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Corporate Press Releases

HealthPlus crisis: How Mrs. George approached Leo Stan Ekeh

Leo Stan Ekeh has cleared the air on the controversy surrounding the troubled Nigerian healthcare firm, HealthPlus.

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Leo Stan Ekeh
  • Mrs. Bukky George first contacted the Zinox Chairman, Leo Stan Ekeh via SMS on March 31st, 2020 at 4.13am.
  • Ekeh has no investments in HealthPlus or in Alta Semper, its investors.
  • Ekeh knew Alta Semper and the funders of the business, made up of credible individuals, long before he met Mrs. George.
  • Alta Semper had approached Konga for a partnership and possible investment like other multinationals since 2019, ever before Mrs. George approached Ekeh for mentorship and a subsequent loan.
  • Chidi Okoro is a business leader who Ekeh referred to a global foundation long before he met Mrs. George. He had run many successful multinationals across Africa and Ekeh chose to refer him to the foundation who had wanted to appoint a Kenyan for a research on FMCG and Pharma related consultancy. Alta Semper had engaged him for a six months’ transformation exercise of HealthPlus and this was unknown to Ekeh until he read of it.
  • Ekeh’s only advice to Mrs. George when the issue of her tussle with her investors came up was to find a middle ground to save her business and to avoid damaging investor confidence in her great brand – HealthPlus and other Nigerian startups.

 

The Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the Zinox Chairman, Leo Stan Ekeh has cleared the air on the controversy surrounding the troubled Nigerian healthcare firm, HealthPlus and the alleged involvement of Mr. Ekeh, in the company’s crisis with its investors, Alta Semper, a private equity firm.

The clarification was made public in a detailed statement signed by Barrister Reginald Obiakor, Mr. Ekeh’s SSA on Legal Affairs.

Specifically, Ekeh, who disclosed that Mrs. Bukky George, the embattled CEO of HealthPlus, had first reached out to him to mentor her on the 31st of March 2020, revealed that his only offence was advising her to settle her misunderstanding with her investors in order to save her business and to avoid damaging the growing investor confidence in Nigerian startups and nothing more.

‘Mr. Ekeh feels extremely sad that he has to publicly explain his business relationship with Mrs. Bukky George, founder and CEO of HealthPlus and her investors – Alta Semper. She is a respectably married woman, a mother and a sound entrepreneur. But it is critical that we set the records straight for the benefit of posterity. For the records, Mrs. George had first contacted Mr. Ekeh via a text message at 4.13am on the 31st of March 2020, introducing herself and requesting a time to call him.

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‘‘He replied her at 8:45am and asked her to call at 10am. She called and they spoke. She told him how she has followed his very successful digital entrepreneurial story for years and would like him to mentor her. She also requested that he assists her finance her importation of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) with well over $1m and that she could share the profit with him 50/50. But Mr. Ekeh wanted to know a little more about her business before committing funds and she spent about 30 minutes, telling him her life history.

‘‘Impressed by her narration, he had told her she was a miracle child and that God has destined her for greatness. Indeed, Mr. Ekeh was excited to assist her make some funds available to support her business. The Zinox Chairman is well aware of the challenges faced by women entrepreneurs in Africa, how they are marginalized by the system. His mother, wife and two daughters are all entrepreneurs, though successful, but he feels their pain.

‘‘Mrs. George passed across her Chinese contact and Mr. Ekeh forwarded it to his consultant in China. The consultant came back a few hours later to inform that the company Mrs. George was looking to do business with was into agricultural trading and was not worth more than $250,000. Over the next two days, Mr. Ekeh had spent over three hours, speaking to various contacts in Nigeria and the US on her behalf. At the end, he had discovered no PPEs existed. It would have been a disaster. However, owing to the due diligence he carried out, Mrs. George did not lose any money and she thanked him for investigating it.

‘‘A few days later, Mrs. George requested a loan of N2bn to support her business in meeting growing demands during the severe months of the COVID-19 pandemic and promised to pay back. She claimed God sent her to Mr. Ekeh after she failed to secure assistance from some well-known Nigerian Yoruba billionaires (whose names we have decided not to mention at this point). At this stage, he had asked for the configuration of her investors because you cannot extend a loan to a corporate body without a Board resolution. It was at this point that she mentioned her PE investors – Alta Semper and the issues she was having with them.

