Court Orders EFCC, Two Banks To Pay Benue Govt. N100m

 

A Federal High Court sitting in Makurdi has ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and two banks to jointly pay the sum of N100 million to the Benue State government.

The EFCC and the two banks – United Bank of Africa (UBA) and Fidelity Bank – are being fined for illegally freezing the accounts of the state government last year.

Delivering judgement in the suit filed by the Benue State Government challenging the legality of the EFCC’s action, Justice Mobolaji Olajuwon on Tuesday, ordered the anti-graft agency to pay the Benue State Government the sum of N50 million as damages, while both banks are to pay the sum of N25 million each.

Justice Olajuwon stated that the accounts of the Benue State Government that were frozen, do not fall within the classes or categories of accounts liable to be frozen by the EFCC.

She declared the action of the anti-corruption body as illegal, null and void, saying that the order by the EFCC to the affected Banks to freeze the accounts was not obtained from a Federal High Court.

The Judge, thereafter, granted an order of perpetual injunction restraining the EFCC from further freezing State Government’s accounts domiciled in financial institutions.

Reacting to the judgement, the Benue State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Michael Gusa described the judgement as sound, adding that the Ortom administration believes in the rule of law and due process, and would not fail to challenge any act of illegality on the State.

The EFCC had ordered the freezing of the accounts of Benue State Government in UBA and Fidelity Bank after Governor Samuel Ortom defected from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on the premise that the governor’s security vote was being investigated.

Consequently, the state government, through the office of the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, approached the court seeking a declaration that EFCC acted against the law when it directed the banks to freeze its accounts.

Court Orders Forfeiture Of Diezani’s Allegedly Stolen $153m

Court Orders Forfeiture Of Diezani's Allegedly Stolen FundsA Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has ordered the temporary forfeiture of the sum of $153,310,000, which a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueze, allegedly siphoned from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and stashed in three banks in the country.

Out of the allegedly stolen $153.3m, a sum of N23,446, 300,000 was said to have been kept in Sterling Bank Plc, N9,080,000,000 in First Bank Plc and $5m in Access Bank Plc.

After ordering the temporary forfeiture of the monies to the Federal Government on Friday, Justice Muslim Hassan gave Sterling Bank and any other interested party 14 days to appear before him to prove the legitimacy of the monies, failing which the funds would be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.

The judge made the order in favour of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) which appeared before him on Friday with an ex-parte application seeking the temporary forfeiture of the funds.

In a nine-paragraph affidavit filed in support of the ex parte application, an EFCC investigator, Moses Awolusi, claimed that the anti-graft agency discovered through its investigations how sometime in December 2014 Diezani invited a former Managing Director of Fidelity Bank Plc, Nnamdi Okonkwo, to her office where they hatched the plan of how a cash sum of $153,310,000 would be moved from NNPC to Okonkwo to be saved for Diezani.

According to Awolusi, Diezani instructed Okonkwo to ensure that the money was “neither credited into any known account nor captured in any transaction platforms” of Fidelity Bank.

Awolusi said Okonkwo accepted and implemented the deal leading to the movement of $153,310,000 from NNPC to Fidelity Bank.

He said two former Group Executive Directors of Finance and Account of NNPC, B.O.N. Otti and Stanley Lawson, helped Diezani to move the cash from NNPC, Abuja to the headquarters of Fidelity Bank in Lagos.

Awolusi said in a desperate bid to conceal the source of the money, Okonkwo, upon receiving it, instructed the Country Head of Fidelity Bank, Mr Martin Izuogbe, to take $113,310,000 cash out of the money to the Executive Director, Commercial and Institutional Bank, Sterling Bank Plc, Lanre Adesanya, to keep.

He said the remaining $40million was taken in cash to the Executive Director, Public Sector Accountant, First Bank, Dauda Lawal, to keep.

The investigator said out of the $113,310,000 handed over to Adesanya, a sum of $108,310,000 was invested in an off balance sheet investment using Sterling Asset Management Trustees Limited.

He said the $108,310,000 was subsequently changed to N23,446, 300,000 and saved in Sterling Bank.

Awolusi said the EFCC had recovered the N23.4bn in draft and had registered it as an exhibit marked, EFCC 01.

The investigator said the EFCC had also recovered another $5million out of the money kept with the MD of Access Bank Plc, Mr Herbert Wigwe.

He said the $5m was recovered in draft and had been registered as an exhibit marked, EFCC 02.

According to him, First Bank’s ED, Lawal, had converted the $40million kept with him to N9,080,000,000.

