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Who is on a Motive to Destroy ABC Orjiako’s Reputation After he Paid $143.3 Million?

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ABC Orjiako

By Hauwa Hazan-Baba

An American business magnate, investor, and philanthropist, Warren Edward Buffett in one of his famous quotes said: “Wall Street is the only place that people ride to in a Rolls Royce to get advice from those who take the subway”.

Recently, there have been several media publications in relation to loan facilities taken by Shebah E&P Limited to carry out drilling campaign in OML 108. These cases had been in various courts between London and Nigeria since 2014 until the latest initiated by Zenith Bank in October 2021. All these cases are in relation to the inconclusive drilling campaign in Ukpokiti oil field, offshore the Niger Delta.

The origin of the who brouhaha

Like Buffett said, “What we learn from history is that people don’t learn from history.” The origin of the matter is that in 2012 Shebah E and P obtained a $150million loan facility from a consortium of banks (AFREXIM/Diamond- now Access/Skye- now Polaris) led by AFREXIM. The facility was meant for work over and drilling campaign at the Ukpokiti field (OML 108) operated by Shebah E&P.

Incidentally, all these cases have received extensive media attention and each time one individual has been mentioned repeatedly as the debtor in these facilities.

That person is ABC Orjiako, an orthopaedic surgeon, who is also the Co-Founder and Chairman of Seplat Energy Plc. It is therefore incumbent on any investigative journalist to carry out an independent analysis of these debts and associated court cases to reveal the underlying facts behind all the Stories and whether Dr ABC Orjiako is “Guilty As Charged”.

It is pertinent to state that this current frenzy over the loan matter is not a fresh case but the same case that has been reported variously in the media since 2016.

Never a borrower and never utilized facilities as a person

The most astonishing fact in all this is that Dr Orjiako was never a borrower and never utilised the facilities as a person. He was merely the majority shareholder of Shebah and guarantor of the facilities. Dr Orjiako was not even a member of management of Shebah but stepped up to salvage the company by making payments to the banks using personal and family assets to liquidate the facilities. The banks disbursed the loan directly to the service providers of the company.

Hear this

Shebah drilled a successful horizontal well, the first of its kind in the offshore Niger Delta and tested 4000 barrels per day of oil and condensate production but encountered large gas reserves. The company then decided to find a solution to the huge Associated gas based on professional oil field best practices before continuation of the oil/ condensate production. The company required more funds to commercialize the gas to avoid excessive flaring while producing the discovered oil.

AFREXIM led consortium of lenders

It is worth noting that the AFREXIM led consortium of lenders, could not provide further facilities to Shebah to conclude the operations. In 2014, Shebah then approached Zenith Bank, which appraised the situation and provided a $250million loan facility fully approved by its board to salvage the situation. Zenith proposed to pay the consortium of banks $50million to reduce their collective exposure, enhance the facility to $350million, provide Shebah with additional funds to monetize the gas and produce the discovered oil. The enhanced facility would have had Zenith join and lead the syndicate with $250million, while the consortium of existing lenders would have reduced their exposure and stay at $100million (about $33million each).

Zenith requested to have a moratorium period of 9 months

Zenith further requested (in line with Shebah’s need) to have a moratorium period of 9 months to conclude the projects and extend the facility tenure to 5 years. This was meant to spread the cash flow and enable easy repayment of the enhanced facility.

Surprisingly, the AFREXIM consortium rejected the $50million offered by Zenith on the grounds that Zenith should not lead the syndicate and they were not willing to extend the tenure of the facility which was remaining about two and half years as at the time of Zenith’s offer.

Preparatory to monetizing the discovered gas, Shebah negotiated and executed a GSPA of $2.5billion for 20 years gas sale on a take or pay basis with the Nigerian Gas Company(NGC) as the gas offtaker supported by a payment bank guarantee in the sum of $70million from Zenith bank.

The AFREXIM consortium rejected all the efforts being made by Shebah and proceeded to file an action to call the facility in 2014 (just two years after final draw down). The call of facility ahead of the maturity triggered the default on the loan.

The Justice Phillips of the London High Court judgment

On 19 February 2016, Mr Justice Phillips of the London High Court delivered a judgment in favor of the AFREXIM consortium for the repayment of the $150M loan facility. The judgment creditors then registered the judgment in Federal High Court in Lagos and applied for enforcement of the judgment.

The defendants immediately opposed the registration and the enforcement of the judgment based on their convictions on rule of law and on the fact that they would like to negotiate an out of court settlement and pay back the loan under a restructured arrangement. This case is still life before an Honorable Justice of the Federal High Court Lagos. The court is awaiting the outcome on the settlement which will be entered as consent judgement.