‘‘The Executive Management of Alta Semper are well known to Mr. Ekeh because they wanted a partnership with Konga after the company announced the launch of Konga Health in June last year. They wanted to plug into Konga’s advanced technology infrastructure, regional warehouse network, digital logistics and CBN-licensed payment system.

‘‘In fact, her investors are at home in Mr. Ekeh’s UK home and he was comfortable with the integrity and quality of the funders of Alta Semper; even as he noted that they had huge resources to fund HealthPlus without relying on bank loans. Consequently, Mr. Ekeh had told Mrs. George it would be difficult for him to extend or guarantee a facility to her, owing to the issues she was having with her investors as he needed to secure his investment. He assured her that her investors as majority shareholders have all resources she needed to turn around the company and he knew them very well but thought their investment was in MedPlus Ltd.

‘‘Immediately after that call, Mr. Ekeh had put a call through to the CEO of Alta Semper to ask why they were not funding HealthPlus. The CEO had poured out their frustrations with Mrs. George, stating that even to secure a meeting, she wouldn’t pick or return their calls and expressed how disappointed they were at the development. She assured Mr. Ekeh that they were willing to invest more money in the business, only if Mrs. George would respect the terms of their engagement, and that they needed more comfort with respect to corporate governance issues, etc. Further, she pleaded with Mr. Ekeh to help intervene since Mrs. George seemed to be close to him and respects him a lot.

‘‘After extracting this commitment from them and speaking with their big boss in Manhattan who is globally known, Mr. Ekeh had spent over a month unsuccessfully trying to convince Mrs. George on why she should find a middle ground with her investors in order to save her business as they were majority shareholders. He had also advised that the current impasse with them has the potential of damaging investor confidence in other Nigerian startups.

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‘‘However, Mrs. George had remained adamant and insisted that she was heading to court.

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‘‘Mr. Ekeh had reminded her that no sensible person who wanted her progress would advise her to fight with her majority investors at the peak of her fortunes. To further make her see reason, Mr. Ekeh had invited Mrs. George to his office in Victoria Island on August 26, 2020 after her family’s COVID-19 challenge. She arrived alone at 11:41am. It is important to state, at this juncture, that this was the first true physical meeting between Mr. Ekeh and Mrs. George. Again, his impression of her at this point was of a brilliant entrepreneur with a lot of positive energy.

‘‘Mr. Ekeh had spent the next three hours, in the company of his wife, Mrs. Chioma Ekeh, pleading with Mrs. George to see reason not to embark on a messy suit with her investors and the need to find an amicable solution that works for both parties. Mr. Ekeh had specifically told her that entrepreneurs in Nigeria are disadvantaged and reeled out a lot of examples to back up his claims in the course of pleading with her. Ekeh had told her that the consequences of a fight with her investors would have a number of detrimental effects on her business including potential withdrawal of suppliers, pressure from bankers to recover any existing facilities and stoppage of future loans as well as loss of trust from the global investor community on her brand and person.”

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Furthermore, he had assured her that God, who had brought her thus far in business, would not desert her, urging her to apply common sense.

In the words of Mr. Ekeh: ‘‘I promised to help her to the best of my ability for her to succeed. I confided in her that Alta Semper had earlier shown an interest in investing in Konga and would like to take advantage of its huge resources to scale at a very low entry cost across Africa and that because of this, I had also considered investing a little sum in their African vehicle. Alta Semper has huge investments in Kenya, Morocco and Egypt and I had advised them to add Ghana because of my interest.

‘‘As her mentor and as a mark of respect, I told Mrs. George that I had asked the management of Konga to suspend further discussions with Alta Semper until they resolved their differences with Mrs. George and HealthPlus. I even went as far as promising some incentives to HealthPlus, all in a bid to discourage her from fighting.’’

