are our findings, put in bullet points for your optimum understanding.
Innoson is, and still remains, a customer of GTBank.
What we discovered:
1. GTBank (in 2009) granted Innoson several credit facilities (i.e loans) totalling N2,400,000,000,00 (two billion, four hundred million Naira only), to part finance working capital requirements, import new motorcycles and motorcycle spare parts, agricultural spare parts and plastic manufacturing equipment (“Imported Goods”).
2. Under the loan terms agreed by Dr. Innocent Chukwuma on behalf of Innoson, proprietary interest in the Imported Goods was consigned exclusively in favour of the Bank. This means that the Bank was the exclusive owner of the Imported Goods. Accordingly, the original shipping documents (i.e. the Bills of Lading) were in the custody of the Bank, and have remained in the custody of the Bank at all times.
3. Because GTBank was the exclusive owner of the imported goods, ownership of the goods could only be transferred to Innoson (or any other third party) by the Bank. The condition in the agreement between the Bank and Innoson, for the release of the Imported Goods by the Bank to Innoson, was the payment of 25% of the value of each Letter of Credit transaction by Innoson.
What we learnt:
1. Innocent Chukwuma approached the Bank, on behalf of Innoson, requesting the release of the shipping documents without payment of the agreed+ 25% equity. The Bank declined his request as a result of Innoson’s failure to meet the agreed conditions.
2. It came to the Bank’s knowledge sometime in June, 2011 that the Imported Goods for which the Bank declined to release shipping documents to Innoson in view of its failure to meet the agreed conditions, had been fraudulently procured by Innoson.
3. The Bank discovered that Innoson, under the control of Dr. Innocent Chukwuma had forged the Bank’s endorsement on the bills of lading to the Shipping Line and fraudulently cleared the Imported Goods which were in the name of the Bank. The Imported Goods, being property of the Bank should not have been cleared from the Port without the original shipping documents being endorsed by the Bank in favour of Innoson, or any third party.
4. The signatures of 4 (four) staff of the Bank, to wit, Taofeek Olalere, Dan Attah, Bunmi Adeyemi and Amazu Amalachukwu, as well as the Bank’s stamp were forged on all the shipping documents used by Innoson to fraudulently clear goods at the port. The Bank did not at any time endorse or transfer the shipping documents to Innoson, as the originals of each of the relevant Bill of Lading remain in the Bank’s custody to this very day.
5. When the Bank reported the matter to the Nigeria Police, Dr. Innocent Chukwuma claimed the Bank released the shipping documents to him. Consequently, the Police commenced investigation into the Bank’s complaint, including a forensic examination of the disputed signatures, and established that the signatures of the Bank’s staff were forged, and the Imported Goods were fraudulently cleared from the Nigerian Ports Authority by Dr. Innocent Chukwuma and his accomplices.
What we heard from the Police:
1. Police investigations confirmed that Innoson and Dr. Innocent Chukwuma deliberately set out to defraud, steal from the Bank and convert the Imported Goods belonging to the Bank by deceptive means and through forgery and misrepresentation. The unlawful takeover of the Imported Goods, which served as the Bank’s collateral, left an indebtedness in excess of the sum of N1,654,481,895.04 (one billion, six hundred and fifty four million, four hundred and eighty one thousand, eight hundred and ninety five Naira, four Kobo) as at September 26, 2012.
2. Chief Innocent Chukwuma was arrested and interrogated by operatives of the EFCC, following which he agreed to make monthly payments into Innoson’s account until the full liquidation of Innoson’s indebtedness to the Bank. However, Innoson defaulted in making the agreed payments. Investigations by the Nigeria Police following a petition by the Bank in September 2013 also found Innoson and Chief Innocent Chukwuma culpable of the criminal allegations levied against them by the Bank, and Chief Innocent Chukwuma was accordingly charged to court by the Police.
3. The Police filed Charge No. FHC/L/565C/2015-Inspector General Of Police And Innoson Nigeria Limited; Innocent Chukwuma;Charles Chukwuma;Maximian Chukwura; Mitsui Osk Lines; Annajekwu Sunny for fraudulent clearance of goods, forgery, conversion, stealing and conspiracy presently pending before Faji J, at the Federal High Court, Ikoyi and adjourned to November 21, 2017 for arraignment/or hearing of motion for issuance of Bench Warrant.
What Innoson did:
1. Innoson approached the Bank for a reconciliation of his account and pleaded for a debt forgiveness. A reconciliation was carried out on the account – which had a debit balance of N1,654,481,895.04 as at December 31, 2011. In the spirit of amicable resolution and EFCC intervention, the Bank said it agreed to forego the sum of N559,374,072.09 which represented default charges that has accrued on the account and debited in line with the loan agreement between the customer and the Bank.
