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How banks kill businesses in Nigeria

How banks kill businesses in Nigeria

 

 

If the account rendered by the Chief Executive Officer of Algrain Food Limited, Chief Anthony Obidulu, is anything to go, then the Federal Government through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) must do everything possible to save local businessmen and their businesses from the hands of the commercial banks.

Chief Obidulu is one of the few industrialists who survived the bank’s onslaught on businesses, through mischievous and fraudulent loans. According to the industrialist, many have lost not just their businesses but also their lives, when banks took over their companies in very opaque and controversial circumstances. Most people have caved in to high blood pressure and heart attacks, as a result of such seizures by the banks.

Investigations have revealed that the banks most often manipulate the accounts to confuse their customers, who collect loans because they are usually not well informed or naive as far as accounting is concerned. “And most times, people wouldn’t know what to do. They will be helpless because there is this belief that you can’t fight banks. Many have died in the process,” Obidulu stated.

Today, his company that has over 2800 employees remains sealed by a bank that has no right according to him to do that. He alleged that the bank forged some documents with which it deceived the judge into granting it the order to take over his company.

He alleged that the legal process that led to the bank taking over his business was done without his knowledge and shrouded in deception. “I have about 16 conferences that I attend every year all over the world. So, I didn’t know when they went to court because I was away to attend one of those conferences. There was no notice; I didn’t know anything, the next thing was the judgment and enforcement,” he stated.

And how did he involve himself and his business with the bank that led to a court case and the eventual takeover of his company by the bank?

He said he was one of the beneficiaries of the Federal Government’s intervention loans, Small and Medium Enterprises Credit Guarantee Scheme (SMECGS) in 2011. He got a N100 million loan, but according to him, the condition for getting the loan was that one must go through a bank to access it. So, he opened an account with one of the new generation banks, from where he accessed the loan. But, unfortunately, what he thought would boost his business and increase his economic base, turned out to be one of his worst economic decisions. It became a nightmare that has crippled his business for over two years. The bank, according to him, cooked up some figures, and alleged that he owed about N350 million, went to court behind him, procured an order to take over his company and eventually sealed the company.

“As at the time they went to court, I have only touched the Federal Government’s money, not the bank’s money. The offer letter that has not been drawn down was what they used to go to court to tell the court that I owed them. The judge did not look at the drawdown, while looking at the offer letter, and he gave the judgment. Drawdown means you have touched the money. They gave you N100million, you withdraw N80million, and then, you owe N20million. But so far you don’t touch that money, it remains with the bank. So, they used the offer letter and other manipulations to go to court.

“They had no right in the first place to enforce the loan because it is 80 percent guaranteed; it was called an intervention fund. I didn’t take any loan from the bank. I took N100million loan from the Federal Government. The loan was 80 percent guaranteed by the Federal Government, although it was through the bank. The bank has no right to enforce it because the only role they played in that loan was 20 percent. But they were ready to manipulate the account,” he stated.

Having played a fast one on him by the bank, which has now taken over his company, he didn’t know what to do and where to start and in his desperation, he said he initially offered to give the bank N150million so that the company could be opened temporarily. He said he wanted to use that period to study the documents they presented to the court to really understand what actually happened, but the bank demanded for N450million. It was at that point, according to him, that he decided to take the bull by the horn, assembled a team of experts in accounting, auditing and banking, well as legal experts to assist him fight the legal battle that was imminent.

“So, when I came back and saw that the bank had taken over my company, I was confused. I didn’t know when they went to court because I was away to attend a conference outside Nigeria. There was no notice; I didn’t know anything, the next thing was the judgment and enforcement.

“After three months, I called the bank and offered them N150million to enable me open the company and even understand what was happening. They said I should put it in writing and I did but they did not accept it. One boy called me and said I should bring N450million. That was when I knew that they meant to ruin me and my business. I had to arrange a team of lawyers, accountants, auditors and ex-bankers to fight them back.

“But, the first thing they did was to overwhelm my team. My team was compromised and they reported that the bank was wrong to have said I owed them N350millio. They said what I owed was N80million. So, I began to suspect that something was wrong and I used my contact to find out exactly what was happening. I got answers that confirmed my suspicion. So, I disbanded that team and set up a new team of lawyers, accountants, auditors and ex-bankers.

