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CBN Queries First Bank as CEO Is ‘Purportedly Ousted’

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•Says Bank Under Forbearance, Liquidity Support Can’t Remove Helmsman Without Approval

•Shareholders Weigh Options, Otudeko, Odukake And Adenuga In Battle For Conntrol

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) yesterday queried the board of First Bank Nigeria Limited over the removal of the Managing Director/Chief Executive of the bank, Dr. Adesola Adeduntan, saying the action was without regulatory approval.

The apex bank said the board’s move has “dire implications for the bank and also portends significant risks to the stability of the financial system.”

The central bank stated this in a letter dated April 28, 2021, signed by its Director, Banking Supervision, Mr. Haruna Mustafa, and addressed to the bank’s Chairman, Mrs. Ibukun Awosika, a copy of which was obtained by THISDAY.

CBN also demanded a comprehensive response on the matter from Awosika to be delivered to the banking sector regulator latest 5pm today.

The Board of Directors of First Bank had earlier yesterday announced the appointment of Mr. Gbenga Shobo as the new Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

But in a swift reaction, the CBN noted with concern that the action was taken without due consultation with the regulatory authorities, especially given the systemic importance of First Bank as well as given that the tenure of Adeduntan was yet to expire.

“The CBN was not made aware of any report from the board indicting the Managing Director of any wrong-doing or misconduct; there appears to be no apparent justification for the precipitate removal.

“We are particularly concerned because the action is coming at a time the CBN has provided various regulatory forbearances and liquidity support to reposition the bank, which has enhanced its asset quality, capital adequacy and liquidity ratios amongst other prudential indicators.

“It is also curious to observe that the sudden removal of the MD/CEO was done about eight months to the expiry of his second tenure, which is due on December 31, 2021.”

According to the central bank, the removal of a sitting MD/CEO of a systemically important bank, “that has been under regulatory forbearance for five to six years without prior consultation and justifiable basis,” has dire implications for the bank and also portends significant risks to the stability of the financial system.

“In light of the foregoing, you are required to explain why disciplinary action should not be taken against the Board for hastily removing the MD/CEO and failing to give prior notice to the CBN before announcing the management change in the media.

“In the meantime, you are directed to desist forthwith from making any further public/media comments on the matter. Your comprehensive response on the foregoing should reach the Director, Banking Supervision Department on or before 5pm on April 29, 2021,” it added.

Meanwhile, the banking sector regulator in another letter also signed by Mustafa, titled: “Re: Audited FIRS Accounts for the Financial Year Ended December 31, 2020,” revealed that the bank was yet to divest its interest in HoneyWell Flour Mills, Barti Airtel and other non-permissible interest.

The Chairman of FBN Holdings, the holding company of First Bank Nigeria Limited, Oba Otudeko is also the Chairman of Honey Well. He used to be the Chairman of Barti Airtel.

However, the CBN in the letter stated: “We are concerned that the bank has not complied with regulatory directives to divest its interest in Honey Well Flour Mills despite several reminders. We further noted that after four years the bank is yet to perfect its lien on the shares of Mr. Oba Otudeko in FBN Holdco, which collateralised the restructured credit facilities for Honey Well Flour Mills contrary to the conditions precedent for the restructuring of the company’s credit facility.

“Given the bank’s failure to perfect the pledge and satisfy conditions for regulatory approval, the restructuring has thus been invalidated and the credit facilities now payable immediately.”

Consequently, the central bank has requested that HoneyWell, “ fully repays its obligations to the bank within 48 hours failing which the CBN will take appropriate regulatory measures against the insider borrower and the bank.”

It added: “Furthermore, the Bank notes the untenable delay in resolving the long outstanding divestment from Bharti Airtel Nigeria Ltd in line with extant regulations of the CBN.

“Accordingly, you are required to divest the equity investments in all non-permissible entities such as Honey Well Flour Mills and Bharti Airtel Nigeria Limited within 90 days. Please you are to forward evidence of compliance in accordance with the timelines above to the Director of Banking Supervision.”

