Wednesday, August 26, 2009

ICT firms fault CBN on bank debts

Following the recent publicized list of bank debtors by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), some of the affected companies within the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector have insisted that the apex bank erred.

Those who reacted to the CBN’s list of debtors included Reliance Telecommunications Limited, trading as ZOOMmobile, Mobitel Limited and Omatek Computers Plc.

They were of the consensus that CBN committed major blunder by not taking time to verify the state of consumers’ accounts before publicizing the list.

According to some of the respondents, CBN needed to conduct a proper homework before that exposure, which has since ignited a lot of knocks from all sectors of the economy.

Already, CBN has acknowledged that there were some typographical errors in the publication.

ITRealms Online gathered that most of the affected ICT companies, for instance, claimed that whatever they were owing their respective banks was not a bad debt, just as others maintained that the figure given by CBN was not a true state of things, yet others said they have since cleared the debts in question and were surprised that the report reflected otherwise from the apex bank.

A fortnight ago, CBN Governor, Mr. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi had sacked the managing directors and chief executive officers of five banks along with their executive directors.

Those affected included Messrs Erastus Akingbola, Sebastine Adigwe, Okey Nwosu and Barth Ebong as well as Mrs. Cecilia Ibru of Intercontinental Bank Plc, AfriBank Plc, Finbank Plc, Union Bank Plc and Oceanic Bank Plc in that order.

However, replacements were immediately announced by Sanusi, namely John Aboh for Oceanic Bank Plc, Mahmud Alabi for Intercontinental Bank, Nebolisa Arah for Afribank, Ms Suzanne Iroche for Finbank, whereas Ms Funke Osibodu captured Union Bank Plc.

Also, ITRealms Online recalled that an estimated 28,023,079,047.08 billion was purportedly identified as debt owed Nigerian banks by Information and Communication Technology (ICT) entities in the country.

As stated by Central Bank of Nigeria, NITEL CDMA Project Account owed 3,593,779,589.40; Mobitel Limited - 1,380,781,422.64; Omatek Computers Limited – 1,649,380,634.77; MTS First Wireless Limited – 9,849,331,689; Communications Trends Limited – 1,127,361,164; Minaj Holdings Ltd – 1,634,717,063; NITEL – 7,829,277,000; Reliance Telecommunications Ltd – 800,896,080.76; Intercellular Nigeria Plc – 157,554,403.51, to name a few.

Responding to the CBN inclusion of his firm in the debtors list, the Group Managing Director (GMD), Reliance Telecommunications Limited, Mr. Tony Okonkwo, last weekend, said that the figure was not correct as the telecom operator is aware of only N307 million, which has even been structured for payment since August last year and has never defaulted.

He wondered why his firm should be listed or the loan classified as non-performing loan when there is an on-going understanding for repayment of the exact amount.

“We have never defaulted and so we cannot understand why it was classified as nonperforming when there is an understanding and as a responsible organisation we meet our corporate commitment with the bank,” he declared.

Equally reacting, Mobitel Nigeria, stated that its listing on the debt roll of the recent special report publication by Central Bank of Nigeria is shocking.

Chief Executive Officer, Mobitel Nigeria, Mr. Johnson Salako, expressed disbelief on the claims that Mobitel owed Intercontinental Bank, saying "With reference to Mobitel owing Intercontinental Bank, nothing could be further from the truth. The amount owed to Intercontinental Bank was N1.380 billion. After negotiation, a full and final payment of N1.0 billion was made on August 8, 2008," he asserted.

This, he insisted was duly acknowledged by a letter dated same day from Intercontinental Bank’s loan recovery unit.

Salako reiterated that all outstanding commitments to creditors, suppliers and staff had been fully settled during the acquisition process.

"We want to state categorically that we have fulfilled all our obligations with respect to outstanding payments to creditors, suppliers and staff during the acquisition process with signed documents of release obtained from each party. This settlement cost nearly N3.4 billion and was considered a wise and necessary investment needed to reposition the company for unencumbered future growth," he said.

And for the Group Managing Director of Omatek, Mrs. Florence Seriki, though expressed shock over the CBN publication, she promised to respond officially.

But as at the time of going to the press, ITRealms Online was yet to get Omatek response.

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