This Day (Lagos)

16 October 2009

Nigeria: Atiku - I'm Ready to Settle My Debt

Lagos/Abuja — Former Vice-President Atiku Abu-bakar yesterday explained his involvement in a non-performing loan granted him by Spring Bank Plc and promised to settle the debt "soon".

Atiku was speaking against the backdrop of yesterday's publication by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) which listed a facility of N111,150,439 against his name.

In a statement issued by his media office in Abuja, the former Vice-President said that the account in question was an "old, dormant account" to which no attention had been drawn by his staff.

"I have since resumed talks with the bank on the issue and the matter will be resolved. We will pay the outstanding sum as soon as it is agreed upon," he said in the statement.

He expressed his full support for the ongoing reform of the banking sector as part of measures to stimulate economic growth.

However, Nigeria's High Commissioner to South Africa, Amb. Mohamed Buba Marwa, has denied owing Unity Bank about N1 billion.

In a letter made availbale to THISDAY last night, Marwa said: "I state categorically that I do not owe Unity Bank Plc or any other bank any sums of money whatsoever. The Central Bank of Nigeria Advertorial... simply claims that Albarka Air owes Unity Bank Plc N1,066,240,164.19 and mentioned my name as a Director of Albarka. I am not Albarka Air and I do not owe Unity Bank or any other bank whatsoever.

"On whether or not Albarka Air Plc owes Unity Bank Plc is a matter already before the High Court of FCT, Abuja."

Also, former Minister of Works and current Chairman of the Board of Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), Chief Tony Anenih, denied owing Spring Bank N2.065 billion, explaining that he had nothing to do with Mettle Energy and Gas Limited that got the loan.

Anenih has dispatched a letter to the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mrs. Farida Waziri, alleging fraud and asking for immediate investigation into the development.

In a statement he issued yesterday, he said: "In the last 8 hours (as of yesterday), I have carried out investigaåtions and I can firmly say that records in the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) show that I am neither a Shareholder nor a Director in Mettle Energy and Gas Ltd.

"Spring Bank records including the Memorandum and Articles of Association, form CO7 and Board resolutions with the Bank do not have my name in any of the documents.

"I am therefore surprised that the CBN can decide to publish my name that I owe Spring Bank 2.065 billion Naira. I have never in my life entered any branch of Spring Bank to transact business.

"I put Spring Bank, CBN and Mettle Energy and Gas Ltd to the strictest proof that I am a Director in Mettle Energy and Gas Ltd and/or that I owe Spring Bank any amount.

"I feel pained that people who have worked to the levels of command and leadership are made targets of press war, mischief and ridicule.

"A case of fraud has been reported to EFCC for investigation and I have also instructed my lawyers to take appropriate action on the matter."

FutureView Financial Services Limited has also refuted the CBN advertorial which named one of its subsidiaries and two of its affiliate companies as having non-performing loans in BankPHB.

The CBN advertorial listed FutureView Securities Limited as having non-performing credit of N3.6 billion in BankPHB while its affiliate organisations, namely Tradjek Nigeria Limited and Extra Oil Limited, are owing the bank N3.2 billion and N3.5 billion respectively.

The Managing Director of FutureView, Mrs Elizabeth Ebi, was named as director in the three companies.

The Group Head, Corporate Finance and Subsidiaries of FutureView, Mr. Tochukwu Kemakolam, said FutureView Securities at no time requested or accepted any credit facility from BankPHB Plc, let alone reneging on its obligation to service or repay the purported loan.

Addressing the press in Lagos yesterday, Kemakolam, who is also the company secretary, said FutureView had written to the CBN and BankPHB Plc to present genuine documents to show an application to it for acceptance of any BankPHB Plc credit facility or any of its affiliate companies within seven days of this notice, failing which it would take legal action against the apex bank and BankPHB.

According to him, Tradjek Nigeria Limited is also embarrassed by the publication likewise Extra Oil Limited. He pointed out that the three companies are requesting a rejoinder from the CBN and BankPHB, to the effect that their inclusion in the list was by error.

"We insist that the three companies at no time requested for or accepted any credit facility from BankPHB Plc, let alone reneging on its obligation to service or repay the purported loan," he added.

Globe Motors, meanwhile, has also described its loan with ETB as performing, disclaiming CBN's publication that it is owing the bank over N3 billion.

In a newspaper advert published today, the company said there had been a "longstanding mutually benefiting (beneficial) relationship" and that the facility in question had been well collaterised.

It reproduced a letter from the bank dated May 12, 2009 which showed the structuring of the repayment of the loans.

Also, Senator Usman Albishir has denied owing Unity bank, describing as "ridiculous" the inclusion of his name on the list of loan defaulters.

Briefing the press in Abuja, the Managing Director of Savannah Airlines Ltd, Alhaji Abdul Ringim, who spoke on Albishir's behalf, said the bank had only attempted to smear his image and that of the company by forwarding his name to the CBN.

Ringim said the problem between the company in which Albishir is a chairman, and Unity Bank, was the N200 million leasing facility agreement to acquire two aircraft that the duo entered into.

He said for the leasing facility, "all approvals to operate the two aircraft and their airworthiness were obtained by Savannah Airlines Ltd from the various government agencies, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, Ministry of Defence, Aviation, FAAN, NAMA etc.

"All expenses including additional payment for the purchase of the aircraft, pilot simulation, crew training, rentals for office accommodation, residential houses for staff, vehicles, hotel accommodation for crew, furniture, fittings, communication radio and radio licence, salaries etc were all financed by the company."

He said barely three months of positioning the aircraft, a similar aircraft (the BAC 1-11 type) belonging to EAS Airlines crashed in Kano, killing a minister, and over 80 passengers and several on the ground, prompting the former Minister of Aviation, Dr. Kema Chikwe, to ban the aircraft without any prior notice.

The ban, he said, grounded the airline but, not minding the "force majeure" clauses contained in the relevant portion of the signed Bill of Sale, Albishir, based on the plea of the bank, was paying N5 million monthly to reduce the lease rentals.

"Our Chairman paid a total sum of N70 million after the ban and the company paid about N55,850,000.00 plus interest before the ban to reduce the liability under the leasing agreement.

"In spite of his generosity, as he is not under obligation to use his personal resources to pay a limited liability company loan, more so when the aircraft are under lease, we received a letter from Bank of the North Ltd to accelerate the repayment," Ringim said.

He said the company was surprised that Albishir's name was listed even after the company had settled the bank loan it took and Unity Bank had taken custody of the two aircraft and sold them.

And in a bid to recover the non-performing debts, Waziri has led 80 operatives of EFCC to Lagos.

She was said to have left Abuja early yesterday with the operatives to Lagos, where they would be staying temporarily for the operation.

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