Home » Nigerian billionaire Femi Otedola clashes with Zenith Bank over ‘fraudulent transactions’

Nigerian billionaire Femi Otedola clashes with Zenith Bank over ‘fraudulent transactions’

Otedola claims that Zenith bank unlawfully used the account of his company, Seaforce Shipping Limited, to trade in 2011 without his knowledge or consent.

by Oluwatosin Racheal Alabi
Femi Otedola

Key points:

  • Nigerian billionaire Femi Otedola accuses Zenith Bank of perpetrating banking fraud.
  • Zenith Bank allegedly used Seaforce Shipping Limited’s account for trading in 2011 without Otedola’s knowledge or consent.
  • Otedola discovered the suspicious activities 13 years later, thanks to a whistleblower from the bank.

Nigerian billionaire Femi Otedola, chairman of leading power generation company Geregu Power and one of Nigeria’s most valuable lenders, First Bank of Nigeria Holdings Plc (FBN Holdings), is entangled in a legal battle with tier-one lender Zenith Bank led by Jim Ovia. The dispute centers on a controversial debt involving Otedola’s company, Zenon Petroleum & Gas, and other affiliated firms.

According to a report by Billionaires.Africa, Otedola, who ranks among Africa’s billionaires, accuses Zenith Bank of perpetrating banking fraud. He alleges the bank improperly disposed of his shares in the lender, manipulated his companies’ accounts, and fabricated documents to conceal the activity. The businessman has initiated legal action and filed a police complaint with the Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID).

Otedola claims that Zenith Bank unlawfully used the account of his company, Seaforce Shipping Limited, to trade in 2011 without his knowledge or consent. Despite the account not being operated since 2010, Seaforce Shipping’s account continued to be used for trading which was completely unknown to Otedola, according to his petition to the police.

Otedola confirms that Seaforce never applied for nor took a loan from Zenith Bank, yet unauthorized trading running into billions of naira continued on the account. When asked to provide documentation, including offer letters to support the grant of the said loans, Zenith Bank reportedly failed to do so.

Otedola discovered the suspicious activities only recently, 13 years after the transactions when he was tipped off by a whistleblower in Zenith Bank. When he confronted Zenith Bank’s officials, they apologized.

Otedola produced a letter written on March 19, 2018 by Zenith Bank to Shofolawe-Bakare & Co, Seaforce’s auditors, stating a debt of only N2,278,420 on the same account, as against the N5 billion recorded in the bank statement seen. The day the letter was written, the bank statement showed a debt of N2.9 billion compared to the N2 million stated in the letter signed by Taofik Bashir (internal audit control) and Edwin Kind Olie (group head, telecomm).

Transactions of over N16 billion were recorded against Seaforce’s account from 2011 to 2024. Otedola queried who made the payments to reduce the purported debt from N16,927,628,581.84 to N11,010,924,522.71 because he was not in the know of the transactions.

There were credits of N77,169,375.00 on April 18, 2011, N119,822,762.50 on Dec. 1, 2011, N316,537,329.30 on December 8, 2011, N266,361,181.73 on Dec. 15, 2011, and N444,304,524.50 on Dec. 12, 2011. Seaforce now has a debt of N5,916,704,059.13 as a result, a section of it being interest charges.

In addition, Zenon, Seaforce, Luzon Oil & Gas, Garment Care Limited, and Otedola have secured a federal high court injunction against Zenith Bank, Quantum Zenith Securities and Investment, Veritas Registrar, and Central Securities Clearing System, restraining them from trading with shares or paying dividends. This injunction remains effective until the hearing of the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction.

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