Awolusi, however, said that the EFCC had recovered that also in draft and registered it as Exhibit EFCC 03.

Moving the ex-parte application on Friday, the EFCC lawyer, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, urged Justice Hassan to order the temporary forfeiture of the funds to the Federal Government and to order Sterling Bank and Lawal, who were joined as defendants in the application, as well as any other interested parties, to appear in court within two weeks to show cause why the funds should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.

Oyedepo, who said the application was brought pursuant to Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act No. 14, 2006 and Section 44(2)(‘) of the 1999 Constitution, said granting the application was in the best interest of justice.

After hearing him out, Justice Hassan granted the order and adjourned till January 24, 2016 for the respondents to appear in court to show cause why the funds should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.‎

Buhari Appoints New DG, Budget And Special Adviser, Planning

Buhari makes new appointments - DG BudgetPresident Muhammadu Buhari has approved the appointment of Mr Tijjani Mohammed Abdullahi as the Director-General in the Budget office.

Mr Abdullahi is a fellow of the Certified National Accountants of Nigeria and a banker.

He will replace the current Director-General, Budget, Mr Yahaya Gusau.

A statement by a spokesman for the President said the new Director-General, Budget, would work with the Minister of Budget and National Planning to efficiently deliver on the mandates of the Budget Office of the Federation.

The statement further read: “President Buhari has also approved the appointment of Mr Ben Ifeanyi Akabueze as the Special Adviser on Planning to the President.

“Mr Akabueze who is the immediate past Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget in Lagos State, has worked in senior management positions in Citi Bank, Fidelity Bank, United Bank for Africa, NAL Merchant Bank, Sterling Bank and BIA Consulting Limited, among others”.

The new Special Adviser on Planning is Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers; Fellow, Institute of Credit Administrators and Honorary Fellow, Chartered Institute of Bankers.

LPPC Restores Aribisala’s SAN Rank After 20 Months

Ajibola_aribisalaThe Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee (LPPC) has restored the rank of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria of a Lagos-based lawyer, Mr Ajibola Aribisala after a 20 month suspension.

A statement by the Secretary of the LPPC and the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court, Mr. Sunday Olorundahunsi, said Aribisala’s SAN rank was restored at the meeting of the committee held on Monday.

The statement added that the decision to restore the lawyer’s SAN rank followed the withdrawal of the petitions against him and the consideration of the terms of settlement between parties concerned in the petitions.

Aribisala’s SAN rank was suspended by the LPPC on February 26, 2013 after it received two petitions of “allegations of flagrant breach of professional ethics and professional misconduct” made against him.

Part of the allegations against the Aribisala was that the charges for certain legal services he rendered to Fidelity Bank were excessive and in breach of Rules of Professional Conduct in the legal profession.

The statement said “you may all recall that on the 26th day  February, 2013 the Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee at its General meeting suspended Chief A. A. Aribisala(SAN) from further use of the Rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria based on two petitions received by the LPPC on allegations of flagrant breach of professional ethics and professional misconduct.

“On the 27th day of October, 2014 the Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee at its General Meeting have decided to lift Chief A.A Aribisala’s suspension, after consideration of all material facts (Notices of withdrawal/discontinuance and subsequent letter of withdrawal of petition and terms of settlement).

“Pursuant to the committee’s decision, Chief Aribisala is hereby restored to the Rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria with effect from the 27th day of October, 2014.

“Futhermore, the committee hereby declares that any future act by Chief Aribisala that runs foul of paragraph 22 of the LPPC rules shall attract a stiffer sanction.”

AMCON Announces Preferred Bidder For Mainstreet Bank

AMCONThe Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) has announced Skye Bank Plc as the preferred bidder for the acquisition of the entire issued and fully paid up ordinary shares of Mainstreet Bank Limited.

It also announced Cedar One Investment Partners Limited as the 1st reserve bidder and Fidelity Bank as the second reserve bidder.

In a statement, Kayode Lambo, Head, Corporate Communications Strategy, AMCON, said this followed the receipt of the approval of its board of directors.

It said the completion of the transaction is subject to the fulfillment of the conditions precedent as stated in the share sale and purchase agreement (SPA) to be executed with Skye Bank Plc as well as the receipt of all required regulatory approvals from the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

AMCON said this process started with interest shown by 25 parties cutting across local and international investors. The emergence of Skye Bank, Cedar and Fidelity Bank as preferred 1st and 2nd reserve bidders, respectively, resulted from a rigorous and competitive bidding process, which was coordinated for AMCON by Barclays Africa Group Limited and Afrinvest West Africa Limited (financial advisers) and Banwo & Ighodalo (legal advisers), AMCON said.

