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Central Bank of Nigeria dissolves First Bank board, expels Obafoluke Otudeko

The Central Bank of Nigeria has dissolved the board of First Bank, citing insider abuse.

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The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has dissolved the board of directors of First Bank Holdings (FBNH)* and First Bank of Nigeria (FBN) on April 29. It cited insider abuse and the breakdown of corporate governance as the reasons behind the move. 

This has led to the expulsion of Obafoluke Otudeko, the largest shareholder and chairman of FBNH, and Ibukun Awosika, the chairman of FBN. 

The CBN’s decision to remove Otudeko and the bank’s other directors is further linked to its regulatory forbearance and support in its corporate restructuring to protect it from falling. The apex bank said it had supervised the bank’s activities for five to six years to ensure that it would not collapse.

Nairametrics reported recently that Godwin Emefiele, the governor of the CBN, revealed to the press that it had granted “regulatory forbearances to enable the bank to work out its non-performing loans through provision for write-off of at least N150 billion from its earning for four consecutive years.” The report noted that FBNH recorded a total loan impairment of more than N565 billion ($1.5 billion) between 2016 and 2020.

Moreso and FBN did not submit a comprehensive legal document with the CBN to help it claim the bank’s collateral from Otudeko’s Honeywell Flour Mills. 

In a memo sent to Awosika, the apex bank said that “after four years the bank is yet to perfect its lien on the shares of Mr. Oba Otudeko in FBN Holdco, which collateralized the restructured credit facilities for Honeywell Flour Mills contrary to the conditions precedent for the restructuring of the company’s credit facility.”

The regulator voiced concern for FBN’s lack of adherence to comply with regulatory directives to divest FBN’s interests in Honeywell Flour Mills despite several reminders. 

These issues prompted the CBN to instruct Honeywell Flour Mills to repay its loan to FBN within 48 hours, which elapsed on April 28. Accordingly, it directed the FBN to “divest the equity investments in all non-permissible entities such as Honeywell Flour Mills and Bharti Airtel Nigeria Ltd within 90 days.” Otudeko also owns a significant stake in Bharti Airtel Nigeria Ltd.

Otudeko is a Nigerian tycoon and the founder and chairman of the Honeywell Group. Before becoming the chairman of FBNH, he was on the board of FBN for 12 years before retiring as chairman in 2010.

The precursor to this event

The expulsion of the chairmen follows recent activities within the company’s board of directors that saw the premature removal from office of FBN Managing Director and CEO Adesola Adeduntan. 

The CBN has been using Adeduntan as a check against attempts by the directors of FBN to secure insider loans, according to Nairametrics.    

However, the CBN reinstated Adeduntan as the bank’s managing director and CEO on April 29. The apex bank has also set up an Interim Board of Executives for the bank to be chaired by Tunde Hassan-Odukale, the Guardian reported. Other members include Tokunbo Martins, Uche Nwokedi, Adekunle Sonola, Isioma Ogodazi, Ebenezer Olufowose, Ishaya Elijah Dodo, Gbenga Shobo, Remi Oni and Abdullahi Ibrahim. 

*FBN Holdings is the parent company of FBN.**Regulatory Forbearance is a policy implemented by a country’s central bank or other regulatory authorities to allow banks and financial institutions to continue operating even when their capital is fully depleted. Regulators give banks extended periods during which they have to comply with regulatory requirements.

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Nigerian president approves acquisition of ExxonMobil assets by oil tycoon Bryant Orjiako’s Seplat Energy

Seplat Energy is an independent oil and gas company.

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Bryant Orjiako.

After several weeks of deliberation, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has finally approved the proposed acquisition of ExxonMobil’s oil and gas assets in Nigeria by Seplat Energy, a leading energy group founded by Nigerian magnate Ambrosie Bryant Orjiako.

“In his capacity as Minister of Petroleum Resources, and in consonance with the country’s drive for foreign direct investment in the energy sector, Muhammadu Buhari has consented to the acquisition of the entire share capital of Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited by Seplat Energy Offshore Limited,” the government said in a press statement seen by Billionaires.Africa.

The approval is consistent with the government’s plans to strengthen foreign direct investment in the energy sector. It comes not long after the government rejected the $1.58-billion deal on May 19, citing overriding national interests as one reason for the decision.

Exxon Mobil and Seplat are expected to carry out the operations of the unit’s oil-mining licenses to support Nigeria’s OPEC quota in the short term and to accelerate gas resource development and monetization to help bolster the Nigerian economy, according to the share sales agreement.

Seplat Energy is an independent oil and gas company with a strategic focus on Nigeria’s Niger Delta region. Orjiako and Austin Avuru, who founded the company in 2009, are credited with turning it into the largest listed energy group on the Nigerian Exchange.