The Board of Directors of First Bank had earlier yesterday announced that the appointment of Shobo as its Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer (CEO) took immediate effect.

Shobo was the bank’s Deputy Managing Director.

According to a statement, the appointment was subject to regulatory approval.

Also appointed was Abdullahi Ibrahim as Deputy Managing Director, while Mr. Ini Ebong, Mr. Segun Alebiosu, Mr. Seyi Oyefeso and Mrs. Bashirat Odunewu, were appointed Executive Directors.

Similarly, their appointments are also subject to regulatory approvals.

Commenting on the appointments, the Chairman, First Bank, Awosika said: “We are proud to announce Gbenga Shobo as our new MD/CEO. His appointment has proven the resilience of our succession planning mechanisms and the value we place on our long-standing corporate governance practices, which underpins the institution’s enduring sustainability and the 127-year legacy”.

The statement explained that Shobo has had a successful career in the bank and elsewhere, culminating in his appointment as Deputy Managing Director.

But all that may now be put on hold as a major boardroom manoeuvre appears to be at play among the three dominant shareholding groups, who are now weighing their options.

Otudeko and his allies with 10 per cent shareholding might be up against an emerging alliance between Oye Odukake (10 per cent) and Mike Adenuga (6 per cent).
Odukale and Adenuga, who THISDAY learnt might have teamed up last night, are pushing for the return of the ousted CEO with the ultimate aim of sacking the board presently controlled by Otudeko.

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UBA’s Leo Clocks Four, Set To Further Transform Digital Banking In Nigeria, Africa

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The United Bank for Africa has announced that it has concluded plan to commemorate the fourth anniversary of its flagship artificial intelligence Chabot, with new offerings set to further change the face of digital banking in Nigeria

To further extend its reach, UBA said it has concluded plans to commence Leo services on Instagram and Google Business, terrains none of its peers can lay claim to.

“Birthed January 11, 2018, with a firm resolve to prioritise its customers as well as put the bank at the heart of disruptive technologies that will transform the experience of esteemed customers, UBA did the unthinkable by getting three million users hooked in less than three years of its inception,” the bank revealed in a statement.

Leo, which the bank stressed, had proven to be the most formidable artificial intelligence chat bot till date; serving an ever-increasing customer base who now have less transaction hassles to worry about is currently available on Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Apple Business Chat

Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, UBA, Mr. Kennedy Uzoka, affirmed that UBA customers agree that Leo is one of the bank’s biggest investments in cutting-edge technology and has been steadily changing the face of banking in the continent.

“Three years later, and with over almost four million customers and counting, UBA’s Leo, has without a doubt, remained the smartest Banking Chatbot in Nigeria because of its speed and quick learning intelligence and has continued to evolve with plenty to offer its teeming customers.

“While other financial institutions are still trying to find their feet as regards Artificial Intelligence, we can proudly say that our Leo has become a massive success as it continues to consolidate on its successes and accolades winning several awards in a short while of its existence, “he added.

Uzoka said further: “In just four years, Leo’s landmark achievements have been indeed overwhelming, covering 20 African countries as well as garnering over 10 prestigious awards globally, a feat that is exceptional by every standard, I must say we are proud of Leo’s intimidating achievements which is largely unbeatable.

“With this in mind, we have ensured that, Leo continues to enjoy periodic and systematic upgrade with special emphasis on enhanced advancements and specialised unique features where necessary.

“UBA’s vision has always been and will remain to be a dominating force in Africa’s digital banking space. Our resolve is to provide unparalleled experience across all channels. We are a technology-driven institution with vast knowledge in the business that we do and Leo, being a tested, dependable and intelligent personality, did well to replicate on WhatsApp the success it recorded on the Facebook Messenger platform where it started its journey and later on the IOS (iPhone Operating System) platform.

“It is a solution that is from the customer’s standpoint, easy to use by anyone regardless of demography. Leo is always ready and waiting to help with any form of banking service.”

Uzoka further explained that Leo is already present in 20 African countries and in three languages and has a number of rich and robust features bound to mesmerise existing and potential customers with services that are extremely fast and secure as all transactions and enquiries are encrypted, end-to-end.