2. Based on this, the Bank decided to accept from the customer, the sum of N1,095,107,822.95 as full and final payment of the customer’s indebtedness to the Bank, provided that same shall be fully paid not later than (30) days from the date of the letter written to him
3. Surprisingly, Innoson commenced suit no:FHC/AWK/CS/2012 against the Bank at the Federal High Court, Awka stating the bank had debited its account with excess charges totalling N559,374,072.09 and obtained judgement in excess of N4.7Billion against the Bank. Again choosing to dishonour an agreement that was amicable reached between him and the Bank for a full and final settlement of N1,095,107,822.95 wherein the Bank graciously forgave him the sum of N559,374,072.09 which accrued on his account during the period which he abandoned his account.
4. To further stall the criminal proceedings against him, Chief Innocent Chukwuma and his company instituted suits at the Federal High Court, Abuja, as well as the Federal High Court, Awka in January 2014 against The Inspector General of Police, The Nigeria Police Force and Investigating Officer(s), seeking declaratory and injunctive reliefs, including orders restraining the Police from commencing criminal proceedings against Innoson and Chief Innocent Chukwuma. Furthermore, in a bid to stall the Bank’s recovery steps, and distract the Bank from focusing on the criminal action, as well as civil actions filed for recovery of the debt, Chief Innocent Chukwuma and his company Innoson, have continued to institute various spurious suits before various courts, claiming frivolous and outrageous sums against the Bank.
What GTBank is not saying:
1. In responding to Innoson’s motion for a stay of criminal proceedings at the Court of Appeal, the Honourable Justice J.S Ikyegh on September 17,2017 dismissed the motion for being unmeritorious and ordered that proceeding in the criminal case against Innson should proceed.
2. On October 12, 2017, the Police through its Charge No. FHC/L/565C/2015- filed an application for the issuance of bench warrant against Innocent Chukwuma; Charles Chukwuma and Annajekwu Sunny for fraudulent clearance of goods, forgery, conversion, stealing and conspiracy presently pending before Faji J, at the Federal High Court, Ikoyi and adjourned to Decemeber 8, 2017 for arraignment/or hearing of motion.
What we think:
Innoson should stop trying to play the underdog and simply resolve his issues through legal means or arbitration. On Innoson playing the Igbo tribe card, this is not in good taste in this moment in history. We are aware of GTBank’s strong position on unpaid debts. We know GTBank has gone often several debtors of the bank irrespective of who they are or where they come from. So why is Innoson’s matter now tribal? Please, this makes no sense. Innoson and GTBank, resolve your issues privately and let us all hear word.
Merry Christmas my people
Senate backs AMCON’s plan to publish debtors’ list
He said since AMCON over the past seven years have done its best to resolve these debts but are still encountering resistance from obligor, the 8th Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria under the able leadership of Senator Dr. Olubukola Saraki, would have not option that to urge AMCON to compile and publish the list of all these debtors on major daily newspapers in the country. The move, he argued would place before Nigerians those who are holding the nation’s economy to ransom since they account for 80 per cent of AMCON’s N4.8trillion obligation.
The Senator, who spoke today at the opening of a 2-day retreat at Intercontinental Hotel, Lagos where they convened to discuss the all-important AMCON Act Amendment Bill, hinted that the Upper Chamber, as part of its oversight function, has decided that AMCON at this critical time in its lifespan must be given all the support it requires to perform as expected by all Nigerians. He however urged the Management of AMCON to collaborate with the Federal Ministry of Finance (FMF), the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), and the office of the Attorney General of the Federation to propose that the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces issues an Executive Order on seizure of assets of persons who are indebted to AMCON.
In a keynote address he delivered at the commencement of the retreat, Sen. Ibrahim said the upper chamber is intent on having serious discussions as soon as possible with major stakeholders such as the CBN, the FMF, the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) and relevant committees from the legislature among others, where issues hindering AMCON from performing optimally including the funding model of AMCON would be discussed to enable the recovery agency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria finish its assignment on a high.
According to him the Upper Chamber will at this stage bare its fangs by amending the AMCON Act because AMCON has been a key stabilizing and re-vitalizing tool in the Nigerian financial system and so will be supported by the legislature to enable the Corporation achieve its statutory objectives. He said the legislature therefore supports the proposed plan by AMCON to publish the list of especially the 350 obligors that accounts for nearly 80 per cent of the total huge debt of AMCON.