‘‘Mr. Ekeh had ended the meeting by urging Mrs. George to see the huge opportunities for her, the business and her family. He had further asked her to pray over the matter and get back to him on her decision. Two days after, she had written Mr. Ekeh to state that she was going ahead with her course of action against her investors.

‘‘Thereafter, Mr. Ekeh had acknowledged her response, even as he further implored her to reconsider her decision for the sake of her business. This was where Mr. Ekeh had left the subject until our attention was drawn to the initial allegations from Mrs. George that Mr. Ekeh was involved in a planned takeover of her business. We had first dismissed this, only to learn that she had written a private letter to former President Olusegun Obasanjo – (a man who, as President, honoured Mr. Ekeh as an Icon of Hope and a pride to modern Nigeria on Nigeria’s Independence Anniversary on October, 1st, 2001) – which she had proceeded to circulate to the press before the former President even saw the letter.

‘‘It is also important to respond to the allegations that Mr. Ekeh had appointed a certain Chidi Okoro to take over HealthPlus. Mr. Okoro, whom Mrs. George refers to, is a first class business leader who is well known in the FMCG and Pharmaceutical sectors to Mr. Ekeh for years. He is a brilliant Nigerian who has managed successful multinationals across Africa. Mr. Ekeh had first referred Mr. Okoro to a global Health Foundation who were looking for a proven hand for a research consultancy in Africa. The Foundation was keen to appoint a Kenyan before they took Mr. Ekeh’s advice and appointed Mr. Okoro for the role. A month later, they had called Mr. Ekeh, expressing satisfaction with the choice of Mr. Okoro and effusively appreciating Mr. Ekeh for the referral. To set the records straight, Mr. Ekeh was not informed or consulted when Alta Semper engaged him on a six months’ consultancy to turn around HealthPlus. He had only heard of it from reports in the media, contrary to the claims by Mrs. George. Mr. Ekeh is certain Mr. Okoro, at his level, will not accept the CEO position of HealthPlus, after leading bigger multinationals.

‘‘In closing, Mr. Ekeh feels highly embarrassed by some of the potentially libelous allegations made by Mrs. George and believes that she has been very unfair to someone who had only meant well for her. He expressly authorizes her to publish for public consumption all emails and WhatsApp communication they had both exchanged.  Also, he pleads with friends and associates to allow Mrs. George the respect and privacy she deserves as he has learned another lesson in his entrepreneurship pursuit. He also advises startups or those looking for investors to respect agreements entered into for global investors to have faith in the Nigerian economy.’’

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Corporate Press Releases

Otunba Subomi Balogun officially hands over Otunba Tunwase National Paediatrics Centre to UI and UCH

Otunba Olasubomi Balogun has formally handed over his Otunba Tunwase National Paediatrics Centre to the University of Ibadan and the UCH.

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The Founder of FCMB Group and notable philanthropist, Otunba Olasubomi Balogun (CON), has formally handed over his Otunba Tunwase National Paediatrics Centre (OTNPC), located at Ijebu Ode, Ogun State, to the management of the University of Ibadan and the University College Hospital (UCH). The gesture is part of his conscious efforts towards ensuring that Nigerians, especially children, have access to world-class healthcare facilities and specialised treatment services. The cost of the hospital is estimated at over N5 billion.

The transfer of the hospital to UI and UCH was preceded by the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which clearly states how the Centre is to be managed by the parties, on October 1, 2020, in Lagos.

The formal hand over ceremony, which took place on January 19, 2021, in the premises of the hospital, was attended by the Group Chief Executive, FCMB Group and Board Chairman, Otunba Tunwase Foundation, Mr. Ladi Balogun; the Group Head, Corporate Affairs of FCMB, Mr. Diran Olojo; the Acting Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, Professor Adebola Ekanola, (who was unavoidably absent), was represented by the Provost of the College of Medicine, Professor Yinka Omigbodun; the Management of University College Hospital, led by its Chief Medical Director, Professor Abiodun Otegbayo; the Interim Transition Management Committee of OTNPC led by the Chairman, Dr. Adeyinka Hassan, as well as other eminent personalities.