“Leo has the ability to do a wide range of things, including funds transfer, call card top-up, checking of account balance, retrieval of bank statements, instant account openings for new customers, statement to embassy/other banks/microfinance, purchase of airtime/ data, paying of bills (LCC, PHCN, Cable TV), effectively helping with savings and spend limit,” he said.

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Why More Women Are Banking With Access Bank, Wigwe Speaks

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Access Bank’s Chief Executive Officer, Herbert Wigwe, has identified good customer service, access to finance, provision of educative and possibility of business growth are some of the reasons why more women are patronising the bank. According to him, this is also the reason why half of the bank’s customer base are women, particularly those in business.

Wigwe made the disclosure recently while discussing the company’s expansion plans in an interview on CNN’s First Move with Julia Chatterley.

Noting that more women are embracing the bank due to what the bank has done for women, he explained that Access Bank had programmes for women and if they needed financing, they would be supported by the bank.

He said “Most times, they have gotten the money, it’s about supporting them with respect to various programs that would help educate them on what to do, how to grow their businesses, all of those type of things. So, that is what has made us so different and the fact that most women would rather bank with Access than anywhere else”

On Access Bank’s African expansion plans, Wigwe said, “It is something that we have been planning as part of our corporate strategic planning 2017 and the whole idea has been to support our correspondent banking business, to support our payments business and to basically ensure that there is greater trade within the continent. So, for us, what are we doing? We’re basically making sure that we have a strong presence in all the major trade centres in the continent.”

On Access Bank’s outlook for 2022, the bank CEO added, “I think we’re on track. I think in terms of profitability our different franchises are doing exceedingly well. And I think 2022 perhaps is actually going to be a big, big year for the institution.”

Explaining further, Wigwe said that in 2014, the bank created the W-program which is a more robust program, and it’s about inspiring, connecting and it’s also about empowering women.

He said the W-Programme includes both the professional lady or businesswoman who needs to be supported.

“You know sophisticated businessperson who is thinking about succession and wants a bank that can help them. All of those things were provided. We took it deeper and deeper into maternal health care schemes. Schemes that no other institution in the world have basically looked at. It’s the reason we won several, several awards.”

Revealing Access Bank’s focus on women in Nigeria, Wigwe also stated, “Coming back to Nigeria, and what it has done for women, half of our customer base today are women, all right. And because they know that they will be served by Access. And if they needed financing, they will be supported by Access. Most times, they have gotten the money, it’s about supporting them with respect to various programs that would help educate them on what to do, how to grow their businesses, all of those type of things. So, that is what has made us so different and the fact that most women would rather bank with Access than anywhere else.”

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UBA Customers To Win Big In Super Savers Promo Draw

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Africa’s Global Bank, the United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc, has assured its loyal customers of a memorable Christmas as the bank is set to reward thousands of people with super prizes, in its upcoming super savers promo draw.

The Super Savers draw will be held virtually on December 21 via Facebook and Youtube platforms in strict compliance with social distancing rules as directed by the federal and Lagos State governments following which 23 bumper account holders will smile home after a transparent draw with the following rewards; N2 million, N1.2 million, N500,000 and N100,000 cash prizes respectively.

Also another 10 savings account holders will win N1million each and 10 university students with a Next Gen account will win a monthly salary for a year while 30 children with a UBA Kiddies or Teens Account will win school fees grant. There is something for everyone in the Super Savers Draw.

The event will be supervised by representatives from the Consumer Protection Council, the National Lottery Regulatory Commission, and the Lagos State Lottery Board. To qualify, all new and existing customers need do to qualify for the draw is to ensure that they save N10,000 or more, monthly in their UBA Savings Account.

New customers should simply dial *919*20# if interested in opening a UBA Bumper Account. For more information, visit www.ubagroup.com/supersavers.

This unique Super Savers, which is open to account holders of the bank from the six geographical zones in Nigeria, has something big for everyone and intends to appreciate loyal customers of the bank, who have cultivated a savings culture and stayed loyal with the bank over the years.

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