Main Street Bank commenced operation in August, 2011, as a full-service commercial bank with a national banking licence. The bank has 9 subsidiaries; and a distribution network comprising 201 branches across 35 out of 36 states in Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja; 9 cash centres and 200 automated teller machines (ATM).

Fashola Commissions Alausa Power Project

Lagos State Governor, Mr Babatunde Fashola (SAN) on Thursday commissioned the 10.6 mw Alausa power project that would power the entire State Secretariat, Alausa and Obafemi Awolowo Way.

The Governor who spoke during the commissioning of the Alausa power plant which was carried out in conjunction with Oando Gas and Fidelity Bank Plc., explained that several places and landmarks like the Carter bridge which was abandoned for many years because it was unsafe has now been lit and made safe.

He added that 12 streets have been recently lit up in Alimosho area and is already having enormous benefit because market women who usually close at 5 or 6 pm are now trading into the wee hours of the night, with sales already improved by over 50 per cent from what it used to be.

Governor Fashola reiterated that the solution to unemployment and creating improved economic situation lies in made  in Nigeria goods. He expressed happiness that the Alausa power project is another made in Nigeria project, delivered by a Nigerian government with two Nigerian companies using largely Nigerian personnel to solve a Nigerian problem.

“I see a lot of good coming out of the gloom and sorry stories. I see a lot of good. Those who continue to put our country down should continue, but some of us can see the Nigeria of tomorrow and it would not happen by magic but by hard work. Some of us, especially members of my team dared to dream and as long as they continue to dream we would deliver stuffs like this”.

“I welcome you all warmly to the first secretariat that would run its own power without diesel, but on natural gas and clean fuel in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This could not have happened without Public Private Partnership (PPP). Go and check the balance sheets of Oando Gas and Fidelity Bank and the number of people they employ and you would see the gains of PPP”, he emphasised.

He added that the new Alausa power plant which will power all the offices in the Lagos State Secretariat would bring about efficiency in terms of the work output and lead to a resultant increase in productivity from the workers and the state economy.

Also speaking, the Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Oando Oil, Mr Wale Tinubu  said the new Alausa Power Plant will provide 10.6 Megawatts of electricity to the State Secretariat and will be powered by gas through an environmental friendly Lagos pipeline.

Fidelity Bank Records 40 Per Cent Profit In Q1

Nigeria’s Fidelity Bank said on Friday its first-quarter pretax profit rose 40.42 percent year-on-year to N5.94 billion  ($37.62 mln), up from N4.23 billion a year ago, the bank said.

Gross earningsat the mid-tier lender rose to N31.43 billion during the three months as against N22.43 billion in the same period last year.

Aribisala Asks Court to Nullify Order Suspending His SAN Rank

A legal practitioner, Ajibola Aribisala, whose rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) was recently withdrawn by the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee (LPPC), has filed a suit at the Lagos High Court challenging the committee’s decision to deprive him the use of the SAN title.

Ajibola A. Aribisala stripped of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN)

He listed Fidelity Bank Plc and the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee as defendants.

In his statement of claim, Mr Aribisala is asking the court to nullify the suspension of his use of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria, with its accompanying privileges, a decision which was taken by the 2nd Defendant, the LPPC, on 26 February 2013 despite the pendency of an application dated 19 October 2012 seeking a restraining order of interlocutory injunction against the 2nd Defendant in that regard, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.

He is also asking the court for an order of mandatory injunction directing immediate restoration of parties in this suit to the status quo (ante bellum) as at 22nd October, 2012 when the Defendants were served with the originating processes seeking a restraining order against the 2nd Defendant pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.

The lawyer also asked the court for an injunction restraining the LPPC from giving any effect to, implementing or continuing to implement, or carrying out any act or making any form of publicity relating to the alleged suspension of his use of the rank of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria pending the hearing and determination of this suit.

It would be recalled that Mr Aribisala was suspended from using the rank of SAN following a petition against him by Fidelity Bank.

In his statement of claim however, Mr Aribisala denied overcharging the bank and insisted that his bill was in accordance with the provisions of the Legal Practitioners (Remuneration for Legal Practitioner Documentation and other Land Matters) Order.

He said that he made several demands on the bank to pay up his legal fees after helping the bank to perfect its documents in respect of different properties acquired by the bank.

He argued that the relationship between him and Fidelity Bank was contractual and could not be a basis to deny him the right to use his rank as an SAN.

