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CBN’s Special Investigator, Jim Obazee Accuses Emefiele of Using Proxies to Buy Banks

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Jim Obazee, the special investigator appointed by President Bola to investigate the activities of former Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, has revealed in his report that the former apex bank chief used proxies to acquire some banks in the country.

Emefiele

Late Alhaji Ismaila Isa Funtua, an ally of former President Muhammadu Buhari, was also fingered alongside Emefiele in the acquisition of Keystone Bank and Polaris Bank.

According to Punch, this is coming on the heels of findings by the investigator that Emefiele illegally lodged billions of naira in foreign currencies in no fewer than 593 bank accounts in the United States, United Kingdom, and China without the approval of the apex bank’s board of directors and the CBN Investment Committee.

Obazee found out that the ex-CBN governor lodged £543,482,213 in fixed deposits in UK banks alone without authorisation. Emefiele, who is currently in the Kuje Custodial Centre, is being prosecuted for N1.2bn procurement fraud.

Obazee, who was appointed special investigator in July, submitted his final report tagged, ‘Report of the Special Investigation on CBN and Related Entities (Chargeable offences)’ to the President on Wednesday. He had earlier submitted an interim report on the probe of the CBN and related entities on December 9.

In his letters to the President, Obazee said he had completed his investigation into the illegal acquisition of Union Bank by Titan Banka nd was on the verge of recovering the two banks for the Federal Government.

He stated in his letter to the President, “When we carried out the investigation, we discovered that some persons were used as proxies by Mr Godwin Emefiele to set up Titan Trust Bank and acquire Union Bank therefrom, all from ill-gotten wealth.

“We were able to secure some documents and investigation reports will lead to the forfeiture of the two banks to the Federal Government. We have completed our investigation on this acquisition and have also held meetings with the relevant parties except for Mr Cornelis Vink, who is currently hospitalised in Switzerland.

“Otherwise, we are on the verge of recovering these two banks for the Federal Government.”

During the probe into the UBN acquisition supervised by the Emefiele-led CBN, Obazee explained that he requested the apex bank to furnish him with the details of the deal.

Findings indicate Titan Trust Bank sought the CBN’s no-objection to its proposed consolidation with UBN, excluding its United Kingdom operations via a letter dated October 25, 2021.

In the letter, TTB stated that the consolidation was being contemplated in four phases via acquisition of 91.5 per cent of the issued shares of UBN; mandatory tender offer for the remaining UBN shares; buyout of any share that were not voluntarily sold to TTB on the MTO; and merger of TTB and UBN with UBN as the surviving entity.

The TTB letter also stated that the consolidation was to be funded via a combination of debt and equity. The CBN in a letter dated March 9, 2022 granted no-objection to TTB’s requests to obtain a $300m facility from Afrexim Bank as well as capital injection of $175m from two existing shareholders of TTB, Luxis International DMCC and Magna International DMCC.

The TTB, via a letter dated June 3, 2022, informed the CBN that it made the payment of the purchase consideration to the selling shareholders on June 1, 2022, and thus completed the acquisition of 93.41 per cent of the issued shares of UBN.

According to the investigator, the TTB sought approval for the mandatory takeover of the remaining 6.59 per cent of UBN shares vide a letter dated October 14, 2022.

The MTO was reportedly triggered by the successful acquisition of 93.41 per cent of the UBN shares and TTB was granted a no-objection to acquire the remaining 6.59 per cent shares through a letter dated October 24, 2022.

On November 2, 2022, the TTB officially launched the MTO, offering to acquire the remaining shares and the MTO concluded with the TTB purchasing an additional 0.64 per cent of the issued shares of UBN, thus bringing its total shareholding to 94.05 per cent.

To approve a scheme arrangement between itself and the holders of the balance of 5.95 per cent shares not yet bought by the TTB following an order of the Federal High Court, the UBN convened a meeting on June 13, 2023. This was expected to result in the transfer of the outstanding UBN shares to TTB.

The investigation report noted, “The process to acquire the remainder of 5.95 per cent of the issued share capital of UBN by TTB is ongoing through a court-ordered scheme of arrangement between itself and the holders of the balance of 5.95 per cent.

“TTB stated that its ultimate objective is to acquire 100 per cent of the total outstanding shares of UBN.” Further investigation showed that TTB is owned by Luxis International DMCC and Magna International DMCC, said to be based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The two firms were said to be owned by Vink Corporation Middle East FZC, which is controlled by Cornelis Vink. However, efforts to verify the corporate status of Luxis and Magna in Dubai failed as they did not have a physical presence in the Arab country as claimed.

“This contravenes Section 3(5) of the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act, 2020. Accordingly, they are not supposed to be allowed to operate or acquire a bank in Nigeria,” the report declared.

