Nigeria: Court Grants Permission to Serve Processes On ETI Abroad

12 April 2021

The stage may have been set for a showdown between Ecobank Transnational Inc (ETI) and one of its former senior executives, Moyo Kamgaing, as the National Industrial Court sitting Lagos, has ordered him to serve court processes on the organisation (ETI) at its head office in Lomé, Togo.

Justice Elizabeth Ama Oji granted the application while ruling on the preliminary objection filed by ETI to challenge the service of the court processes on it in Lome by courier.

ETI terminated the employment of Kamgaing with effect from October 1, 2020, allegedly on economic grounds, to end ETI's Investment Bank (IB) as a stand-alone unit.

In a Complaint and Statement of Facts filed against ETI and its subsidiary, Ecobank Development Corporation (EDC) on December 11, 2020, Kamgaing alleged that he was fired for raising or refusing to condone inappropriate and possibly criminal transactions at various times, notably in the Securities, Wealth and Asset Management (SWAM) business in 2020 in Cote d'Ivoire.

Kamgaing joined ETI, the Lome-based holding company of the Ecobank Group in February 2014, as Managing Director of EDC (a Lomé subsidiary of ETI housing IB and SWAM) and as Group Head of IB.

He started in Accra and was seconded to EDC Nigeria in November 2016, but remained an ETI staff.

Until the termination of his contract as Group Head of IB, Kamgaing was managing 12 front office staff based in EDC vehicles in Abidjan, Accra, Lagos, Douala, and Nairobi.

In his witness statement, Kamgaing said he joined Ecobank, like many Africans attracted to its mission, to contribute with his then 28-year experience to building a world class bank.

IB was one of six products within the Corporate and Investment Bank (CIB). What he found was very different from ETI's mission.

As MD of EDC, Kamgaing had a unique view of SWAM. In 2016, SWAM lost $95million on a Ponzi scheme in Ghana due to poor controls.

These had been identified in a 2012 audit, but were left un-remedied, causing the largest single operational loss in the history of ETI.

Kamgaing said a business with $3million in revenues that lost $95million should be closed.

But the ETI CEO, Ade Ayeyemi, chose to keep it, bailed out SWAM and absolved the business head, Paul-Harry Aithnard.

Kamgaing asserted that an intentional campaign by his supervisor and Head of CIB, Amin Manekia, ensued to undermine IB and his professional competence by (a) misrepresenting the cost structure of the business, (b) allowing an erosion of revenues internally and externally, (c) failing to apply bank policy on bonuses and causing staff exits, and (d) manipulating the appraisal process to underscore his performance ratings.

In October 2019, an audit uncovered that unapproved loans of $30million had been granted in Abidjan from 2015 using client funds.

After an inquiry, Mike Coffi (Head of SWAM since 2018) was fired in April 2020.

Manekia announced that the file was closed, without further forensic investigation, in a clear attempt to whitewash.

Kamgaing sent an email on April 17, 2020 to Amin Manekia explaining that the incident was foreseeable, and invoking his supervisory responsibility.

The reaction was swift. On April 23, 2020, Ayeyemi, the CEO, called Kamgaing to say that he would close IB, and Kamgaing would be terminated.

Ayeyemi made various threats, and referred to the aforesaid email of 17 April 16, 2020.

Kamgaing insisted at an EDC Board meeting in May 2020 that a culture of impunity had been allowed to foster in SWAM for many years.

One year later IB was not closed, its planned closure being merely the excuse which Ayeyemi used to explain his decision to terminate Kamgaing.

Meanwhile, the market regulator, Conseil Regional de l'Epargne Publique et des Marches Financiers (CREPMF) has now issued a ruling that vindicated Kamgaing.

In January 2021, CREPMF banned Mike Coffi from the industry for 10 years and ordered the immediate resignation of Aithnard as Chairman of SWAM entities.

New client claims have also emerged. This has led the ETI Board to launch a long overdue forensic by the London-based Kroll Associates.

In response to Kamgaing's claim, EDC has not filed a defence, but ETI has filed a preliminary objection in which it challenges service on it in Lome by courier and also contends that the claim should have been brought in the Togolese courts, although Kamgaing worked in his last four years in Nigeria, employed by EDC Nigeria.

The hearing of ETI's preliminary objection and the report of service of the court papers on it, pursuant to the order of the court, have been fixed for June, 23 2021.

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