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CBN, First Bank on Collision Course Over Removal of MD/CEO

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The Central Bank of Nigeria has issued the Board of First Bank Ltd, one of Nigeria’s oldest banks a query for the removal of its CEO. On Wednesday the Board of Directors of First Bank of Nigeria Limited revealed it had appointed Gbenga Shobo as its Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

The appointment was disclosed in a statement made by the bank’s Chairman, Ibukun Awosika. However, in an apparent leak, a letter from the central bank to First Bank revealed a query from the former to the latter expressing concern that the appointment of Shobo was done without the approval of the apex bank.

The attention of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has been drawn to media reports that the Board of Directors has approved the removal of the current Managing Director of the bank, Dr. Sola Adeduntan, and appointed a successor to replace him. The CBN notes with concern that the action was taken without due consultation with the regulatory authorities, especially given the systemic importance of First Bank Ltd.

The CBN also claimed that the tenure of Mr. Adedutan was yet to expire (bank MD’s have a maximum 10 years) and that they were also not aware of any misconduct of the former MD and as such there was no justification for his removal. “Given that the tenure of Dr. Adeduntan is yet to expire and 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.”

However, sources within the bank informed Nairametrics that First Bank has a maximum of 6 years tenure for its MDs in line with its succession plans. They also claimed the CBN is meddling in its internal affairs as the removal of the MD is in line with its succession plans and also does not exceed CBNs maximum of 10 years.

“First Bank followed its corporate governance framework in its change of leadership and appointment of new executive directors. No Managing Director in the 127 years history of FirstBank has ever attempted a tenure extension. Why now?” Another source who did not want to be mentioned as they were not authorized to do so lamented that “Adeduntan’s term formally ends in June this year after 2 terms of 3 years each. Leaving early is in line with the bank’s succession planning. When he was appointed 6 years ago and a DMD role was created, the erstwhile FirstBank Managing Director knew the DMD would succeed him and this is what has happened. This is corporate governance at its best.”

However, the apex bank in the leaked letter also suggested that it had provided First Bank with “regulatory forbearance” which can be interpreted as a bailout subliminally indicating that it has a say in the operations of the bank.

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. The removal of a sitting MD/CEO of a systemically important bank that has been under regulatory forbearance for 5 to 6 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.”

Sources within the bank also allude without proof that the involvement of the central bank in this matter may also be due to First Bank’s support of Flutterwave which may have angered CBN.

“Is this payback for FirstBank for supporting and enabling Flutterwave and other tech companies? FirstBank MD-Designate, Gbenga Shobo created a revolution by partnering with Flutterwave and other tech companies. Is this payback? The CBN Governor must be called to order. This is not a banana economy. We need to preserve the FirstBank heritage with its seamless succession planning.”

It is unclear how this matter will end but stemming from experience, we will not be surprised if this matter ends in court in a few days. The Central Bank has often controversially delved into board-related issues such as appointments and even firing of all or some Board members for what it perceives as severe infractions.

And as expected, it ended its query to the bank with a threat to the board if the decision to remove Adeduntan is not reversed.

“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.”

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

Banking Sector

Ecobank Partners NiDCOM to Mobilise Nigerians Abroad for National Development

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In a bid to fulfill it’s objectives and mandate, the Pan African Bank has promised to support Nigerians living and working abroad through it’s partnership with NiDCOM.

The Managing Director, Ecobank Nigeria, Patrick Akinwuntan has stated that the bank is privileged to work closely with the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, (NiDCOM) and will continue to pursue one of its key mandates of helping to enhance the economic development and integration of Africa through its support to Nigerians living and working abroad.

Speaking at the maiden edition of the Diaspora Quarterly Lecture Series with Ecobank as the sole banking partner which took place on Saturday, 8th May 2021, he noted that Ecobank remains a critical bridge for Nigerians abroad, as it has made huge investments in the necessary platforms to enable them connect with home seamlessly. The event held online and had over 2000 participants from across all the continents in attendance.

“Nigerians in the diaspora play a major role in nation building, their contribution goes a long way to catalyse economic development. For us at Ecobank, we are a pan-African institution positioned to foster the economic growth and integration of our continent, so we are particularly pleased to work closely with the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM), ably led by the Chairman/CEO, Hon Abike Dabiri-Erewa”.

“We are committed to ensuring that every Nigerian living abroad is able to remit home seamlessly and affordably, access viable investment opportunities and as the financial institution of choice for Nigerians abroad, we have deployed the necessary resources to actualise this.” He stated.

The Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, who was also present, reiterated the readiness of the government to collaborate with Nigerians in the diaspora, highlighting the new processes put in place to facilitate passport issuance, noting that all backlog of passport applications would be cleared by the end of May 2021.

Also speaking, the Hon. Minister of State, Foreign Affairs Amb. Zubairu Dada said harnessing the human capital and material resources of Nigerians in the diaspora towards the socio-economic, cultural, and political development of Nigeria can no longer be ignored. He pointed out that the Nigerian diaspora community is well educated, resourceful, skilled, and exposed to global best practices.

The NiDCOM Chairman/CEO, Hon. Abike Dabiri- Erewa explained that the Diaspora Quarterly Lecture Series is projected to be a major aspect of national discourse, where Nigerians abroad can be kept abreast of the government’s policies, programmes and projects.

