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CBN Special Investigator Summons Titan Trust MD, Major Shareholders Over Acquisition Of Union Bank

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The special investigator panel on the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and related entities has summoned Babatunde Lemo, chairman of Titan Trust Bank (TTB), over the institution’s acquisition of Union Bank of Nigeria (UBN).

 

In a letter dated December 24, 2023, and signed by Eloho Okpoziakpo, head of operations at the office of the special investigator team, Cornelius Vink and Rahul Savara, the major shareholders in TTB, were also invited.

 

 

The letter, addressed to Lemo by Jim Obazee, head of the special investigator team, said the invited officials must present themselves by 2 pm on December 28, 2023, to the Department of Force Intelligence (DFI).

 

 

The panel’s recent report had disclosed how Godwin Emefiele, the former CBN governor, allegedly used two Dubai-based companies (Luxis International and Magna International) to set up Titan Trust Bank (TTB) as proxies for the acquisition of UBN.

 

Denying the claims, TTB said the transaction followed due process and met all regulatory requirements, including that of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the CBN.

 

OFFENSIVE DEFENCE

But emphasising its findings, the probe panel labelled the bank’s rebuttal as an “offensive defence”.

 

Following TTB’s denial, the special investigator team said Lemo discussed with Obazee as well as sent an email “wherein you tried to provide clarification on your reaction to the report on TTB”.

 

“The defence seems contrary to the statements, made under caution, by the persons connected with these transactions, including your good self, before the Special Investigator at the Department of State Service (DSS) in August 2023,” the letter reads.

 

 

According to a letter dated August 28, 2023, addressed to Vink, UBN’s managing director (MD), and TTB’s MD, the special investigator team had requested requisite documents regarding the two Dubai-based companies.

 

The panel further said details of the companies should include documentation “that led to the licensing of Titan Trust Bank and the acquisition of controlling shareholding of Union Bank of Nigeria by these entities”.

 

The panel also requested the companies’ 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 the fund, proof of such funds, bank statements).

 

Also, the special investigator team requested information regarding the entities’ relationship with Emefiele, Lemo, Andrew Ojei, and others.

 

However, in its response to the panel’s letter on September 1, 2023, UBN requested that “we submit the documents/information requested for in printed and electronic formats for ease of your review and analysis”.

 

The bank also said Vink and Savara would be unavailable for the meeting, noting that “they will be available for the meeting as soon as they are in Nigeria which we hope will be soon”.

 

 

 

TTB SUGGESTED VINK, SAVARA CLARIFY INVOLVEMENT IN THE COMPANY

According to the special investigator team, based on earlier discussions with the entities, TTB suggested that Savara and Vink be invited to provide clarification on their share ownership and given seven days to make such clarification — “failure which they will forfeit their shares to the federal government”.

 

The special investigator team said it was shocked at the bank’s request with regard to the two shareholders, who were given the opportunity to appear before the panel since August 28, 2023, according to the letter.

 

The panel said instead of honouring the invitation and providing the requested documents, UBN informed the special investigator in its letter that “Mr. Cornelius Vink was out of the country on medical grounds” and that both “Messrs Vink and Savara will be available for the meeting as soon as they are in Nigeria which will be soon”.

 

 

Until the defence in the public domain, the special investigator team said it has “neither heard from them nor received the requested documents”.

 

 

“Accordingly, you are hereby invited to come along with Messrs Cornelius Vink and Mr. Rahul Savara to meet with the Team of Special Investigators by 2pm on 28th December 2023 at the Department of Force Intelligence DFI), Opposite Nigeria Police Force Headquarters, Shehu Shagari Way, Area 11, Garki, Abuja; without fail or excuse,” the panel said.

 

“Please inform them to come along with all the documents/information requested from them by the letter to Mr. Cornelius Vink dated 28th August 2023 (attached herewith as Appendix 1). You will also be required to make additional statements to your earlier statement on that day.

 

“Kindly note that if Messrs Cornelius Vink and Rahul Savara refused to attend this meeting and provide/defend the requested documents/information, it will be construed that they have decided to forfeit their purported shareholdings in TTB and Union Bank of Nigeria; irrespective of which vehicle that they are using to own the purported shares.

 

The panel warned that if Lemo also refuses to attend the meeting to provide additional statement to his earlier statement made in August 2023, “it will be construed that you misled the Nigerian public with your reaction” in the newspapers “which has gained wide publicity in both electronic and print media”.

 

The invitation, according to the special investigator team, is to further ensure that it is beyond reasonable doubt, “the f

ederal government has given the company a fair hearing”.

