- Distress Hits Heritage Bank, CBN In Cover-up Mode
Heritage Bank Plc is currently stuck in a debilitating liquidity situation, according to a SaharaReporters report.
Our sources disclosed on Monday that the bank is unable to meet customers’ immediate withdrawal requests and has wiped out all foreign currency domiciliary accounts through physical theft of cash by the bank’s directors.
First Bank Plc, which handles Heritage Bank’s universal clearing activities, has threatened to blacklist the bank and stop further clearing transactions if its outstanding deficit of over N5billion is not cleared.
At the weekend, at a meeting held at a secret location between the Managing Director and some top management staff, it was resolved that the Managing Director and two Executive Directors should resign their appointment for their role in throwing the institution into distress.
Sources said the bank’s operations in the Northern part of the country region are sustained by one customer, Rano Oil Limited, which maintains a deposit with Heritage Bank because its Chairman is unaware of the severity of the situation in the bank has slipped into.
Among others, the Managing Director is alleged to have been involved in the laundering of about N12.8billion. Two insurance firms: IEI Insurance Plc, and the National Insurance Commission of Nigeria, are said to be connected to the matter.
Also, the report noted that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was prepared to charge the Managing Director to court, but did not, following the intervention of Senate President Bukola Saraki, who is a part-owner of the bank. The EFCC, whose chairman is awaiting confirmation by the Senate, stepped back.
Customers with foreign currency deposits are facing severe difficulties because they no longer have access to those funds.
Because of the magnitude of the bank’s problems and the possibility of prosecution, the Managing Director is said to have taken ill.
Out of about 500 Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) of the bank in the Lagos metropolis, only 138 are currently dispensing cash, the bank lacking money to feed the others.
Bank sources said a sum of N140million is required to supply all the ATM locations, and Heritage struggles to provide N10million for these ATM locations, which is why its machines rarely dispense cash.
The bank’s situation is further worsened by boardroom intrigues, tribal politics and ownership tussle.
The Managing Director and one Executive Director are said to run the bank like sole proprietors. The Managing Director and another Executive Director, Mary Akpobomen, who has been promised the position of the Deputy Managing Director by December, are in the same camp. The Yoruba interest in the bank, with Board Chairman, Mr.
Seyi Akinfenwa, also has Mr. Tayo Ayeni and two Executive Directors, Mr. Niyi Adeseun and Mr. Ola Olabimjo on another side. On yet another side are Mr. Godwin Emefiele, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), who is the main pusher of Delta State/Agbor interest. The battle axes are said to be two other Executive Directors, Mrs. Ada Eze and Mr. Jude.
The three-dimensional feuds have ensured that positions, postings or deployments are made on lines of group loyalty, with competence plainly ignored. The bank’s Treasurer, Mr. Abidemi Shonaiki, was eased out of the bank when the Managing Director was on leave.
Insiders revealed that the bank has been turned into a compost heap by its top management staff, who among other misdeeds, use customers’ naira deposits to finance the acquisition of private properties in Lagos, Abuja, and Port Harcourt. They are also said to award contracts at inflated costs to the Managing Director, relatives, and friends of executive directors; employ top management staff without clearance from the CBN; bribe CBN staff on banking inspection with dollars; and cover up the bank’s liquidity problems by buying cash from other banks without the required documents or due diligence.
The Heritage Bank management portfolio of misdeeds is also said to include paying N100million bribe to pension funds officials for patronage retention; illegal warehousing of N1.2billion that should be in the Treasury Savings Account; as well as illegal clearance of customers’ deposits via issuance and payments of questionable ‘PRs’ in hundreds of millions.
The CBN Governor has ensured that these misdemeanors are kept hidden due to political pressure by the owners of the bank, and because the CBN doesn’t want to give the appearance of further distress in the banking sector following the recent crisis at Skye Bank.
The bank’s ailments have also manifested in the practice of debiting customers’ accounts for transfers without crediting the beneficiaries for days, blaming it on network failure; arbitrary sacking of staff who insist on standards; sacking of staff who exposed the fraud involving the Nigeria Ports Authority through which N7billion was illegally warehoused and diverted in clear violation of TSA directives; and refusal to report fraudulent activities involving relatives and cronies of the Managing and Executive Directors.
Other symptoms of poor corporate governance include the transfer to Abuja, but not sanction, of an Executive Director and General Manager from Lagos for committing fraud; promoting Managing Director’s relatives without appraisal; fraudulent conversion of bank properties by the Managing Director and top management staff; and the procurement of N2billion worth of furniture items and N3billion Toyota cars without passing through tender procedure.
Also, the bank awarded all cleaning contracts to one Mrs. Akpobome, who used different names for contracts, which cover North, South, West, East and Abuja outlets of the bank. The Managing Director and other top management staff also award contracts to their wives and children without due diligence.
The bank, the sources added, employed school certificate holders as officers, assistant managers, deputy managers or managers, even without experience.
SEC To Ban Unregistered CMOs From Operating By Month End
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) says it will stop operations of Capital Market Operators (CMOs) that are yet to renew their registration on May 31, 2021.
This was contained in a circular signed by the management of SEC in Abuja on Monday.
On March 23, SEC had informed the general public and CMOs on the reintroduction of the periodic renewal of registration by operators.
The commission noted that the reintroduction of the registration renewal was due to the need to have a reliable data bank of all the CMOs registered and active in the country’s capital market.