ExxonMobil’s offshore shallow water business in Nigeria includes a well-established, high-quality operation able to produce 95,000 barrels of oil per day. Its acquisition by Seplat Energy will enhance the group’s ability to drive growth, profitability, and overall shareholder prosperity.

Seplat’s profit increased by 41 percent in the first half of 2022, from $56.57 million in the first half of 2021 to $79.8 million, as the company continues to leverage rising energy prices to build wealth for shareholders, following an $85.3-million loss in 2020.

Following the deal, Seplat’s oil output will increase by 186 percent, from 51,000 barrels per day to 146,000 barrels per day, while liquid and gas reserves will increase by 170 percent and 14 percent, respectively, to 650 million barrels and 1,712 billion standard cubic feet of gas.

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Nigerian billionaire Femi Otedola’s Zenon Petroleum takes Ardova to court over $6-million debt

The winding-up petition adds to the pressures on Ardova and its majority owner.

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Nigerian billionaire Femi Otedola. ©Billionaires.Africa

Zenon Petroleum & Gas Limited, an oil marketing company founded by Nigerian billionaire Femi Otedola, has filed a winding-up petition against Prudent Energy and Services Limited, the majority shareholder in Ardova Plc, over a $6-million debt.

The move comes three years after the Otedola-led oil company finalized the sale of a 74.02-percent majority equity stake in one of its petroleum marketing subsidiaries, Forbes Oil (now Ardova), to Prudent Energy and Services Limited, an oil firm owned by Nigerian energy mogul Abdulwasiu Sowami. The purchase agreement was signed in 2019 and valued at $200 million.

Zenon Petroleum filed the winding-up petition against Prudent Energy with the Federal High Court in Lagos, alleging that the Sowami-led company was unable to pay a $6-million debt that represented the remaining purchase consideration for the stake in Forte Oil.

“The debt is alleged to have arisen from a 2018 sale in which Zenon Petroleum & Gas Limited and its affiliates sold 74.02 percent of Forte Oil Plc’s issued share capital to Abdul Wasiu Sowami and Ignite Investment and Commodities Limited,” Zenon Petroleum stated in a court document, offering more information on the nature of the debt.

Zenon Petroleum, which has a guarantee for the prompt payment of the debt, served Prudent Energy with the winding-up petition more than a month after the deferred consideration, which was due on June 18, had yet to be paid despite demand letters sent to Sowami.

The winding-up petition adds to the pressures on Ardova and its majority owner, as shares in the company have dropped significantly from an average price of N23.6 ($0.055) per share in 2019 to N13 ($0.0305) per share at the time of writing this report.

Ardova reported a loss of N3.8 billion ($8.93 million) for the 2021 fiscal year, its first since being acquired by Prudent Energy.

Meanwhile, Otedola has invested a portion of the $200 million in his power-generation company Geregu Power Plc and is seeking payment of the $6-million deferred consideration.

His power-generation company completed a N40-billion ($96.3 million) unsecured corporate bond issuance nearly a week ago to expand infrastructure and capacity through the strategic acquisition of power generation plants in the sector.

The $96.3-million unsecured corporate bond is the largest corporate bond issuance in Nigeria’s power sector. It is also the first installment of Geregu Power’s N100-billion ($240.5 million) bond issuance program, which aims to strengthen the company’s capital structure and support its strategic expansion plans.

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Nigerian billionaires Aliko Dangote, Abdul Samad Rabiu bag merit awards in Niger

The billionaires have both played an important role in the country’s economic growth.

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Aliko Dangote, Africa's wealthiest man.

Nigerian billionaires Aliko Dangote and Abdul Samad Rabiu have received the Commander of the Order of Merit of Niger Award, a national award presented in recognition of their contributions to the country of Niger.

Dangote, Africa’s richest businessman, is presently worth $19.8 billion due to his 86-percent stake in Dangote Cement Plc, while Rabiu’s $5.5-billion net worth makes him the eighth wealthiest person on the continent.

The billionaires, who received the awards on Wednesday in Niamey from Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum, have both played significant roles in the country’s economic growth and poverty eradication through their businesses and philanthropic organizations.

Bazoum stated that his country cherishes Nigeria as one of its closest neighbors and friends while presenting the awards at a ceremony commemorating Niger’s independence from France in 1960.

The Nigerien politician also lauded the efforts of “brother Nigerians” such as Dangote and Rabiu, who have helped increase understanding between the two countries and acted as agents for social and economic development.

The president also awarded the Aliko Dangote Foundation a national award in recognition of its health-related programs, including a $500,000 grant to help fight a meningitis and cholera outbreak.

Nearly a week ago, Rabiu launched a $3-million development initiative in Niger through his philanthropic organization, the Abdul Samad Rabiu Africa Initiative (ASR Africa), as part of his efforts to eradicate poverty and drive sustainable development in the country.

The $3-million development initiative aligns with ASR Africa’s vision of “unlocking sustainable development opportunities in Africa, by Africans, for Africans.”

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