Contrary to the Syndication agreement by the AFREXIM consortium, Polaris bank transferred its share of the judgement facility to AMCON. Notwithstanding the unilateral action by Polaris bank, AMCON initiated a fresh action in Federal High Court Abuja, not minding that the same case had already got a ruling in London and subject to a contested enforcement proceeding in the Federal High Court Lagos. It was by the case that AMCON filed that an Ex-Parte order was granted in 2019 which was widely reported in the press.

See what Orjiako has paid

Buffett’s saying goes that that, “If past history was all that is needed to play the game of money, the richest people would be librarians”.  Orjiako has paid the following sums to the lenders: $89.3 million (out of a total principal of $150million) including $20million paid this year to the consortium of AMCON/AFREXIM/ACCESS toward the repayment efforts. This means that if his proposal is accepted by these creditors, the outstanding Principal amount would be $60.7 million. He had made a proposal to these creditors to accommodate Zenith bank in the distribution of the repayment, but they have not accepted this proposal, which would have prevented the Zenith bank action of October 2021.

In the case of Zenith Bank, ABC Orjiako has also paid back $54million (including proceeds of forced sale of his family Seplat shares by Zenith bank) out of the principal of $70m and is currently engaging the bank to negotiate an out of court settlement. This means that Dr Orjiako has paid a total sum of $143.3million ($89.3million plus $54million).

Why the misrepresentations of facts

Most stories read recently on this issue are unfortunately been used to misrepresent facts as they have portrayed an innocent person in a very bad light with enormous reputational damage.

It is important to note that these kinds of misrepresentations are misinforming the global investing community with its negative consequences for Nigeria. It would be recalled that Dr Orjiako has continued to lead Seplat Energy to its exponential growth attaining the enviable position as an indigenous Nigerian Independent Energy company listed in the London and the Nigerian Stock Exchanges, among many other feats.

Payments clearly show high moral duty and integrity

These payments are clear show of high moral duty and integrity to repay a loan Dr Orjiako did not utilise and for oil assets that are not generating any revenues. From the deluge of negative media reports, most of which misrepresent the matter, there is a strong impression that these are smear campaigns.

It was also revealed that SEPLAT where Dr ABC Orjiako is the Chairman is not involved in any of these matters what so ever contrary to the nuances in the media report. The SEPLAT board of directors being very strong in corporate governance had activated all governance and compliance processes and procedures to ensure that there are no breaches of any aspect of regulatory compliance or its governance policies.

Out of court settlement in the offering 

There is information also that the parties maybe considering out of Court settlement of the commercial dispute. A positive outcome of such a settlement will bring the entire impasse to a final close.

In a completely different case, Access Bank versus Cardinal Drilling, ABC Orjiako unfortunately had a misfortune of being blamed for the Cardinal facility because he is seen as the alter ego of the company.

Dr Orjiako’s involvement was just as an investor in Cardinal where his company Shebah invested alongside Platform Petroleum and Maurel et Prom, all of who are founding shareholders of Seplat. Neither Orjiako nor other shareholders ever received dividend from Cardinal. All the equity investments were lost but again, curiously, only Orjiako was singled out for the smear campaign.

Miss Hauwa Hazan-Baba (BSc Econ, MSc Management) is an Economist and Public Affairs Analyst based in United States.

Finance

With Giants Campaign, FirstBank is Truly Woven Into The Fabric of Society

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Olusegun-Alebiosu-MD,CEO Firstbank

In its usual creative conjecture, 13O-year-old FirstBank, has hit the airwaves and other media outlets with various visuals to articulate its new campaign ‘The Giant in You’. Breaking down the central message, ‘there is a giant in you’ the campaign stylishly reminds the bank customer that ‘FirstBank Puts You First so you can’ before giving the match order, ‘Live the Giant-Life.

For a bank that settles for the big ‘elephant’, as logo and has remained strong for 130 years, worlds like giant, tall and strides, used in the various visuals are simply validations of its robustness, endurance, doggedness and tall ambition. As part of the ways to convey the bank’s message to its array of patrons, SO&U, the creative agency behind the campaign cleverly selected its cast and buildings, including FirstBank’s corporate headquarters, to reflect the bigness, the tallness and the boldness of the 130-year-old financial institution to rule the world as far as banking and business support are concerned.

Unraveling the ‘Giant’ strides…

Among other reasons, the new campaign must have been conceptualized to position FirstBank as a ‘giant’ and ‘future-ready’ institution that is dependable, innovative and proactive in supporting its customers and stakeholders win in the race to the future and be in a position to take advantage of the opportunities and possibilities of that emerging future.

Driven by the conviction that  consumers want to turn their big dreams into giant successes, the new campaign reminds the consumer that in today’s world of constant disruptions and integrated experiences, the customer needs a strong, stable and supportive partner, with the appropriate platforms, innovative solutions and networks to not only support their aspirations but also be responsive and adaptive enough to anticipate their needs and empower them to success.

