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CONTEMPT PROCEEDINGS: ECOBANK WINS ROUND ONE OVER HONEYWELL

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The Federal High Court in Lagos last Friday struck out a contempt charge filed against Ecobank Nigeria Limited by Honeywell Flour Mills Plc.
Justice Mohammed Idris held that the Form 48 and Form 49 (with which contempt proceedings are initiated) were not properly served on the alleged contemnors.
The charge had been filed by Honeywell Group, which urged the court to jail the Ecobank MD for allegedly violating an August 10, 2015 court order, which barred Ecobank from publishing the name of Honeywell Group among chronic debtors last year.
The company, through its counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), alleged that Ecobank, through its lawyer, Mr. Kunle Ogunba (SAN), had taken steps contrary to the court’s order by filing other suits in a bid to recover the alleged debt from Honeywell.
In his ruling, however, the presiding judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, held that a party seeking to jail another for disobeying a court order was duty bound to ensure that processes in contempt proceedings were duly served.
Breach of such proper service, he said, “will wrought consequences on the proceedings.”
Declining jurisdiction, Justice Idris said: “What I can see from a close examination of form 48 is that the form is stamped; the wordings are however illegible. I can see that the stamp has the date of 19th November 2015. The same applies to Form 49.
“A valid proof of service of the same forms must have endorsed therein the following, as stated by the Court of Appeal: (1) particulars of the person serving; (2) date of service; (3) time and place of service and (4) the person that accepted the service.
“I’m afraid that it appears that the Form 48 and 49 were not properly endorsed with the particulars of service. In effect, there is no reliable or authentic information before the court as to the service of the Form 48 and 49 on the defendants herein.
“This issue goes to the issue of the jurisdiction of the court. This court must act with caution. I decline jurisdiction. I hold that the jurisdiction of this court has not been properly invoked in respect of the contempt proceedings and same is hereby struck out”.
He further warned parties against taking any action that could incur the court’s wrath.
“Let me warn that orders of court are binding and enforceable until set aside by an order of court of competent jurisdiction. The order of this court that the parties maintain status quo ante bellum remains valid and binding on all the parties until set aside.
“Whenever the disciplinary jurisdiction of this court is properly invoked, this court will descend heavily without any fear on whichever party is found guilty of contempt of this court. This court barks and it bites”.
The Judge then adjourned till February 26 for hearing of Ecobank’s motion for stay of proceedings.
Justice Idris had last August 10 made an order of interim injunction restraining the bank from publishing the plaintiffs’ name as debtors.
The judge also ordered parties to maintain status quo pending hearing of the plaintiffs’ suit against Ecobank.
But while the suit was pending, Ecobank filed other suits before other judges in a bid to recover its debt from Honeywell Group and its chairman, Oba Otudeko.
Honeywell, through its lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), thereafter filed the Form 48 and Form 49, urging the High Court to hold the bank in contempt

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Court Seizes $4.7m, N830m, Other Properties Recovered From Emefiele

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The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has ordered an interim forfeiture of the sums of $4,719,054, N830,875,611, and several properties linked to a former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele.

Justice Yellim Bogoro gave the order on Thursday, May 23, 2024, following an ex-parte application by counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Bilkisu Buhari.

After listening to the EFCC Counsel, Justice Bogoro in her ruling said: “I have listened to the submission of the applicant’s counsel and also perused the motion just moved, together with the affidavit in support.

“I find merit in the application and same is hereby granted as prayed.

“The applicant should publish this order in any daily newspaper circulating all over the federation for anybody interested to show cause why the final order of forfeiture should not be made. Case adjourned to July 2, for motion for final forfeiture.”

The monies forfeited to the Federal Government in the interim were said to be warehoused in First Bank; Titan Bank and Zenith Bank, being operated by Omoile Anita Joy; Deep Blue Energy Service Limited; Exactquote Bureau De Change Ltd; Lipam Investment Services Limited; Tatler Services Limited; Rosajul Global Resources Ltd and TIL Communication Nigeria Ltd.

His properties forfeited to the Federal Government includes 94 Units of an 11-floor building under Construction at 2, Otunba Elegushi 2nd Avenue (Formerly Club) Road, iKoyi, Lagos; AM Plaza, 11-floor office space, situate on 1E, Otunba Adedoyin Crescent, Lekki Peninsula Scheme 1, Lagos; Imore Industrial Park 1, Esa Street, Imoore Land purchased with (Deep Bive Industrial Town, Oriade LCDA, Amuwo Odofin LGA, Lagos; Mitrewood and Tatler Warehouse (Furniture Plant at Bogije) near Elemoro Lagos, Owolomi Village, Ibeju-Lekki LGA, Lagos and two properties purchased from Chevron Nigeria, Closed PFA Fund, Block B.Lot twin completed property in Lakes Estate. Lekki, Lagos.