It stated, “The special investigator probed the activities of the TTB and discovered that there is a mysterious shareholder who has given interest-free long-term loan to (with no fixed repayment schedule) to the entities mentioned above (Luxis International DMCC and Magna International DMCC). This mysterious shareholder is believed to be Mr Godwin Emefiele.

“The special investigator requested the supposed owner of TTB and ultimate acquirer of Union Bank of Nigeria, Mr Cornelis Vink, to submit proof of funds, internationally verifiable bank statements (from incorporation of the entities to date), and the shareholder that gave interest-free loans to the two entities separately, names, nationality, source of fund, proof of fund, bank statements) as well as relationship of the entities with Mr Andrew Ojei, Jerome Shogbon, Rahul Savara, Winston Odeh, Adaeze Udensi, Ekene Louis, Godwin Emefiele, Macombe Omoile, Tunde Lemo, Mudassir Amry, Faruk Gumel, Oluremi Oni, and Vink Corporation Middle East FCZ together with the details of the shareholder that also gave Vink Corporation interest-free loan and your good self.

“A letter came from Union Bank of Nigeria claiming he is sick and can only come to meet with the special investigator or submit the documents requested when he gets well by the end of September 2023. As of today, December 20, 2023, we are yet to hear from him nor receive any of the requested documents.

“We are informed that they want to seek a political solution. The special investigator is of the view that the TTB and UBN be recovered by the Federal Government, strengthened and sold in the nearest future.

“A meeting was initially scheduled for December 5, 2023, with the Board of Directors of the two banks by the CBN Deputy Governor for Financial System Stability to close out discussions on this matter. The meeting has been postponed.”

On the alleged acquisition of Keystone by Emefiele through proxies, the investigator explained that sometime in 2017, the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria moved N20bn to Heritage Bank and on the back of that, the bank granted N25bn loan to the promoters of Isa Funtua/Emefiele Group’s acquisition vehicle to buy Keystone Bank and the loan was further backed by the shares of the bank.

Upon acquisition, Keystone reportedly returned the N20bn to Heritage Bank as placement and Heritage thereafter repaid AMCON from the cash flow so created.

The report read in part, “When the loan granted by Heritage Bank to Isa Funtua/Emefiele’s acquisition vehicles matured with outstanding balance, the MD of Heritage Bank, which was then in serious liquidity crisis, called for repayment. Unfortunately for the shareholders of the bank, the Funtua/Emefiele group could not repay.

“Consequently, the MD of Heritage Bank got his lawyers to write to the bank on two occasions threatening to take over Keystone Bank based on the shares they had pledged as security.

“After much pressure from him, Keystone Bank created internal loans of about N50bn between June and October 2019 and moved the proceeds to repay Heritage Bank on behalf of the shareholders.

“Before this, Godwin Emefiele as governor of the central bank had mounted pressure on the bank for these loans to be created within Keystone Bank on behalf of their group.

“However, the MD of the bank at that time resigned due to the consistent pressure from him and the shareholders to comply. The next in command, the deputy managing director, who subsequently became the acting MD, also resigned within three months for the same reason.

“Thereafter, an executive director, who then became the acting MD, took his vacation to avoid pressure for the approval of the loans. Unfortunately, the GM, Risk Management (Mr Tijjani Aliyu) and GM, Corporate Banking (Mr Niran Olayinka) approved the loans (about N50bn) while he was away and moved the proceeds to Heritage Bank for the repayment of the shareholders’ loans. The above loans, which are not being repaid currently, have total outstanding balance in excess of N64bn.”

The investigation also found that the credit approval memoranda were passed by the two GMs to the bank’s chairman, Alhaji Umaru Modibbo, who gave the final approval for disbursement, adding that the process bypassed the Management Credit Committee, Board Credit Committee and full board before disbursement.

“As a reward, the two GMs were immediately appointed executive directors, while one of them became the MD over the acting MD, who used to supervise him. The internal loans so created are not being serviced and have gone bad,” Obazee submitted.

The investigator informed the President that he had commenced the interrogation of the AMCON managing director on the acquisition of both Polaris and Keystone banks besides Arik Air, Aero Contractors and financial reporting by AMCON.

The AMCON MD was said to have told the investigator that “the N898bn liquidity support into Polaris Bank is not part of the SPA, which it should” and that “the N50bn paid for the transaction by the preferred bidder is not received by AMCON.”

Obazee said a preliminary review of the case showed that “Keystone was acquired for free as did Polaris Bank and the special investigator should liaise with the CBN to recover these two banks to the Federal Government of Nigeria.”


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E-Financial

Unity Bank Customers Win Over N4 Million in Cashtoken Rewards Promo

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Unity Bank customers have claimed over N4 million in cash rewards in its ongoing loyalty programme recently rolled out with Cashtoken, a Cash Reward-as-a-Service company.

The winners included no fewer than 40 customers who adopted and transacted on the Bank’s digital banking platforms, including the UniFi mobile banking application, the *7799# USSD platform or activated their Unity Bank Verve Card to transact on e-payment terminals across Nigeria.