Looking through the visuals and the television commercial, it’s easy to conclude that the campaign narrative is not about the brand but the customer. For instance, the creative path illustrates the world as it moves and changes at lightning speed, the customer is reminded that just like the world, everything within it is also changing, from economies to businesses and even opportunities.
“We recognise that to be in sync with the world will require a forward thinking and future ready mindset …and we have created the atmosphere, products and services to help our customers,” the bank stated.

To underscore ‘the big idea’ and the ‘bringing out the Giant in you’ theme, key visuals speak to the essence of the campaign and are accompanied with long and straight legs in a demonstrative form to take the purported giant step. Here the messages are passed under the following; ready to take giant strides?, strides into the future, let’s take giant strides together, stand tall, stand out, think giant solutions, among others.

Facts and figures…

Like Coca-Cola, the world number one brand, one other thing that has consistently worked for the FirstBank brand is that the promoters have never, for once allowed complacency to set in. The implication of this is that the bank is not only the oldest, but also one of the most digitally compliant banks.  Currently, First Bank stands tall via First Bank digital solutions, employs market-leading digital platforms and solution driven products and services. Besides, the use of AI and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) by the bank enables the financial brand to initiate 85 percent of its transactions via digital platforms leading to quick responses to customers’ needs and satisfaction. In this regard, FirstBank has been recognised by Interswitch as the first financial institution in Nigeria to achieve 100 million sustained monthly transactions in electronic payment and it has hit N1 trillion transactions through the FirstMonie Agent network.

Speaking during the unveiling of the new thematic brand campaign, Head, Brand and Stakeholder management at FirstBank, Yinka Ijabiyi, reiterated that FirstBank came up with the new campaign because of its belief that there is a ‘giant’ in every customer, every employee and every stakeholder.

He said, “This campaign was informed by our belief that there is ‘giant’ in every stakeholder a giant dream, a giant possibility, a giant idea, a giant life and a giant future waiting to be birthed. Our commitment is therefore to provide all necessary business support, financial know-how and platforms to bring out the giant in every customer.”

Ijabiyi further pointed out that the campaign was conceptualised by the bank in a bid to show customers in its 130 years, that it has been supporting and creating giants and that it has no plan to stop anytime soon.

He said the bank, in its celebration of its 130 years in business, came up with a campaign that speaks to the business essence of its brand which is making giants of its customers.

“We have always done it and the fact we have been around for such a long time means good to everybody as we have been supporting businesses, individuals and government in those years. “We are making giants and there is no business that interacts with us that does not see the benefits in their business. We are making giants in our customers and we will not stop.

“We are the partner with tailored solutions for every customer, employee, and stakeholder. We have what it takes to turn dreams into giant successes. FirstBank’s services are designed to help customers “giant-size” their dreams, offering businesses the platforms and solutions needed to grow, innovate, and achieve remarkable success.” Ijabiyi added that the array of products, solutions and services offered by FirstBank cannot be compared with any financial services in Nigeria.

For its customers, the bank said “We would enable, inspire and support you with our world of financial services to help you to giant-size your dreams and live your best life”. It also said it “would give businesses and business owners the right platforms and solutions they need to grow, initiate and execute bold ideas.

Meanwhile, the creative agency behind the campaign has hinted to the media that the unveiled materials were mere ‘tip of the iceberg’ as efforts are ongoing to domesticate the same campaign in local languages to connect with customers across the major ethnic groups in Nigeria.

A peep into the past…

When the promoters said First Bank was “truly the first, many grudgingly agreed. But deep inside its competitors – the possible grudging camp – is the truth regarding the extreme distance the bank has given others in performance and people relevance of its operations! They knew the bank was not bluffing. Not only has it rediscovered itself, but the ability to shed its ancient mindset in terms of operations and blend with modern trends in banking have left many agreeing that perhaps, the saying that the older the wine the better it gets in taste actually applies to FirstBank. To this end, it’s not by accident that First Bank has produced at least two former governors of the CBN and a Finance Minister, including Chief Joseph Sanusi and the current Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.

Perhaps the current campaign is an offshoot of a story-telling Television Commercial, by the bank to reflect the beginning of modern banking and how the bank has consistently grown with Nigeria’s enterprises through partnership and innovation.

The referenced TVC says it all: A combination of historical renaissance and quite prescient validation of the innovation that usually drives its bewitching communicational ads. From the groundnut pyramids of the north, which was the symbol of the regions commercial edge and the cocoa bean mountains of Western Nigeria to the rubber plantations of the East and Mid-eastern region, First Bank has applied its new campaign to remind its decades-old patrons, customers, and even competitors, that the beat has refused to abate.