“We set up four accounting around the world, one in Toronto, Canada, one in Holland, another one in Enugu, and the fourth one was in Lagos, because I have a diploma in accounting. After two weeks of painstakingly looking into the books, the account was negative.

“But the good thing is that immediately they took over, thieves allegedly burgled my office and they stole all my documents. So, the account we used was the one they filed in court. I went to court, paid the normal fee and got the Certified True Copy (CTC). That account was what we pulled down and dissected to find out that the bank is supposed to balance me N100million after a year and seven months,” he stated.

He also alleged that the bank, having seen that he was fighting back, involved an old generation bank that had a business dealing with him in the past to join forces to fight him. He said: They also brought in a first generation back to join them to put pressure on me that I owed two banks. The guy from the first generation bank was here several times looking for something to rope me in. “He came here and brought one programme. He said they will give me N50million in Dangote line to pay every 60 days without interest. And I will put that money towards a flower project. I accepted and I decided to patronise him. They disbursed N40million worth of flowers and before they took over my company, we paid N27million, remaining N13million. But they joined the new generation bank to take over the company. They came under N13million to seal the place but when they wrote to me, they said I owed them N155million. But when I dissected the books, I found out that I had overpaid them. So, we are in court with them for fraud.”

Chief Obidulu said he decided to share his experiences with Nigerians because he wants the banks to stop killing the Nigerian economy. “When I talk about economic insurgency; the banks are the head of economic insurgency in Nigeria. The Boko Haram insurgents are in the bush but the main evil of economic insurgency is the banks.

“Immediately I sacked the first team, confusion set into their midst. So, the new team is working well and they have discovered that I have even overpaid both banks. The Holland, Enugu, Toronto and Lagos report came in and all are almost the same. None said I owed; it was balancing. I sent the account to the new generation bank that took over my company and sued them in court. We are now two years in court and they have not raised one paper to challenge it.

“Another game the banks play is that they have judges in their list. The judge gave the order that they should go and sell my company without ascertaining how much I owed. You cannot sell my company because I owe you N1. How can you say they should go and sell; to recover how much? That kind of judgment is what has killed many Nigerian businessmen.

“So, the Appeal Court judgment in October last year said the only money I owe is the FG money. The document they concealed was what the last judgment relied on. The statement in the October judgment said, ‘If the judge had seen that document, he would not have given them that judgment,’ meaning the judgment that empowered them to seal off my company was wrong.”

“The CTC came out around March/April 2022; so which judgment did they enforce in November 2021when they took over my company? That is almost five months after they had taken over the factory. And this has been done to many people who don’t have the capacity I have to crash them down. Many businessmen cannot go through all that I am telling you now; all these technicalities. I have seen a businessman, who said: “My accountant knows his work. The bank said I owe N1billion, and my accountant has reduced it to N500million. The truth is that both the N1billion and N500milion do not exist. But many people do not know. They did it to me and I am able to reverse it, maybe because God wanted to use me to fight them. And they have killed many businessmen using the same means, because an Igbo man believes that the banks are part of the system and you can’t fight them,” he narrated.

He lamented that the company’s 2800 staff all over Nigeria have been thrown into the unemployment market since November 2021 when the bank took over the company. Apart from the employees who work directly with the company, he also lamented that there are scores of people who depend on the by-products of the company to feed their families. “There are people who live on our condemned oil. Some families live on flour bags, broken noodles, salt bags, empty cartons and others. They come and pick them, recycle them or give it to people that recycle, sell and feed their families. I am not talking about the drivers and others. Some live on broken pallets which they sell to carpenters. These are people that have been frustrated. Our uniforms are changed every month and some people live on those rejected ones. They collect them, wash them and sell. For people who wear it on the street, it is okay; but for people who work in food industry, it smells after wearing it for one month; so we dispose them off. Our headgears, mouth guards are all taken by some people, cleaned and resold. So, you can see that the effect of the closure is massive. I am not the only one suffering it and that is why I want the world to know how banks have been killing businesses and businessmen in Nigeria. They are the greatest economic insurgents that we have in Nigeria.

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