Earlier in his presentation, Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, AMCON, Mr. Ahmed Kuru reminded the Senate Committee that the ramifications for failure by AMCON to recover its debt, principally owed to the CBN, cannot be quantified as it goes beyond economic cost. He disclosed that AMCON’s total debt obligation of
N4.8trillion represents more than 55 per cent of the 2018 national budget. Given the current demands on the Federal Government therefore, Kuru said he is convinced that it is doubtful that the government can afford to expense AMCON’s debt in the short term.
It was for that reason, AMCON, after seven years of negotiating with the obligors with no commensurate recovery result, has decided to change its strategy, which now pays strict attention to enforcements as a way of compelling especially the recalcitrant obligors to come and pay up their debts. To achieve this however, Kuru said the Corporation will be heavily dependent on the legislature, most especially members of the committee to facilitate the amendment of the AMCON Act since most obligors of AMCON that are politically exposed and business heavyweights now employ different antics in law to tie the Corporation up in courts.
Further highlighting other challenges faced by the Corporation, the AMCON CEO, again said, “One of the major areas for amendment is the matter of vesting proprietary interest of all collateral assets acquired by AMCON from commercial banks. The proposed amendment will have retrospective effect. The vesting of proprietary interest of all collateral assets in the resolution vehicle was implemented in Malaysia and was instrumental to their success in recovering debt obligations.
“Our second challenge has to do with the disposal of assets due to the economic downturn. AMCON’s current assets under management (AUM), that is assets obtained from debt resolution, has a book value of
N182 billion, which we are unable to sell. Our ability to successfully divest these assets, at competitive market price, is severely hampered by several factors including valuation methodology, unperfected title documents, state of the economy, purchasing power. The third challenge is the uncooperative attitudes of select obligors who are either unwilling and/or unable to settle their indebtedness. Such debtors prefer to resort to all manner of diversionary tactics as opposed to dealing with the problem of their indebtedness. It sees most of them are buying time, to where we do not know.”
Kuru also stated that from all indications, AMCON has in the past seven years exhausted the low hanging fruits and have had to roll up sleeves for a drawn out battle because it has become harder to get obligors to settle their debts. Throwing more light on this, the AMCON boss said, “To clarify, obligors indebted to AMCON for the sum of
N1.3 trillion have sued us in various courts in Nigeria raising technicalities to avoid meeting their obligations. This has hampered our recovery efforts and our objective of obtaining the best achievable financial returns on assets acquired from the banks.”
For that reason, he informed that AMCON had presented the issue with 350 accounts that represent about 80 per cent of AMCON’s current exposure of
N3 trillion as at May 31, 2018. AMCON, he said is still grappling with the issues that are multi-faceted, which consequently led the Corporation to reposition its debt recovery approach to focus on enforcement against obligors who are not willing to settle amicably.
In conclusion, Kuru said, “I will like to emphasize, once again, that the ramifications for failure by AMCON to recover its debt, principally owed to the CBN, cannot be quantified as it goes beyond economic cost. AMCON’s total debt obligation of
N4.8trillion represents more than 55 per cent of the 2018 national budget. Given the current demands on the Federal Government, it is doubtful that it can afford to expense AMCON’s debt in the short term.”
C&I Leasing Plc expands, acquires ‘Petrotech JV’
C &I Leasing Plc, a leasing and business service conglomerate has just concluded the buyout of 27.5% minority stake in C&I Petrotech Marine Ltd- a Joint Venture company with six vessels presently deployed to a long-term contract with Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC).
The parties engaged Wizer Advisory as an independent advisor for the valuation of the shares. As a result of this transaction, C&I Petrotech Marine Limited is now a fully owned subsidiary of C&I Leasing Plc.
Recall, C&I Leasing Plc recently recorded a successful N7 Billion Bond issue- the first series in a N20 Billion debt issuance programme. The company had stated that the funds raised would largely be invested in business expansion and restructuring of the company’s debts over a period of five years among other initiatives which will guarantee increased profit margins and returns for shareholders. Today’s buyout transaction of C&I Petrotech Marine Limited minority shareholders is evidence of C&I Leasing’s commitment to investing in its business growth and expansion.
According to the Managing Director of the Company, Mr. Andrew Otike-Odibi, “Our journey into the Maritime sector as a service provider for the Oil and Gas sector actually started through the C&I Petrotech Marine Joint Venture in 2010 and has over the years culminated in the ownership of over twenty vessels consisting of crew boats, pilot boats, tug boats, patrol boats and platform support vessels for providing services such as line and hose handling, berthing and escort services, mooring support, fire-fighting, pollution control, security and floating and self-elevating platforms.”
“This clearly reiterates our commitment to growing our Marine service business and gaining leadership in the field”.