Others are one plot measuring 1,038.069 sqm, at Lekki Foreshore Estate Scheme, Block A, Plot 4, Foreshore Estate, Eti-Osa, LGA; Estate located at 100, Cottonwood Coppel Texas Drive, Coppel, Texas, Owned by Lipam investment Services; a Land at 1, Bunmi Owulude Street, (Maruwa), Lekki Phase 1, Lagos and a property situate on 8, Bayo Kuku Road, lkoyi, Lagos.

The EFCC had approached the court for an interim forfeiture of the monies and properties, under Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offence Act. 14 2006, Section 44(2)(b) of the Constitution and under the inherent jurisdiction of the court.

Specifically, the anti-graft asked the court for the following; “An interim order forfeiting to the Federal Government of Nigeria the funds warehoused in the accounts particularized in Schedule ‘A’ which funds are reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities.

“An interim order forfeiting to the Federal Government of Nigeria properties provided in 2nd Schedule ‘B’ which are proceeds of unlawful activities.

“An order directing the publication in any national newspaper, the interim order under reliefs 1-2 above, for anyone interested in the properties and funds sought to be forfeited to appear before this honourable court to show cause within 14 days why the final order of forfeiture of the said properties and funds should not be made in favour of the Federal Government of Nigeria.”

 

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EFCC indicts Sirika, brother in new N19bn fraud

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has charged former Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, his brother, Ahmad Sirika; and his company – Enginos Nigeria Limited, with over N19.4bn fraud.

The sum is said to be for several aviation ministry contracts from the former minister to Enginos Nigeria Limited, owned by Sirika’s younger brother, Abubakar.

The Sirika brothers and Enginos Nigeria Limited will be arraigned before Justice Belgore of the Federal Capital Territory High Court, Garki, Abuja today (Tuesday).

It is the second criminal charge the EFCC will be filing against the ex-aviation minister.

He was last Thursday arraigned for N2.7bn fraud before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Abuja.

Sirika was arraigned on six counts alongside his daughter, Fatimah; brother-in-law, Jalal Hamma, and Al-Buraq Investment Ltd.

The defendants pleaded not guilty while Justice Sylvanus Oriji granted them N100m bail each, with the condition that they must not travel out of the country until the end of the criminal case.

On Monday, EFCC insiders informed The PUNCH that the anti-graft agency had filed a second charge against the ex-minister, bordering on N19.4bn fraud.

In the copy of the fresh charges sighted by our correspondent on Monday, the EFCC alleged that Sirika, “while being the Minister of Aviation, on or about 18th August 2022, in Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, did use your position to confer an unfair advantage upon Enginos Nigeria Limited, whose alter ego, Ahmad Abubakar Sirika, is your biological brother, by using your position to influence the award to him, the contract for the construction of a terminal building at Katsina Airport for the sum of N1,345,586,500.00.”

According to the EFCC, Sirika’s alleged action was a violation of Section 19 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000 and punishable under the same section.

In another count, the EFCC alleged that “on or about 3rd of November, 2022, in Abuja,” Sirika used his position “to confer unfair advantage upon Enginos Nigeria Limited, whose alter ego, Ahmad Abubakar Sirika, is your biological brother, by using your position to influence the award to him, the contract for the establishment of Fire Truck Maintenance and Refurbishment Centre at Katsina Airport for the sum of N3,811,497,685.00.”

In another count, he was accused of corruptly awarding a N615,195,275.00 contract to his brother for the procurement and installation of lift and air conditioners and power generators for the Aviation House in Abuja.

Furthermore, the EFCC alleged that Sirika, between August 2022 and May 2023 in Abuja, “had possession of an aggregate sum of N2,337, 840,674.16, which sum you knew indirectly represented the proceeds of criminal conducts of Hadi Abubakar Sirika, who was the Minister of Aviation at the time.”

It was revealed that the ex-minister’s younger brother, Abubakar, was earlier arrested and detained by the EFCC in connection with N3,212,258,930.18 paid to his company, Enginos Nigerian Limited’s bank account by the former minister.

 

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Nigerian Bank chiefs obtain N549bn insider loans in five years

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Directors and key management personnel of Deposit Money Banks borrowed about N549bn from their financial institutions in five years.