In his address, the Group Chief Executive, FCMB Group, Mr. Ladi Balogun, who represented the Founder of FCMB Group, Otunba Olasubomi Balogun, gave an insight to what inspired the business mogul to take up the extraordinary philanthropic project almost 11 years ago.

He recalled that “the inspiration by Otunba Olasubomi Balogun to build this great establishment started when he took over the children’s hospital at the UCH Ibadan, where he was exposed to the true plight of sick children and the high demand for world-class facilities to cater for their needs in a sustainable manner. An interaction with the then Minister of Health, late Professor Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, further propelled Otunba Balogun to do more in terms of the provision of world-class medical facilities. The exposure and interaction later became the brainchild of this N5 billion establishment, credited as a prototype of the Ormond Street Children’s Hospital in London, United Kimgdom.”

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Speaking on the Banking icon’s decision to hand over the control and management of the Centre to UI and UCH, Mr. Balogun disclosed that, “at the end of its construction, some institutions requested to manage the hospital, but Otunba Balogun strongly believes that the University of Ibadan and University College Hospital are in a better position to do that effectively and further raise its status, considering their respective pedigrees.”

He further explained that “following the signing of the MoU last year by all the concerned parties, the resolution is that while the University College Hospital has been mandated to provide clinical services, the University of Ibadan will engage in research and other academic works, while students from UI would also be involved as part of the training”.

Appreciating the gesture, the Chief Medical Director, UCH Ibadan, Professor Otegbayo, said that it is an indisputable fact that the health and welfare of society are critical to the development of any community.

According to him, “We at the UCH are grateful for this opportunity to contribute to the well-being of residents in Ijebu community, Ogun State and Nigeria at large. We promise that as soon as all the legal nuances are sorted out, we shall fully move in and continue with what UCH is known for; unequalled provision of health care services, research and training.”

Commenting further on Otunba Balogun’s continuous generosity, he stressed that, “the UCH is not just witnessing the generosity and benevolence of Otunba Balogun now. Many years ago, he endowed the Otunba Tunwase Children Emergency Ward in UCH and he has been funding the Ward since then. A lot of children have been saved there, while training and research in Paediatrics have been going on unhindered.”

In her remarks, the Provost, College of Medicine, Professor Omigbodun, expressed delight at the official hand over of the hospital to both the university and UCH. She lauded Otunba Balogun for handing over the management of the hospital to the institutions.

According to her, “We are extremely grateful to Otunba Subomi Balogun for this generous contribution to the medical sector. This Centre would certainly contribute immensely to the training and research activities carried out by our academics. It is our hope that other Nigerians who have achieved greatness in their various fields would emulate him.”

Otunba Subomi Balogun is a well-known statesman, entrepreneur and philanthropist with several charitable projects and programmes for the people of his hometown of Ijebu-Ode, as well as many other parts of Nigeria. His philanthropy ranges from the provision of this world-class medical facility to education, capacity building, youth empowerment and other socio-economic initiatives, aimed at enhancing the development of humanity and society in general.

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FITC wins BIZZ, IBX Global Awards for Business Excellence, Strategic Leadership

FITC was announced the winner of the two global awards in an elaborate virtual ceremony held in Doha, Qatar and Houston Texas respectively.

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Financial Institutions Training Centre (FITC)

FITC, the world-class, innovation-led, technology-driven, knowledge and professional services institute has emerged winner of the 2020 Business Excellence Award (The BIZZ Awards) and the Strategy, Change, and Transformation Award (The IBX Awards).

FITC, which provides cutting edge Learning, Advisory and Research Services to organizations within the Financial Services and other sectors, was announced winner of the two global awards in an elaborate virtual ceremony held in Doha, Qatar and Houston Texas respectively.

The Nigeria’s premier knowledge institute, FITC, won the Gold category in The BIZZ awards and Silver category in Strategy, Change and Transformation in the International Business Excellence, IBX Awards in recognition of its phenomenal initiatives that have led to innovative and exceptional transformation within the organization.