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Banking Sector

Wema Bank Unveils Hackaholics 2.0 Bootcamp Winners, Gives Out Over N8M Seed Fund

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Wema Bank’s Hackaholics 2.0, an acceleration aimed at helping startups scale and gain entrance into the market, came to an exciting end as the finalists were unveiled on Wednesday, May 5, 2021, at the Bank’s corporate head office in Marina, Lagos.

Themed, “Connecting Worlds” the Acceleration Program was a two-day virtual pitch which ran from October 30 – 31, 2020, for 20 participants across five industry pillars – Fintech, Agritech, Edutech, Gaming, and Healthtech, who qualified from a pool of over 100 entries received.

The Bank presented four startups comprising two people each with N2,187,500.00 startup fund. The winners emerged across each industry after a four-week Bootcamp under the supervision of a best-in-class acceleration curriculum delivered by seasoned faculty and tech specialists from GreenHouse Capital, official partners of the event.

The Managing Director/CEO, Wema Bank, Ademola Adebise congratulated the winners and expressed satisfaction with the quality of competition and the entire process.

“We are happy to see the winners emerge and are positive that you guys will be the unicorns of tech solutions in the next couple of years,” he said.

“For us at Wema Bank, we will continue to support innovations and innovative ideas, support our youths, and support our women to thrive. We believe that is the way to go and significantly grow and support the economy,” Adebise said.

The winning start-ups are:

Fintech Category: Oladayo Awotukunbo of Plumpter, a Fintech brand that created a marketplace for secure payments to foreign parties and quick banking.

Gaming/Betting Category: Ernest Akinlola and Obayemi Okubajo of My Lotto Hub, a digital startup pioneering the aggregation of lottery operators and enabling lottery punters to manage all their operations in a single platform

Agritech Category: Aderinola Amole and Olamide Oyinlola of FarmSquare, a brand that focuses on using the e-commerce model to simplify the demand and supply of Agricultural inputs in Nigeria.

Healthtech Category: Uche Udekwe and Joy Chioma of Natal Cares, a startup with a product that optimizes the healthcare value chain to reduce the high mortality rate for pregnant women and children.

Speaking at the event, Chief Financial Officer, Wema Bank, Tunde Mabawonku, reinforced the internal and external growth integration stance of the bank saying: “We realized very early that financial service delivery has moved beyond bricks and mortar physical interactions, hence, at Wema Bank we repositioned internally, invested strategically and heavily in technology to drive Digital Optimization of our services”.

“Second, we realized we can’t innovate all from within, we need to drive innovation from outside. We then created “Hackaholics” the Wema Bank Hackathon. The idea is to bring fresh minds, fresh ideas, fresh insights, into solving day-to-day societal problems leveraging technology. We are also working with third-party resource providers we can invest in to grow the solutions for societal impact”. Mabawonku added.

Chief Digital Officer, Wema Bank, Segun Adeniyi emphasized the importance of the Bank’s sustainability footprints. “We aim this initiative at deepening the impact of innovation in the ecosystem and create an opportunity to drive that ecosystem. There is a plethora of start-ups and innovators out there who don’t have the right environment to upscale those ideas into commercial value”.

“What we have done is giving some seed to them in funding, and more importantly, we have given them advisory. We have helped them to look at the ideas they have, flesh them into commercial value, help them articulate the problem, identify unique areas where and how they can solve those problems, and identify their target market.”

The winning startups all expressed gratitude to Wema Bank for the seed fund and commended the bank for the initiative. They said the Hackathon Bootcamp has broadened their horizon. They expressed that the seed funding from Wema Bank will help to upscale their businesses to the desired place.

“For us at Wema Bank, this is not just CSR. It is creative self-disruption. We are attuned to what is going on in the ecosystem, we are keen to be part of it, we are enthusiastic about sharing our own experiences with the start-ups. It is part of why we stay vibrant and relevant as an organization,” Adeniyi concludes.

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Banking Sector

Heritage Bank Partners Road Transport Workers

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Heritage Bank in partnership with the Road Transport Employee’s Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) has launched the Travelers’ Accident Insurance Scheme (TAIS) to assist road accident victims across the country.

The scheme which was launched on Friday aims to address deaths associated with the inability of travelers involved in accidents to offset hospital bills.

The Regional Executive, Abuja, and North, Heritage Bank Plc, George Okoh-Oboh, while speaking at the launch of the scheme in Abuja, commended the thoughtfulness of the association in coming up with such a program to save the lives of accident victims.

He stated that the partnership would help address the road safety crisis due to the tragic loss from a road crash death or severe injury which was compounded by the harm to families, social networks, and national economies.

According to him, the majority of victims are part of the working-age population (between 15 and 64 years old). In fact, road crashes have become the #1 killer of the young worldwide.

He pledged the continued support of the bank in ensuring the success of the scheme.

Okoh-Oboh said, “At Heritage Bank, we believe in this project and we are ready to support it as it seeks to address accidents on the road.

“This project will save lives of many Nigerians, so we are not just here to see what comes in but we are here to add value and ensure that it succeeds.”

The National President of RTEAN, Musa Muhammed, in his remarks said the scheme aims at promoting the welfare of passengers while ensuring security for passengers’ property.

He explained that the scheme would provide support to passengers who may be involved in accidents at the course of their journeys.

“This scheme covers all Nigerians involved in accidents that require medical attention while on a road trip. This is part of an effort to assist and improve the Nigerians transport system,” he added.

According to him, the scheme will cover only parks owned and operated by members of the Road Transport Workers Association.

He further stressed the need for the government to deepen investments in road infrastructure while ensuring security along the major road.

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