First Bank, Nigeria’s Foremost Bank Recants Hours After Refuting Otedola’s Emergence As Biggest Shareholder

Bank issues press statement admitting Otedola’s acquisition of 5.07% shares

Vested interests are intimidated by the billionaire magnate – Pundits

Mountains may heave in a boardroom joust, but a silly little lie will be born – if the joust is done in an arena, like the First Bank of Nigeria (FBN). A recent lie told by the bank got smashed by the anvil of truth, just before it assumed a despicable life of its own.

Few hours after the FBN refuted news of billionaire magnate, Femi Otedola’s acquisition of First Bank shares – which automatically made him the highest shareholder in the new order – Seye Kosoko, the Company Secretary of FBN Holdings, a subsidiary of the First Bank of Nigeria (FBN), issued a rebuttal, stating that the bank wasn’t aware of the development.

Kosoko, following the instructions of his employers, barged into the social space, like a habitual court jester, issuing a hastily conceived rebuttal of the news.

Eventually, the refutation recoiled from the truth like a disharmonious refrain. First Bank lied. And Kosoko, hitherto tasked with the dirty job of issuing the rebuttal was once again, ordered to serve as the bank’s messenger of truth.

In a swift, if curious, follow-up to his initial rebuttal of the news, Kosoko has issued another statement entitled: Notification Of Acquisition Of Substantial Shareholdings In FBN Holdings Plc.

The statement, which was signed by Kosoko, reads: “We refer to our communication to the market dated October 22, 2021, on the above subject wherein we stated that we would inform the public of any substantial acquisition, upon receipt of notification from the Shareholder.

“This morning, October 23, 2021, FBN Holdings Plc received a notification from APT Securities and Funds Limited, that their Client, Mr. Otedola Olufemi Peter, and his nominee, Calvados Global Services Limited have acquired a total of 1,818,551,625 units of shares from the Company’s issued share capital of 35,895,292,791.

“Based on the foregoing, the equity stake of Mr. Otedola Olufemi Peter and his nominee in the Company is now 5.07%.”

The FBN, apparently, has a penchant for appearing on the wrong side of the news.

It would be recalled that had it was recently mired in a takeover crisis stemming from “bad credit decisions, significant to non-performing insider loans and poor corporate governance practices,” according to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Last April, the CBN dismissed a major shareholder of the bank, Oba Otudeko, and the boards of FBN and its holding company, FBN Holdings, in a move that came a day after the bank appointed a new managing director.

The CBN, however, reinstated the former MD, Adesola Adeduntan. Similarly, Ibukun Awosika, until then the chairman of the board, was swept away by the gale.

The recent theatrics of the bank over Otedola’s acquisition of the highest share percentage of the bank, has, however, been attributed to initial jitters felt by vested interests within the bank’s management, who may be wary of Otedola’s intimidating stature.

In the new dispensation, major shareholders like Oba Otudeko, hitherto the chairman of FBN Holdings, and Oye Hassan-Odukale will now play second fiddle to Otedola.

A proven, protean and prolific businessman, Otedola is not alien to taking the road less travelled as far as business is concerned. In 2019, he divested his 75percent direct and indirect shareholding in Forte Oil’s downstream business. Until that decision, which left many stupefied, Forte Oil was his cash cow, the goose that laid the golden eggs.

Over the years, Forte Oil established a presence in the 36 states of Nigeria and Abuja, operating a network of over 500 retail outlets spread across the country and in Ghana, with major fuel storage installations at both Apapa (Lagos State) and Onne (Rivers State). There are also an aviation joint users hydrant in Lagos and joint aviation depots in Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano serving the aviation industry.

With Forte Oil, the successful businessman achieved a different level of prosperity so much that by 2015, he was listed as the 16th richest man in Africa by Forbes. But the adventurous billionaire ostensibly became bored with the oil business as he swiftly moved into the power sector.

In 2013, Forte Oil purchased a controlling stake in the 414 MW GereguPower Plant under a government-led privatisation programme in the power industry. An overhaul of the plant commenced in 2015 and was completed in 2016, increasing the combined capacity to 435MW.

Having taken his Mojo and Midas Touch to the power sector where the cosmos have aligned with his projections by becoming a majordomo in that sector as he did in the oil and gas industry, Otedola has now set his sights on banking. And, who says, he is not going to give the Tony Elumelus, Herbert Wigwes, Segun Agbajes and Jim Ovias a run for their acclaimed banking wizardry?

Source: The Capital 

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