Also presented with an award was the Managing Director and CEO, FITC, Chizor Malize, who won the IBX 2020 Award for “Inspirational Leader”. The award was in recognition of the innovative, dynamic and game changing work at FITC in 2020 at the height of the global pandemic resulting in the extraordinary organization wide transformation at FITC and positive impact on the Nigerian financial services sector, FITC’s primary focus area.

Other IBX 2020 Award winners include Microsoft and Virgin Mobile.

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The International Business Excellence (IBX) Awards is part of a global business movement, giving organizations the chance to meet and compete with others from all over the world. Over the last twelve years, IBX Awards have been leading the way in recognising inspirational business practices, holding over 100 events and hosting more than 2000 companies.

Organized by Awards International, the IBX Awards recognises long-term sustainable profitability achieved through the practice of excellence, which occurs across a broad range of disciplines and defines the modern business agenda.

The BIZZ Awards gathers and recognizes leading businesses from different regions that contribute to the daily growth of their local economy and the world economy. THE BIZZ was created by World Confederation of Businesses (WORLDCOB), to offer to the global business community a range of benefits that further their development.

WORLDCOB was founded in 2004 in Houston, Texas, in the United States of America. Its primary mission is to promote business development worldwide, recognizing and boosting the growth of leading businesses and businesspeople in every country through the special tools and services that it offers its members. The organization has approximately 3,500 members representing over 130 countries.

Considered to be the most important business excellence award in the world, The BIZZ Awards is organized and given out to the most outstanding companies and businesspeople in each participating country. The award which targets small, medium and large enterprises was created to recognize businesses with practices worthy of recognition who end up being examples for other businesses to follow in their communities and internationally.

Speaking on the awards, Malize, said the organization would keep going beyond the ordinary in its effort to delivering innovative knowledge solutions to its clients in the Financial Services and other sectors.

“For 40 years, FITC has been an innovator, enabling people and organizations to excel and it was in line with our vision to build a world class innovation-led and technology-driven organization that we defined our six success pillars which are programmes, process, platforms, people, positioning and performance.

“We took deliberate and strategic steps by making significant changes across these key drivers of the positive transformation experienced today by our stakeholders, and which has also culminated to these awards and recognitions being given to our organization today. We are extremely delighted by these awards and we remain committed to helping our clients in the Financial Services and other sectors navigate and advance their careers, while building on our member firms’ successes through our clear vision, strong corporate values, and our culture of excellence,” Malize said.

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Established in 1981 as a non-profit organisation limited by guarantee to provide capacity building and serve as a knowledge hub for the Nigerian Financial Services Sector, FITC is owned by the Bankers Committee, Central Bank of Nigeria, Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) and all deposit money banks in Nigeria.

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Over the years, FITC has demonstrated delivery of best-in-class services using a large pool of multidisciplinary and versatile professionals, who provide business support to its numerous clients within the public and private sectors, most notably within the financial services sectors and public sector of Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa.

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Sahara Group celebrates 25 years of global expansion, operational efficiency

Sahara plans to mark its 25th anniversary with several events and activities all through 2021 with the theme, “Harnessing Safe energy today.”

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Executive Director, Sahara Group, Temitope Shonubi has said the energy conglomerate’s impressive growth trajectory since 1996 has been driven by knowledge, business integrity, humility, diverse people and robust global network.

“These past 25 years, knowledge has been the empowering tool for Sahara, business integrity our greatest asset, humility our utmost ethos, diverse people and network our greatest value,” he asserted while unveiling Sahara’s 25th anniversary logo and the Group’s plan for the future.

Shonubi said Sahara had since disrupted previously held notions that put looking to Africa for the implementation of global energy solutions beyond imagination. According to him, since its inception, Sahara has deployed “transformational energy initiatives” to become a conglomerate with a proud African heritage and vast operations in Africa, Asia, Europe and Middle East Asia.

“Today, the narrative is rapidly changing with Sahara at the vanguard of the transformational story from Africa to the world. Founded in 1996 with an initial focus on Oil trading, Sahara Group is widely regarded as a leading energy conglomerate renowned for championing capacity building and promoting the ‘best in Africa for Africa’ to the world narrative globally,” he affirmed.

