Sunday, 28 September 2014

Arisekola-Alao Allegedly Sold-Off First Bank Months Before His Death


There is a saying that “a house that is divided against itself will not stand”, it is just hoped that the scheming by the Directors of Nigeria’s oldest bank; The First Bank of Nigeria Plc on who is going to succeed the current Managing Director of the bank whose tenure will soon end, will not reduce the efficiency in the bank’s service delivery to its numerous customers. The bank that has over the years produced the highest number of Governors of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the country’s apex bank, will do well not to allow the decision on who will succeed the bank’s current boss derail things in the bank.

Abdulazeez Arisekola-Alao

Sources revealed that the crisis can be traced to sometimes last year when the bank’s stock suddenly became very available in the stock market.  It was alleged that the transaction which sees to it that shares belonging to a certain individuals are the ones that are more likely to change hands. Before now it is an open secret that the CEO of Honeywell Group, Mr Oba Otudeko has been controlling the largest share of the bank However, sources revealed that billionaire Otudeko is actually holding sway for Aare Musulumi of Yoruba land Alhaji Abulazeez Arisekola-Alao, who died after a life well spent some months back.
Bisi Onasanya

Unconfirmed sources revealed that; Arisekola-Alao, who had been battling with cancer a known terminal disease for some years before the tumour eventually took his life, then decided to let go of his interest in the bank knowing that in case of his death, the principled and upright Otudeko will hand over his interest in the bank over to his family who may not be able to manage his interest in the bank well. This may subsequently force the bank into serious financial crisis. This we gathered was responsible for the decision to sell off his huge shares in the bank.

A stock market’s source however revealed that despite that Mr Otudeko can conveniently acquire the shares that would make him retain the largest share in the bank, he opted to allow others the chance. Furthermore, this is where the former Governor of Lagos State Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, was said to have stepped in. Tinubu, who has over the years known for his shrewdness when it comes to grabbing opportunity was said to have invested heavily in the shares. This invariably put him in the role of Arisekola-Alao. Known for his love to be the unseen hand behind the scene as evident in his other businesses, he was said to have also enter into agreement with another person that will be the face of the deal while he will be running things from the underground.

His choice of who to represent him, this time around could not be ascertained as some believed he ceded the power back to Oba Otudeko, who has been running it well all these while. Others argued that he will be bringing another person in time to take over from Mr Otudeko. At first the rationale behind the taking-over was shrouded but sources revealed that the hand writing is clear, linking his involvement in the reason Mr Tokunboh Abiru, a known loyalist of Tinubu who was also the Commissioner of Finance under Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola, resigned his appointment to re-join the bank as an Executive Director of First Bank of Nigeria Plc and a Board member of FBN Holdings Plc.

The timing of return of Tokunboh Abiru who had worked with the bank previously as Group Head Corporate Banking and Business Development Manager and in other capacity before his appointment as commissioner in Lagos State and the position he is to occupy further raised eye-brows on the information that Tinubu may be having a role to play in the place of things. It is to note that the decision to appoint him a Board member of FBN Holdings Plc, which is the parent company of the First Bank Nigeria Limited, must have something to do with him representing the interest of an investor that has invested heavily in the group. This is because those on the board in non-executive capacity are mostly those with very huge shares in the company or those representing those with huge investment in the group shares.

This is a brief overview of the holdings to further shed more light on how it operates. FBN Holdings (Hold Co) is the non-operating holding company of the First Bank Group. The business groups within Hold Co offer a broad range of products and services. These includes including commercial banking, investment banking and asset management, insurance and other financial services to millions of customers, with the bulk of the business in Nigeria.

Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu
Tokunbo Abiru

FBN Holdings has many subsidiary among which is the First Bank of Nigeria PLC that is the Hold Co’s principal bank subsidiary. Also on the list are FBN Capital: a leading investment banking and asset management company, FBN Insurance: a life insurance business until March 2014, now a composite insurance company; FBN Insurance Brokers and FBN Microfinance Bank: which offers microfinance services. In addition, the Hold Co’s 2013 Annual Report shows clearly that the position of member of the FBN Holdings Board of Directors is reserved only for shareholder or those representing them.

The 2013 Annual Report shows the direct and the indirect interests of members of the Board of Directors of the Hold Co per share as follows;

Dr. Oba Otudeko

Dr Oba Otudeko (CFR), Group Chairman, Direct Holdings - 5,359,331 and Indirect Holdings - 447,805,761;
Bello Maccido, Group Chief Executive Officer, Direct Holdings - 2,388,155 and Indirect Holdings - Nil;
Abdullahi Mahmoud, Non-Executive Director, Direct Holdings - 50,870 and Indirect Holdings - Nil;  
Oye Hassan-Odukale, (MFR) Non-Executive Director, Direct Holdings - 1,685,458 and Indirect Holdings - 43,428,798;
Lt. General Garba Duba, rtd, Non-Executive Director, Direct Holdings - 14,940,903 and Indirect Holdings - Nil;  
Bisi Onasanya, Non-Executive Director, Direct Holdings - 7,518,059 and Indirect Holdings - Nil;
Chidi Anya, Independent Director, Direct Holdings - Nil and Indirect Holdings - 47,426.

The report shows clearly that it will be near impossible to be member of the Board of Directors FBN Holdings except the person is having tangible shares. Meanwhile the only member of the board that is not mentioned above is Mr. Tijjani Borodo, who is the Company Secretary. All this further confirmed the story that Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu may have acquired a huge interest in the bank which Mr Tokunboh Abiru returned to fill. Also the source revealed that it is not going down too well with some of the senior management staff of the bank who are of the impression that he should not be placed above them which positioned him to take over from Onasanya after his retirement.

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