Throughout the campaign, FirstBank subtly registers itself in the minds of the banking public that it’s entirely Nigerian – past, present, and the future. The well-crafted historical simulation captures how FirstBank opened its first branch in Lagos in 1894 and started helping merchandise and local traders to grow their businesses. The excitement and enthusiasm on the faces of the bank’s early customers after getting their cash books from the Lagos office say it all. Like someone who has gotten a glimpse of what the future holds with banking, the customers express surprises and happiness. The commercial captures the mood and goes back in memory lane on how the bank has helped many people succeed in their ventures. Subtly, the narrator takes viewers to Kano and reveals how the then richest men in the commercial city were making their deposit of 20 bags of Silver in an atmosphere that looks like the first operational day of the bank.

Perhaps the beauty of the commercial lies more in the way it strikes a balance between the ancient and the modern days through setting and swapping of background colours. This was cleverly explored in referencing the way the bank transformed into an online haven, driven by technology. While reminding the patrons of the bank’s transformation and technological advancement, the narrator is quick to talk about the expansion of the bank beyond the shores of Nigeria to the West-African region and beyond. The TVC also positions FirstBank as a socially responsible brand by touching on various initiatives it has embarked on. Specifically, First Bank’s contribution to Sports through its support for football and athletics is captured very well.

The ‘Giant in You’ is another chapter as the bank begins a fresh journey after operating for 130 years.

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Banking Sector

Jaiz Bank Boosts Chairman’s Income to N24m Amidst Strategic Expansion

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Jaiz Bank

Jaiz Bank has announced a 20% increase in its chairman’s annual income to N24 million.

This decision was unveiled in a recent statement filed with the Nigeria Exchange Limited, highlighting the bank’s commitment to rewarding leadership amidst its expansion plans.

The bank, renowned for its pioneering role in non-interest banking in Nigeria since 2012, also approved a remuneration package of N20 million for each non-executive director.

The announcement was made by the bank’s secretary, Mohammed Shehu, highlighting the importance of competitive compensation for board members who provide crucial oversight and strategic guidance.

Shareholders at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) expressed confidence in the board’s leadership by approving the resolution on directors’ fees.

This move aligns with Jaiz Bank’s ongoing efforts to enhance its capital base to N70 billion by the end of 2024.

The bank also announced a dividend of 4 kobo per share, which will be distributed to shareholders on July 16, 2024.

This dividend declaration was welcomed as a testament to the bank’s operational success in a challenging economic climate.

Also, the AGM saw the re-election of Muhammadu Indimi and Muhammad Abdulmutallab as non-executive directors, reaffirming shareholder trust in their leadership capabilities.

Jaiz Bank’s financial performance has been impressive, with a 67% increase in profit before tax, reaching N11.1 billion in 2023.

Gross earnings also rose by 42% to N47.2 billion from the previous year, showcasing the bank’s successful growth strategy.

As Jaiz Bank continues to expand its services, the enhanced remuneration package signals a commitment to maintaining strong governance and leadership, paving the way for future achievements in ethical banking.

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Finance

ARISE IIP and Africa Finance Corporation Launch US$ 100M Capital Pool for African Entrepreneurs

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ARISE IIP, the pan-African developer and operator of world-class industrial parks, and Africa Finance Corporation (AFC), the leading infrastructure solutions provider in Africa, today announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding to establish a dedicated US $100 million capital pool for African entrepreneurs who are establishing operations within any of the Arise IIP Special Economic Zones (SEZ) in Africa. 

At the heart of this partnership is a shared vision to uplift African entrepreneurs by providing them with much needed financing and advisory services to catalyse growth.

AFC will also actively seek financing from Export Credit Agencies (ECAs), local and regional financial institutions to mobilise funding to support these companies.

This concerted effort underscores ARISE IIP and AFC’s commitment to fostering industrialisation, job creation and economic prosperity in Africa.

Under this partnership, AFC’s comprehensive suite of financial services will extend beyond financing to include financial advisory support for corporate finance, equipment financing and market entry including assisting with joint ventures and technical partnerships for sponsors that may require it, to ensure they are well-equipped to seize opportunities and thrive within the SEZs.

By tapping into AFC’s extensive network and expertise, ARISE IIP aims to cultivate a vibrant ecosystem that nurtures entrepreneurship and drives sustainable economic development across the continent.

Gagan Gupta, CEO of ARISE IIP said about this partnership: “ARISE IIP is about empowerment. By empowering our customers, and ensuring they have the robust financial support needed to meet their operational objectives, this collaboration with Africa Finance Corporation, our long-lasting partner, takes us one step closer to realising our vision of an industrialised and prosperous Africa.

Samaila Zubairu, President & CEO of AFC said: This partnership marks a significant milestone in our commitment to offer strategic financial advisory and corporate finance services to firms focused on value capture and import substitution projects in Africa. By collaborating with our investee company Arise IIP and African entrepreneurs in our Special Economic Zones, we aim to foster an ecosystem that will increase trade, create jobs, and drive economic advancement on the continent.

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