According to him, the law allows him to deduct monies owed him by the bank from the money he recovered for the bank.

He said: “The Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee is a creation of law, vested with certain powers, the same cannot be extended to cover matters which ought to be submitted to the Court for adjudication and have indeed been so submitted, in this case, and that once a matter is sub-judice nobody is allowed to comment, investigate or do anything about it except the court before which the matter is pending.”

When the matter came up before Justice Adefowope Okogie, counsel to Fidelity Bank, Seyi Sowemimo, said the objection filed by the bank should be heard first.

However, Aribisala’s lawyer, Tayo Oyetibo held a contrary view.

The trial court consequently adjourned the matter to April 23 for the determination of which application to hear first.

Another SAN Stripped Of Rank

The Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee (LPPC) on Tuesday stripped Ajibola A. Aribisala of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).

Ajibola A. Aribisala stripped of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN)

This is the second time a member of the Inner Bar would lose the prestigious title that makes the holder the first among equals during court proceedings.

The first SAN to lose his title was a former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Michael Kaase Aondoakaa, who was stripped of the title on October 7, 2010 by the same LPPC.

Mr. Aondoakaa was stripped of the title after his response to a petition written against him by a non-governmental organisation, the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR).

A statement from the Media Aide of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Ahuraka Isah, said the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court of Nigeria and Secretary, Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee, Sunday Olorundahunsi communicated the decision at the end of the Committee’s meeting on Tuesday in Abuja.

The LPPC’s decision was taken following a petition by Fidelity Bank against Mr. Aribisala and after hearing his response to the petition, the Committee decided that he should be suspended from using the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria.

By this decision, Mr Aribisala loses all privileges attached to the rank pending the outcome of the Court case impeding investigation by the Sub-Committee set up by the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee.

Seven Nigerian banks ranked amongst World’s top 1000

Seven Nigerian banks have been featured in a ranking of the Top 1000 banks in the world.

The list is compiled by The Banker magazine, a publication of the Financial Times of London.

The seven Nigerian banks are Zenith Bank, First Bank, GTbank, Access Bank, United Bank for Africa, Fidelity bank, First City Monument Bank and Skye Bank.

The banks are ranked according to their tier 1 capital. According to this metric, Zenith Bank is the no. 1 Nigerian bank on the list with a tier 1 capital of $ 2.398 billion (Zenith is no.7 in Africa and #322 Worldwide). Zenith is followed closely by First Bank’s tier 1 capital of $ 2.262 billion (#2 in Nigeria, #8 in Africa and #338 worlwide). GTBank is third with a tier 1 capital of $ 1.478 billion (#3 in Nigeria, #11 in Africa and # 455 worldwide).
Access Bank’s tier 1 capital or shareholders’ funds is $1.054 billion (#4 in Nigeria, #15 in Africa and #541 worldwide).

UBA is the fifth largest bank in Nigeria, #16 in Africa and #563 worldwide. Fidelity takes position as the sixth biggest bank in Nigeria, #17 in Africa and #618 in the world while First City Monument Bank becomes the seventh largest bank in Nigeria, #22 in Africa and #710 in the world.

Bank of America emerged #1 on the global list with a tier 1 capital of $159.232 billion, JP Morgan was #2 with $150 billion.  Four American and Four Chinese banks made the top ten list, with one British and Japanese Bank apiece also emerging.

Fidelity and Skye Banks’2011 profits drop

Fidelity Bank said on Monday its pre-tax profit for 2011 fell 11.32 per cent to N7.67 billion from N8.65 billion in the previous year.

The bank disclosed this in a statement it forwarded to the Nigerian Stock Exchange.

Gross earnings rose to N70.04 billion, from N56.04 billion in 2010, the bank said.

It also declared a dividend of N0.14 per share.

Fidelity Bank shares rose 4.93 per cent, almost the 5 per cent maximum allowed in a day’s trading on the local bourse, on Monday to N1.49 per share, after it announced it’s earning results.

Skye Bank profit fells despite rising revenue

Similarly, Skye Bank on Monday said its pre-tax profit fell by 45.5 per cent to N6.51 billion in 2011, down from N12.73 billion the previous year, and it declared a dividend of N0.25 per share.

Gross earnings rose to N104.83 billion for 2011, from N83.97 billion in 2010, the bank said in a statement through the Nigerian Stock Exchange.

It did not explain the fall in profit despite rising revenues, but a number of Nigerian banks have issued disappointing results for 2011 because of write downs of non-performing loans left over from a 2008/9 banking crisis.