This is according to The PUNCH analysis of the banks’ annual reports filed with the Nigerian Exchange Limited between 2019 and 2023.

However, the banks’ loans and advances to some directors and key management personnel as well as related party transactions dropped significantly in 2023.

These transactions dropped to N52.40bn for eight financial institutions compared to N111.31bn in 2022, indicating a 52.92 per cent decline in one year.

Financial institutions reviewed in the 2023 review include Access Holdings, Guaranty Trust Holding Company Plc, Zenith Bank Plc, United Bank for Africa, Fidelity Bank, Wema Bank, Stanbic IBTC Holding Plc and the FCMB Group.

This decline came amid the release of new corporate governance guidelines by the Central Bank of Nigeria which went into effect August 1, 2023.

In the circular dated July 13, 2023, and signed by Director, Financial Policy and Regulation Department, Chibuzo Efobi, the guidelines which imposed responsibilities on the bank board and the executive compliance officers, supersede other previous codes, circulars and related directives, according to the apex bank.

The CBN guidelines on related party transactions said, “Banks shall establish a policy concerning insider trading and related party transactions by directors, senior executives, and employees, as well as publish the policy or a summary of that policy on their website. 22.2 The policy shall contain appropriate standards and procedures to ensure it is effectively implemented. 22.3 In addition to the requirements in Section 22.2, there shall be an internal review mechanism carried out by the internal audit function of the bank, to assess the compliance and effectiveness of the policy.

“22.4 Any director whose facility or that of his/her related interests remains nonperforming in any financial institution for more than one year shall cease to be on the board of the bank and shall be blacklisted from sitting on the board of such bank and that of any other financial institution under the purview of the CBN. 22.5 No director-related loans and/or interest thereon shall be written off without the CBN’s prior approval.”

Leading the pack in terms of major decline in loans to related parties and entities controlled by key management personnel was Fidelity Bank Plc, which went from N92.31bn at the end of December 2022 to N2.09bn at the end of last year.

In footnotes, the bank however said that some of the related parties like A-Z Petroleum Limited, Dangote Group and Genesis Group as of 31 December 2022, had “exited the related party relationship post 2022 financial year in line with CBN requirement.”

In 2022, the total value of insider loans for 10 banks including Access Holdings, Guaranty Trust Holding Company Plc, Zenith Bank Plc, United Bank for Africa, Fidelity Bank, Wema Bank, Stanbic IBTC Holding Plc, FCMB Group, Unity Bank and Sterling Bank amounted to N131.04bn.

Fidelity Bank led the highest for the year, followed by Unity Bank at N17.32bn and UBA at N13.74bn.

In 2021, the loans to related parties of these financial institutions rose to N139.16bn with Fidelity Bank and UBA leading at N97.73bn and N15.28bn, respectively. GTCO trailed in third position with N6.859bn.

Between 2019 and 2020, a total of N226.6bn was disbursed as loans. In 2019, eleven banks borrowed its key management personnel a total sum of N29.65bn. The figure also includes loans to companies related to the directors.

An analysis showed that GTCO lent N155m, Zenith Bank (N1.76bn), UBA borrowed its directors N297m, Wema Bank (N5.2bn), Stanbic IBTC (N95m), FCMB (N4.8bn), Unity Bank(N7.14bn), Sterling Bank (N10.12bn) to related parties.

In 2020, the figure increased by 564 per cent or N167.32bn to N196.97bn.

Checks showed that Access Bank lent the highest with a total of N174bn to its directors and companies related to them. This was followed by Unity Bank with N7.55bn. Third on the list was Sterling Bank with N6.01bn.

Other banks including Fidelity borrowed its directors N986.2m, GTBank (N67.9m), Zenith Bank (N1.797bn), UBA (N206m), Wema Bank (N2.82bn), Stanbic IBTC (N332m), FCMB (N3.2bn), Unity Bank (N7.55bn), Sterling Bank (N6.01bn).

Commenting on the trend, the Chief Research Officer at InvestData Consulting, Ambrose Omordion said “In my language, they say, it is the yam that you know that you use to make pounded yam. If an organisation feels that the insider or director can pay the loans given to them, then there is no issue. It is when they do not pay that is where there would be issues.

“Like what is happening now in the economy, banks are not giving loans to ordinary companies unless those with names because of economic headwinds. If they give loans to the public and they are unable to repay, Non-Performing Loans will rise. If the banks offer to insiders that would pay, it is better for them.”

 

The Punch

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