Beginning from onboarding in our customer lifecycle journey, the Unity Bank Cashtoken Partnership commenced as a loyalty and reward scheme to reinforce the benefits of e-banking platforms.

To begin, Customer transactions earn cash tokens, which are then redeemed to qualify for the monthly Cashtoken Rewards draw. Consequently, winners emerge from the draws to claim the cash prizes.

Recall that the retail lender announced the ongoing Cashtoken Rewards loyalty programme in December 2023 in partnership with Cashtoken Rewards Africa to empower customers and improve customer satisfaction.

The partnership with Cashtoken Rewards also provided an opportunity for the Bank to migrate customers—old and new—to a platform that will continually create exciting rewards and appreciation for loyalty.

Eghomware Iyamu, Unity Bank’s Head of E-Business, commenting on the success of the Cashtoken Rewards loyalty program, stated: “We are excited to see our customers win over N4 million in cash rewards through our partnership with Cashtoken.

“This initiative demonstrates our commitment to recognizing and rewarding the loyalty of our customers”.

“By leveraging our digital banking platforms, including the Unifi mobile banking application and the *7799# USSD platform, we are not only enhancing customer experience but also providing life-changing opportunities.

“The Cashtoken Rewards program is a testament to our dedication to improving customer satisfaction and creating meaningful rewards along our customer lifecycle journey.

“We look forward to seeing more of our customers benefit from this exciting program as we continue to innovate and deliver exceptional value to them.”

Unity Bank has robust electronic banking products which include mobile and digital banking channels, including ATM, PoS, or any digital payment channels which support retail product transactions across the country. New-to-Bank customers are invited to open a Unity Bank account, onboard onto the digital platforms and begin transacting on the various platforms to earn cash token rewards and cash prizes while existing customers are encouraged to onboard and transact to win even more rewards and cash prizes.


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E-Financial

FXTM Academy Concludes Successful Event in PHC, Host Next Event in Lagos

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FXTM, a global online trading company is hosting an exclusive training for traders where participants can discover the strategies used by the world’s top traders to gain mastery of the market.

L-R: Oluwafumbi Ogedengbe, Specialist Client Education, FXTM Nigeria; Adaeze Uzochukwu, Education Coordinator, FXTM Nigeria; Mathew Anthony, Manager, Market Analysis, FXTM Nigeria; Destiny Ikeakanam, Education Coordinator, FXTM Nigeria and Pius Ogbu, Specialist, Client Education, FXTM Nigeria.

FXTM Academy is dedicated to helping traders and trainees achieve exceptional results in the global markets.

According to Mathew Anthony, Educator at FXTM Academy “We are a global online trading platform that offers stocks, commodities, and other financial instruments, providing traders with access to various markets, competitive pricing, and advanced trading tools.

“Our goal is to empower traders to Learn, Trade and Earn from the global markets.”

This Academy will provide free tutorials through webinars, workshops, video presentations, online courses, market analysis, insights, professional mentorship, and support.

“By offering education and training, FXTM Academy aims to help traders improve their trading skills, make informed trade decisions, and achieve their financial goals.”

Abiola Akinyele, Executive Director of FXTM Nigeria said the registration of the training has opened on the FXTM website and event will take place on the 17th of August.

He said it will be quite exciting and will provide great opportunities for participants to grow the skills to unprecedented heights and to join the ranks of the elite.


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Nova Bank Will Make Great Impact – Oduoza

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Phillips Oduoza, chairman of Nova Bank Plc, has said that the new commercial bank is poised to create jobs and make a great impact.

Nova Bank Will Make Great Impact – Oduoza

Oduoza who spoke at the launching of Nova Bank’s first branch as a national commercial bank in Lagos, said that the bank’s foray into commercial banking and upgrade to National Banking Licence were part of a long-term goal to make an impact.

He said, “We are not here just to maximise profit, but we are here as Nova to have the greatest impact in the society. And this is one of the reasons why we decided to extend to commercial banking business.

“We have been very, very successful, as testified by our customers in the wholesale banking space. And we felt it is just necessary to extend the service to the retail end of the market, which is where you will have the largest population of banking customers.

“Therefore, we want to transfer that success story to the retail end of the market. We want to impact the Nigerian economy as a whole. We want to assist in job creation, stability of the country, which Mr President has been working on. So, by going commercial, it gives us a platform for more job creation in the country.”

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who performed the ribbon cutting for the inauguration of the first branch, commended the board and management of Nova Bank for taking the decision to invest more into commercial banking not minding the various challenges and uncertainties in the economy.

He said, “We need to encourage them; we need to stay in touch with them because they have a choice.

“They could as well have remained as a nimble wholesale bank or as a merchant bank as a matter. But they felt they need to take it further, and this means they need to dip their hands into their pockets and bring additional resources that would make it possible for them to be able to compete on a larger scale.”

 

 


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