 

– The Cable

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NASRE Advises FG On Food Crisis, Forex Shortage Amid Calls To Suspend Import Ban

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As Nigeria finds itself at a critical crossroads, grappling with simultaneous challenges of a food crisis and a foreign exchange (forex) shortage.

 

This is even as the nation seeks solutions to mitigate these pressing issues, the debate over whether to open its borders for importation has intensified.

 

The food crisis gripping Nigeria has raised concerns about food security and access to essential nutrition for millions of citizens.

 

Adverse weather conditions, supply chain disruptions, and other factors have contributed to dwindling food supplies and soaring prices, placing a significant strain on households and exacerbating the vulnerability of already marginalized communities.

 

Meanwhile, the forex shortage has hampered Nigeria’s ability to import essential goods and raw materials, further exacerbating supply chain disruptions and exacerbating inflationary pressures.

 

Industries reliant on imported inputs, including agriculture, manufacturing, and healthcare, have been particularly hard hit, impeding economic growth and development.

 

In response to these challenges, some stakeholders advocate for opening Nigeria’s borders to facilitate the importation of food and other essential commodities.

 

Proponents argue that increased importation could help alleviate immediate food shortages, stabilize prices, and provide relief to vulnerable populations facing hunger and malnutrition.

 

However, others caution against the potential risks of opening borders amid a forex shortage. Critics raise concerns about the impact on domestic production and self-sufficiency, as well as the long-term consequences of relying heavily on imported goods. They emphasize the need to prioritize investments in domestic agriculture and infrastructure to build resilience against future crises.

 

As Nigeria navigates these complex issues, the government faces the daunting task of balancing short-term relief efforts with long-term strategies for sustainable development and economic resilience.

 

Proffering suggestion on how the government can address the unending inflationary pressures, Forex shortages, food prices hike and revitalise the nation’s economy, the Nigerian Association of Social and Resourceful Editors (NASRE), has advised the Nigerian government to adopt collaborative efforts involving policymakers, industry stakeholders, civil society organizations, and international partners to identify holistic solutions that address both immediate needs and underlying structural challenges.

 

On the debate over whether Nigeria should open its borders for importation amid the food crisis and forex shortage, the President of the advocacy group, Mr Femi Oyewale, underscores the urgency of coordinated action and innovative thinking.

 

According to him, now more than ever, solidarity, cooperation, and forward-thinking policies are needed to ensure the well-being and prosperity of all Nigerians.

 

“The question of whether Nigerian borders should be opened for food importation in the face of a food crisis is complex and multifaceted. However, there are factors to consider, which basically, Domestic Agricultural Capacity. Because opening borders for food importation could undermine domestic agricultural production by flooding the market with cheaper imported goods.

 

“However, if domestic production is insufficient to meet demand, importing food may be necessary to avoid shortages,” he said.

 

On the economic implications of borders opening, the President of NASRE, Oyewale, said: “Importing food can have economic ramifications, both positive and negative. On one hand, it can provide access to a wider variety of foods and potentially lower prices for consumers. On the other hand, it may negatively impact local farmers and exacerbate trade imbalances.”

 

The resourceful editors, while commenting on Food Security, pointed out that relying heavily on imported food leaves a country vulnerable to supply chain disruptions and price fluctuations in the global market. Therefore, it urged the federal government to develop a robust domestic agricultural sector, which is crucial for long-term food security.

 

According to Oyewale, the Nigerian government must consider its broader economic and agricultural policies when making decisions about food importation. This includes evaluating subsidies, tariffs, and investment in agricultural infrastructure.

 

“Importing food often involves long-distance transportation, which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and environmental degradation. Promoting local production can help reduce the carbon footprint associated with food consumption.

 

“Food is not just a commodity; it is essential for human well-being. Government policies should prioritize ensuring access to nutritious and culturally appropriate food for all citizens, particularly those most vulnerable to food insecurity,” he added.

 

The Nigerian Association of Social and Resourceful Editors, NASRE, therefore, noted that the decision to open Nigerian borders for food importation during a food crisis should be approached cautiously, taking into account the country’s domestic agricultural capacity, economic implications, food security goals, environmental concerns, and social welfare considerations.

 

“A balanced approach that supports both domestic production and responsible trade practices may be necessary to address immediate food shortages while also promoting long-term food security and sustainability,” the Association stated.

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Lagos State Government to prosecute 11 suspects for extortion

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The Lagos State Government said 11 suspects arrested at the Ibeju-Lekki junction and Akodo area of the state will be prosecuted to serve as deterrents to others extorting residents and motorists in the state.

