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That the sun has finally set on the reign of Henry James Semenitari as the managing director of Unity Bank is no longer news, but the circumstances leading to the exit is what is raising eyebrow.

The image-makers of the bank says he left to explore new areas but this magazine ( we broke his sack story) insists he was sacked. Here is the story.

Semenitari was pronounced guilty of violating the Bank’s corporate governance principles, embezzlement, soliciting and receiving monies from banks customers and several cases of sexual harassment of female staffers, amongst several others.

The Chairman of the Board of the Bank had requested the Board Finance and General Purpose Committee of the Bank to investigate the complaint made against Semenitari and come up with appropriate recommendations.
The Committee subsequently swung into action and commenced sitting on 23rd June, 2015 and again from 1st July, 2015 to 6th July, 2015.

Documents were reportedly obtained from Financial Control, Enterprise Risk Management, Legal Services Department and Internal Control Group, while interviews were conducted on 40 staffers of the bank including three Executive Directors.
After that, Henry James Semenitari was invited by the committee to respond to the complaints/allegations against him on Tuesday, 21st, July, 2015 in the spirit of fair hearing and balancing.

According to a statement received by First Weekly Magazine and signed by the Chairman, Board Finance and General Purpose Committee, Semenitari was found guilty of maladministration and abuse of office and was advised to resign his appointment as the Chairman of the bank or be given the boot by the Bank’s Board of Directors.
After the interrogation, which reportedly lasted hours, Semenitari was accused of deliberately violating the Bank’s corporate governance principles in several ways.

Semenitari, in what has become a matter for the records, allegedly unilaterally engaged the law firm of George Etomi & Co to conduct a Legal Audit of the Bank at a cost of N100 Million without Board approval and proceeded to approve N20 Million.
He had defended himself on this during interrogation by the committee that Legal Audit was part of PwC responsibility, but that they recommended George Etim & Co and that he did search and found out that the firm conducted Legal Audit for Mainstreet and Heritage Banks.

“Because Legal Services Department is within event and post event, I was shocked at state of department, there were cases of cloned C of O, cases of fraud in defunct Intercity Bank and the Bank was sued in Paris. Upon review, it was discovered that the Bank had paid legal fees of same amount the Bank was being sued for, to lawyers,” he said.
But his explanation was rejected as the committee said that they were asking for justification of Legal Audit.
The embattled former MD was also accused of “unilaterally without recourse to the Board, commenced the implementation of the share Reconstruction exercise without informing the Board of the commencement and other processes in the implementation of the Share Reconstruction.”

This, he however defended by stating that his action was not intended to undermine the Board, adding that when the process started, shareholders at AGM and the Board know the process because, according to him, the Bank’s equity did not trade in most of the life of the Bank and that neither did the bank pay dividend.

“Capital Bancorp are our market makers and were appointed by the NSE. Everybody was notified of S.E.C and all regulatory approvals and we could not stop exercise after the approvals. The missing link was in paying the fees, which was within management approval. I apologise for not notifying the Board. I did not unilaterally carry out share reconstruction,” he said.

The committee subsequently found Semenitari guilty of paying performance bonus totalling N151 Million to himself without Board approval and “in clear violation of Clause 4.05 of his Contract of Appointment, which states under ‘profit sharing’ that ‘The Managing Director/CEO shall be entitled to a percentage to be determined by the Board of Directors on the after tax of the company.”

Semenitari countered the Committee on this and said that it was a management issue. He emphasised that Board members knew management was accruing an amount monthly for bonus payment and that this was provided in the approved budget.
He revealed that he had a word with the Chairman of the Board and told him people were asking for bonus and that he needed to pay.

According to him, “Human Resource and CEO check performance. I also asked the EDS to rank their people and staff were paid on the basis of the ranking.

The committee also said that the sacked MD’s action of soliciting and receiving monies from the Bank’s customers was unethical and demeaning of a Bank Chief Executive.
This is apart from another damning allegation that there were reported cases of sexual harassment of female staff of the Bank against him.

On soliciting and receiving monies, Semenitari reportedly reacted that it was unfortunate that such an allegation could be made against him, asking; “how many new loans did we book?”
He alleged that the Bank had done little or no lending, and that when the Bank started recovery, customers were accusing ex-staff of sharing loan proceeds without providing evidence.

“Now, I am being accused of gratification before approving or restructuring loans. There is a procedure for restructure of loans and the requests emanate from the regions. It’s been a strict and rigorous exercise. I do not originate restructuring of loans. I am not account manager, we have responsible officers. How can I ask someone to give me money, when I am not a responsible office?,” he said.

He also denied harassing any female staff of the bank, adding that his understanding of sexual harassment was that a supervisor uses his position to truncate/frustrate career growth.
“All those, who were dis-engaged went through a process. Something happened during promotion of those, who had spent long period on a grade. They accused former staff of sexual harassment, which resulted in failure to promote them. I did not sexually harass any staff,” he stated.

One other serious allegation against Semenitari by the Committee was that he had poor customer handling skills.
He was alleged to have used uncouth and abusive language on one Mr. Hassan Zain of MC Plastic, a customer of Sharada Branch, Kano leading to a drastic downgrade of the Bank’s long-standing relationship with the customer.
It was also stated that Semenitari lacked leadership skills and has people-management challenges, and that staff and Executive Management passed a vote of no confidence on his leadership style.

Semenitari subsequently replied that he had lived in Kano and knew MC Plastic from then. He said that the problem in Nigeria is that people think that once a line officer rejects a loan, MD/CEO can never overrule and approve.
He said that an L/C line was approved for Mr. Hassan, but that he rejected it and wanted same to be converted to Overdraft.

The sacked MD maintained that Hassan wanted money to buy dollar and that he told him he had L/C line, which could not be converted to an overdraft facility.

“That apart, he also had existing OD line. 80% of the Bank’s loan book is in overdraft resulting in poor loan book and the Board said we must change the trend. I never used any abusive words on him. He said since I got into the Bank I have killed his business,” he submitted.

Semenitari also denied being overbearing or lacking customer or staff relations and said that he must have over-pushed people and became reactionary because of pressure.

The Committee however, concluded that on the basis of the allegations and the “unacceptable responses of the MD/CEO to the queries presented to him, the Board Finance and General Purpose Committee recommends to the Board of Directors that the MD/CEO, Henry James Semenitari be given 24 hours to resign from the employment of the Bank, failing which his appointment be terminated for Services No Longer Required.

“The Board may also kindly note that the MD/CEO’s Contract of Appointment provides under that “Termination Clause” (Clause 8.0) that “Either party may terminate the Contract of Employment by giving not less than three (3) months notice in writing or payment to the other, three (3) months salary in the lieu of notice,” it stated.

With this, the career of Mr. Henry James Semenitari as the MD/CEO of the Bank was ended and watchers of events are wondering what the next line of action would be from the two parties.

Source: First Weekly Magazine

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