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Shonubi said Sahara would increase its investment in technology, artificial intelligence, and human capital transformation as critical drivers of its next expansion phase, adding that innovation will define Sahara’s brand positioning and offering In the coming years.

“For us at Sahara, it has been 25 years of instituting a stamp of distinction. Like most start-ups, we were chasers then followers, and today are the dream actualized corporation. It is much more expensive and difficult to be a trailblazer, defying the impossible to emerge as an enterprise that creates value innovatively, responsibly, and sustainably. Still, at Sahara we are focused on remarkable growth and grateful for the opportunity to serve and bring energy to life across global markets.”

Sahara plans to mark its 25th anniversary with several events and activities all through 2021 with the theme, “Harnessing Safe energy today.” Emphasis will be on promoting the “capacity to do and achieve positive and sustainable transformation” in the energy sector.

An analysis of Sahara’s operational model shows that creating a sustainable economic, social, and governance impact has remained central to Sahara’s corporate strategy. The conglomerate has grown its operations to achieve annual revenues in excess of $10 billion, with over 4000 employees and operations in over 40 countries. “Sahara’s focus is on continuous improvement, operational efficiency, and sustainability. We plan to deploy best-in-class Terminal Automation System (TAS) for efficient terminal operations in the oil & gas sector, Plant Data Visualization System (PDVS) for enhanced remote monitoring of plant operations, Customer Energy Management (CEM), and GIS-based Network Monitoring System (GNMS) for customer-centric power distribution & data management services,” said Shonubi.

The Group considers the activities of the Sahara Foundation as one of its most cherished accomplishments. Following its initial partnership with the Carter Centre to eradicate guinea worm disease in Nigeria, Sahara Foundation has over the years, emerged as a global promoter of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with over 2,000,000 (two million) beneficiaries across its locations through interventions in Health, Education, Capacity Building, and lately, Extrapreneurship – a concept that promotes opportunities for social innovators and entrepreneurs.

In 2015, the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), through the Sustainable Development Goals Fund (SDG-F) established the Private Sector Advisory Group (PSAG) as a pivotal platform for business leaders opportunity to contribute to extraordinary social impact and cultivate partnerships of tremendous transformative capacity. From an initial list of 100 shortlisted global multinational companies, the United Nations SDG-F selected 13 companies and inaugurated them in Madrid. Within the African continent, Sahara Group was one of the only two companies that made the final selection.

In line with its commitment to supporting growing global demand for safe and clean energy and the shift towards a lower carbon footprint, Sahara and the UNDP in 2019 entered into a partnership to promote access to clean and affordable energy in Africa, with a target of providing access to clean and affordable energy to over 650 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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“Sahara Group remains passionate about green energy and environmental conservation. Our Green Life project, aimed at driving energy and ecological conservation initiatives across our business operations and partnerships, saw the Group pioneer the commencement of an electronic billing system (e-billing) at Ikeja Electric Plc, the Group’s power distribution arm to promote environmental conservation in the energy sector,” Shonubi said.

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To reinforce its commitment to clean energy initiatives, Sahara Group also initiated the use of electric buggies and bicycles at its Egbin Power, Africa’s largest privately-owned Power Plant, with plans to replicate same at other operational facilities across the Group.

Shonubi said Sahara’s zero-waste approach to promoting operational efficiency and commitment to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic has seen Egbin Power Plc invest in an oxygen bottling facility on the plant to harness the oxygen generated as a by-product of the plant cooling mechanism. Egbin Power supplies oxygen, a key ingredient in the fight for life in the ICU, freely to medical facilities in Lagos State and the FCT, Abuja Nigeria, through Fortitude Children’s home, the largest orphanage in Nigeria.

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Sahara’s Covid-19 interventions also include donation of personal protective equipment (PPE), driving Covid-19 awareness and education in sub-Saharan Africa through educational literature in indigenous languages across various countries and leading the delivery of the 300-bed Thisday Dome Isolation and Treatment Centre and donation of medical equipment, including fully equipped world-class Intensive Care Units, to the centre and other medical facilities across Nigeria.

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