The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Transportation, Olawale Musa, disclosed this while addressing journalists on Wednesday.

He added that the suspects parade themselves as enforcement officers to extort unsuspecting motorists and residents in the state.

Musa said, “Lagos State Government has declared zero tolerance for extortion of unsuspecting residents, especially motorists, by miscreants parading themselves as enforcement officers at the Ibeju-Lekki junction and Akodo area of the state.

“We have announced severally that nobody is allowed to collect money for the local government on the street of Lagos, and the government has set up a team to ensure that anybody that does that is picked up and from that Lekki axis.

“They will be charged to court to explain themselves, and I want to sound a note of warning to others that do the same thing that we will not relent; the government is all out for them.”

He noted that it is unlawful for any local government area within the state to place personnel to conduct such operations on the highways.

“If you have any issues, you call us, and we will come and address them, but when you have people coming on the road on the guise that you want to have revenue at this hard time, collecting money from motorists on the road is not fair, and it is illegal in Lagos State to resist it.

“It is illegal for any local government area in the state to deploy people on the roads as it negates the Lagos State Road Traffic Law, Section 18, 2018, which empowers only the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority to carry out such operations on the roads,” he added.

In March 2023, The PUNCH reported that the Lagos State Government arrested four suspected hoodlums in some parts of the state over extortion.

The suspects were arrested in the Amuwo-Odofin area of the state while attempting to extort motorists.

 

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N10bn fraud: EFCC to arraign Abdulfattah Ahmed, ex-Kwara Governor Friday

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission will arraign the immediate-past governor of Kwara State, Abdulfattah Ahmed, for alleged N10bn fraud on Friday, The PUNCH has learnt.

Credible sources in the anti-graft agency said the ex-governor would be dragged before the Federal High Court in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital.

“He is going to be arraigned on Friday at the Federal High Court in Ilorin for diversion of funds, amounting to N10bn,” the source told our correspondent.

The ex-governor has been detained by the EFCC since Monday when he honoured an invitation for interrogation.

His Chief Press Secretary, Alhaji AbdulWahab Oba, confirmed his principal’s visit to the EFCC office on Monday, stating that it was only “procedural and routine”.

“Dr Ahmed’s visit to the EFCC is procedural and routine. He was invited and he honoured them as he’s always done. He’s always ready to respond to any query or question regarding his tenure as a governor of the state.”

On Tuesday night, Oba lamented that the EFCC was still holding on to Ahmed, saying he was given stringent bail conditions.

“Yes, he is still with the EFCC and we are now in a dilemma over the issue because they keep changing the goalpost during the match. The case is taking a new dimension, which we don’t really understand for now.

“Initially they said they wanted him to produce two sureties who are federal directors. The sureties came and were asked to provide landed properties in Abuja. We see this as a contradiction. The case was initially handled by the EFCC office in Abuja before it was transferred to Ilorin over the issue of jurisdiction. Additionally, he has been denied access to his doctors, medication and direct access to his cook,” Oba said.

Meanwhile, members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party in Kwara State on Wednesday staged a peaceful protest to the EFCC zonal office in Ilorin, where Ahmed was being detained.

The protesters, who carried placards with various inscriptions, expressed displeasure over Ahmed’s detention.

Led by the state Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Olusegun Adewara, the party members alleged that the All Progressives Congress in the state was behind Ahmed’s troubles.

Some of the inscriptions on their placards read: “EFCC should stop being a tool in the hands of Abdulrazaq led-APC”, “Governor Ahmed was very transparent”, “EFCC is not a department in the APC, EFCC, stop the harassment”, “The opposition cannot be silenced”, “Maigida will not join the APC no matter the persecution”, “EFCC, don’t instigate political crisis in Kwara State”, “No to illegal detention. Respect the rule of law”, among others.

But addressing the protesters, the zonal commander of the EFCC, Michael Nzekwe, said Ahmed had been given an administration bail but he could not meet the conditions.

“We’re wrapping up. Once we wrap up, the law will take its course. The anti-graft agency, being a creation of law, would not go contrary to law.

“Everything we’ve done is within the ambit of the law. The former governor is cooperating with us and we’re making good progress following rules of law. As I speak, he’s with his lawyer, a SAN; he attends to everyone who comes to see him, and he has a doctor who has attended to him. He eats what he wants to eat. I urge us to allow the law take its course. We’re not partisan nor prompted by anybody. This body is solely sponsored by the Federal Government,” Nzekwe said.

 

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