“To provide updated information on operators in the Nigerian Capital Market for reference and other official purposes by local and foreign investors, other regulatory agencies and the general public, to increasingly reduce incidences of unethical practices by CMOs such as may affect investors’ confidence and impact negatively on the Nigerian Capital Market and to strengthen supervision and monitoring of CMOs by the Commission,” SEC explained.
According to the circular, the commission said CMOs yet to renew their registration at the expiration of late filing on May 31, would not be eligible to operate in the capital market.
It explained that CMOs were required to have completed the renewal process on or before April 30, however, the commission said late filing for renewal of registration would only be entertained from May 1 to May 31.
SEC also said that asides from barring the CMOs who failed to comply accordingly, their names would be published on its website and national dailies.
It added that names of eligible CMOs would be communicated to the relevant securities exchanges and trade associations.
A Threat to Revenue As Nigeria’s Largest Importer of Crude, India slash Imports By $39.5B
Nigeria’s revenue earning capacity has come under threat following the reduction of importation of crude oil by India.
India, Nigeria’s largest crude oil importer, reduced crude oil imports by $39.5bn in April, compared to the same time the previous year, data from India’s Petroleum Planning & Analysis Cell showed.
According to the Indian High Commission in Nigeria, India’s crude oil imports from Nigeria in 2020 amounted to $10.03bn.
This represented 17 percent of Nigeria’s total crude exports for the year according to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, as quoted by OilPrice.com.
As Nigeria’s largest importer of crude oil, lockdowns in India’s major cities from the COVID-19 surge in April had ripple effects on Nigeria’s oil sales.
The NNPC was prompted to drop the official standard price of its main export streams, Bonny Light, Brass River, Erha, and Qua Iboe, by 61-62 cents per barrel below its April 2021 prices. They traded at $0.9, $0.8, $0.65, $0.97 per barrel respectively, below dated Brent, the international benchmark, as Oilprice.com showed.
India had been buying the not-too-light and not-too-heavy Nigerian crudes that suited its refiners.
Reuters reported that the Indian Oil Corporation’s owned refineries were operating at 95 percent capacity in April, down from 100 percent at the same time the previous month.
An official at the IOC was quoted as saying, “If cases continue to rise and curbs are intensified, we may see cuts in refinery runs and lower demand after a month.” Hundreds of seafarers risked being stuck at sea beyond the expiry of their contracts, a large independent crude ship owner reportedly told Bloomberg.
India reportedly bought more American and Canadian oil at the expense of Africa and the Middle East, reducing purchases from members of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to around 2.86 million barrels per day.
This squeezed the group’s share of imports to 72 percent from around 80 percent previously, as India’s refiners were diversifying purchases to boost margins, according to Reuters.
India also plans to increase local crude oil production and reduce import expenses as its population swells, according to Bloomberg.
A deregulation plan by the Narendra Modi-led government to boost national production to 40 million tonnes of crude oil by 2023/2024, an increase of almost eight million tonnes, had already been initiated.
According to Business Today, an Indian paper, the country currently imports 82 percent of its oil needs, which amounted to $87bn in 2019.
Invest Africa and DLA Piper Partner to Support ESG Best Practice in African Renewable Energy Projects
The global law firm, DLA Piper, has partnered with Invest Africa, the leading trade and investment platform for African markets, to support the development of ESG best practice in African renewable energy projects.
Clear Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) targets and measurements have become an increasingly important part of fundraising as investors seek to align their portfolios with sustainable growth. For a continent boasting ample natural resources, this presents a significant opportunity for Africa’s green energy sector. However, renewable does not always equal sustainable and developing and articulating ESG metrics can pose a significant challenge to projects as they prepare investment rounds.
The project will assemble experts from the worlds of impact investment, development finance and law. Across a series of online meetings, participants will discuss strategies to improve ESG practices in African renewable projects from both a fundraising and operational perspective.
Amongst those speaking in the inaugural session on Thursday 13th May are Cathy Oxby, Chief Commercial Officer, Africa Greenco, Dr. Valeria Biurrun-Zaumm, Senior Investment Manager, DEG, Orli Arav, Managing Director – Facility For Energy Inclusion (FEI) – Lion’s Head Global Partners, Beatrice Nyabira, Partner, DLA Piper Africa, Kenya (IKM Advocates) and Natasha Luther-Jones, Partner, Global Co-Chair of Energy and Natural Resources, International Co-Head, Sustainability and ESG, DLA Piper.
Veronica Bolton-Smith, COO of Invest Africa said, “Africa is particularly vulnerable to the impact of climate change despite contributing very little to global emissions. As the price of renewables fall, they will form an ever more important part of Africa’s electrification. In this context, it is essential that projects be given the tools to apply best practice in ESG not only from an environmental perspective but also in terms of good governance, fair working conditions and contribution to social inclusion. I look forward to working closely with DLA Piper on this important topic.”
Natasha Luther-Jones, Global Co-Chair Energy and Natural Resources and International Co-Head Sustainability and ESG at DLA Piper also commented, “Climate change is one of the biggest challenges companies, and people, face today and when we look at its reduction – whether that be in how we power our devices, what we eat or how we dress, where we live or how we work – all roads come back to the need to increase the amount of accessible, and affordable, clean energy. However, renewable energy companies are not automatically sustainable as sustainability is a focus on all ESG factors, not just environmental. We know the need for renewable energy is only going to continue to rise, and therefore so will the number and size of renewable energy companies. The additional challenge is to make sure they are truly sustainable organisations and that’s what we’re excited about discussing during the webinar.”
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