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The sweet simplicity of the steep per cents attains bitterness and an unparalleled form of ugliness in the currency-activated halls and offices of Nigerian banks even as you read.

About seven years after he retired as chairman of First Bank of Nigeria Ltd, echoes of Oba Otudeko’s reign still reverberate rancorously. While the premier banking institution still wears a facade of glee and grace and sturdiness, sources say it is heaving and caving under a heavy yoke of colossal insider debts.

Otudeko, a billionaire philanthropist and chairman of multi-faceted Honeywell Group, is reportedly indebted to the bank to the tune of about N75billion. Alas, the loan is non-performing. Neither are there indices that the loan would perform anytime soon in view of the current economic headwinds. This has thrown many customers privy to the unwholesome transactions into a vortex of turmoil.

Not surprisingly, a human rights group, the Social and Economic Rights Derivatives Centre, recently sent a strongly-worded petition to various governmental agencies and the National Assembly asking the management of the bank to explain how a number of multi-billion naira loans is not reflecting on the bank’s books again. Specifically, the group called for the investigation of Otudeko for allegedly obtaining a N29 billion facility from the bank through FBN Trustees, which it claimed was written off without the knowledge and consent of the bank’s shareholders.

Like a midwife with a rich history of stillbirths, Otudeko is a serial entrepreneur with understandable exposure to bank loans. As he frantically tries to extricate himself from this web, the bank’s customers are wondering how it would end considering that he is still in court with Ecobank over an alleged N5.5billion loan availed Honeywell Flour Mills Plc, Siloam Global Services Limited and Anchorage Leisures Limited, which he personally guaranteed. So disgruntled was the bank that it sought a receiving order against Otudeko’s estate, funds, investment and shares in Honeywell Group, Honeywell Flour Mills, among other companies, as well as an order declaring him bankrupt.

The contention by many customers of First Bank now is that Otudeko’s subsisting relationship with the bank is doing it more harm than good. But what can the poor mortals do? Not only does Otudeko currently serve as chairman of FBN Holdings, one of his sons, Obafemi, is a non executive director in the bank. So Long…

A serial defaulter of agreement, Otudeko companies is yet to pay the N3.5 billion “bullet payment” it owes Ecobank.

One of his companies, Pivot Engineering Limited based in Ikeja Manager was arrested this year by Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) for owing N610 million and not remitting same to the agency as tax.

Source: Capital, with additional report from Secret Reporters


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