It is hoped that this buyout will further the company’s drive to restructure and reposition its marine business for enhanced profitability.
C & I Leasing Plc has been in operation for over two decades and has since evolved from being a simple consumer finance leasing company licensed by the Central Bank of Nigeria in 1991 to becoming a diversified, leasing and business service conglomerate providing support services to various indigenous and multinational organizations in West Africa along three lines: Fleet Management, Personnel Outsourcing and Marine Services. The C&I Leasing group of companies has its operational offices in Lagos, Benin, Port-Harcourt, Calabar, Enugu and Abuja. The company has also been listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange since 1997 and is invested in the following subsidiaries – Leasafric Ghana Limited, Epic International FZE Dubai and now C&I Petrotech Marine Limited.
UBA emerges best institution in Digital Banking across Africa
Pan-African financial services group, United Bank for Africa Plc, has once again made an addition to its growing list of enviable laurels as it was named Africa’s best bank in the Digital category at the prestigious Euromoney awards in London.
This further lends credence to UBA’s dominance in the digital banking space. The Euromoney awards ceremony which was held on Wednesday, July 11, 2018 covers more than 20 global product categories, best-in-class awards and the best Banks in over 100 countries around the world, recognising institutions that have demonstrated leadership, innovation, and momentum in the markets in which they operate.
In selecting its recipients, Euro money’s principle is hinged both on quantitative and qualitative data to honor institutions that have brought the highest levels of service, innovation and expertise to their customers.
At the awards ceremony, UBA beat other nominees taking away the prize for best institution in Digital banking across Africa, an affirmation of its recent investment in cutting edge technology, one of which gave birth to Leo, the chat banker that has disrupted banking across Africa.
In a bid to be the undisputed leading financial services industry in Africa in the area of innovation and technology, UBA has steadily included new and emerging trends to its range of solutions in-branches, across subsidiaries and on digital platforms. The emergence of LEO, has been a continuous directive to push the banking sector beyond financial services and to show that the bank truly comprehends the shift in operations and the movement of the global world with technology today.
The Euromoney award, which is a recognition of innovative products and services introduced by the bank in recent times and targeted towards meeting customer needs, comes on the heels of recent awards to UBA, including Finnacle Client Innovation Awards and Best Bank Awards won by five of its subsidiaries across Africa by The Bankers Magazine. UBA was also declared the best Bank in Africa in 2017.
Receiving the award at a well attended event in London, the Group Managing Director, Chief Executive Officer, United Bank for Africa, Kennedy Uzoka, appreciated the organizer’s for the recognition, noting that UBA’s dedication to hard work and particular emphasis to offering quality services to customers are being acknowledged.
According to Uzoka, the award affirms the Bank’s strong management and un-matched commitment to service excellence.
He said: “This only goes to show that our resolve in continuing to deploy innovative solutions that place customers first, using cutting edge technology for their collective satisfaction and excellent banking experience is important to us. This recognition will further spur us to do more in meeting the needs of our customers with unrivalled services.”
Uzoka stated “for us at UBA, the award is quite an accomplishment, considering Mark Zuckerberg, CEO Facebook and President Emmanuel Macron of France’s recent endorsement both of which centred around highlighting the distinguishing value of UBA’s leading digital opportunities”.
“Also, our recent launch of Leo in 15 African countries is evidence that UBA has on its agenda, the objective of digital creativity especially in service for our trusted customer base across the African continent. This award reminds us as an institution not to relent in our pursuit of excellence and to continue to lead the new digital age in Africa, within the financial services industry’.
Clive Horwood, Euromoney Magazine’s Editor explained that: “Despite fierce competition, one bank stood out in the last year for the inventiveness of its efforts in digital banking: United Bank for Africa. One of its signature launches in Nigeria was Leo, an e-chat service using artificial intelligence to help customers execute transactions on Facebook”.
“Recently, Mark Zuckerberg gave a nod to the service, during a talk at a recent developers’ conference – a sign of its recognition at the highest levels of digital technology. The bank also recently added retina and fingerprint recognition and technology to reduce business travel greenhouse emissions. If it fulfils its ambitious plans to partner with fintech companies, UBA could continue to lead African banks in the area of digitilisation. “Horwood noted.
UBA is one of Africa’s leading banks with operations in 20 African countries and in London and New York, with presence in Paris.
Adjudged to be at the forefront of innovation and convenient banking, UBA is one of the first financial services institutions on the continent to deploy Finacle 10x, a new information technology platform that boosts its services and electronic banking channels.
Today, UBA provides banking services to more than 15 million customers globally, through diverse channels and over a thousand touch points.