The management of Zinox Technologies, Nigeria’s leading integrated Information and Communications Technology (ICT) company, has debunked allegations of its Chairman, Leo Stan Ekeh, being indicted by the Nigerian Police.
This was contained in a detailed statement released to the media on Tuesday, December 22, 2020.
‘‘Firstly, Zinox Technologies makes bold to state categorically that neither its Chairman, Ekeh, nor any of its staff or the staff of Technology Distributions Limited, including Chris Eze Ozims, Shade Oyebode, Charles Adigwe and Mrs. Chioma Ekeh, were indicted by any investigative agency or facing any criminal trial in any court in Nigeria. Anyone with contrary position should please make it public. The crux of the matter is that Benjamin Joseph and his partner Princess Kama had domiciled an FIRS computer supplies transaction worth N170m funded by Technology Distributions Ltd., the biggest HP authorised distributors (and not Zinox Technologies), with a promise to pay immediately they received payment from the FIRS, with additional guarantee from Princess Kama’s uncle, Chief Onny Igbokwe as Citadel Oracle Concepts Ltd was not qualified to enjoy credit from Technology Distributions. When FIRS paid, Mr. Benjamin Joseph tried to divert the fund but his partner, Princess Kama refused and paid Technology Distributions the pre-agreed invoice sum of the laptops supplied on credit. Mr. Joseph took offence and started writing all sort of fake petitions. We are aware that Mr. Joseph has kept petitioning every Police station he comes across to invite Mr. Ekeh over a matter that he (Joseph) is currently standing a criminal trial for.’’
Zinox, which disclosed that the allegations were being propelled by some news media, especially Premium Times, allegedly at the instigation of Mr. Joseph of Citadel Oracle Concepts Limited, urged members of the public to pay no heed to the unsubstantiated claims, which it refuted in details.
‘‘Knowing the consequence of the intended mischief set out by these nefarious media, the management of Zinox deems it expedient to set the records straight with information and facts that can be independently verified by anyone. Indeed, we would not have paid any attention to the latest piece of sponsored fake news from Premium Times, were it not for the essential need to ensure that right-thinking Nigerians are not misled by the antics of an unscrupulous group of people who are bent on tarnishing the hard-earned reputation of Mr. Ekeh.’’
Further, the statement revealed that Mr. Joseph is currently facing a criminal trial on the same allegations he claims the Zinox Chairman was indicted for, thereby rendering his claims incredulous and without substance.
‘‘Joseph had lodged a complaint with the Nigerian Police Special Fraud Unit (SFU), Ikoyi, Lagos, claiming that his board resolution and other corporate documents were forged to execute the FIRS contract of about N170million. However, the SFU in their investigation did not only find out that he indeed authorized the contract by giving a letter of authority to his staff, Princess Kama, and who along with Chief Igbokwe, executed the contract, but that the board resolutions and other documents were indeed signed by him. This follows a forensic report dated 12th March 2014, by the Commissioner of Police (Forensic Science Lab) D’ Dept (Force CID) Nigeria Police with reference no. AR:4150/X/FCD/Vol.4/11.
‘‘It was on the basis of the findings above that the said documents were not forged and that the laptops, in question, were indeed supplied to the FIRS, that the then-Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase charged Benjamin Joseph for false information in Charge No. CR/216/2016 (Inspector General of Police vs. Benjamin Joseph) on the same set of facts/allegations which he now claims Mr. Ekeh was indicted for. How can Mr. Ekeh be indicted by the Police in 2015 when the same Benjamin Joseph is currently being tried by the same Police for false information before Honourable Justice Peter Kekemeke of the FCT High Court Abuja for same allegations?
‘‘It is instructive to note that the Attorney-General of the Federation through the Federal Director of Public Prosecutions had twice given legal advice to the Inspector of General of Police to prosecute the said Benjamin Joseph to a logical conclusion for giving false information. The legal advice was dispatched in two letters dated 10th February 2017 (ref no. DPPA/PET/397/16) and 7th May 2018 (ref. no. DPPA/ADV:1009/14). Consequently, the Inspector General of Police had acted on the legal advice vide a letter dated 16th February 2017 (ref. no. CB:3560/IGP.SEC/ABJ/Vol88/560) to the COP (Legal Dept, Force headquarters) to implement the legal directive of the Attorney General of the Federation.
‘‘It is, therefore, mischievous and deceitful for anyone to report that the Chairman of Zinox or its staff were indicted in 2015 by a report by one Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP). We state here that we are reading about the so-called 2015 report for the first time through the news media. The staff of Zinox or Technology Distributions were neither invited by the said ACP nor were they made to write any statements. Otherwise, let them produce any statements that were made to the so-called Police Investigation Board. How can you conduct an ‘investigation’ and make a report indicting certain individuals without hearing from them on their own side of the story? How can the so-called report of an ACP in 2015 override the subsequent unequivocal legal advice of the Attorney General of the Federal and the Inspector General of Police?’’
In addition, Zinox accused Premium Times of bias, even as it disclosed that the medium is currently being sued for defamation before an Abuja High Court.
‘‘It is also instructive to note that the said Benjamin Joseph had petitioned the Vice President of Nigeria on the same allegation, of which the EFCC was mandated to investigate. At the end of the investigations, the EFCC absolved Technology Distributions Limited and its staff. The EFCC rather charged the staff/representatives of Citadel Oracle Concept Limited (due to their own internal issues) in Charge no. CR/244/2018. None of the staff of Zinox or Technology Distributions were charged. The case is before Honourable Justice Senchi of the FCT High Court, Abuja, and can be verified independently.
‘‘All the documents above have been tendered in evidence in the ongoing criminal charge against Benjamin Joseph in the said Charge no. CR/216/2016, and can be verified by anyone. These facts and information are well known to Premium Times but they would rather hide them from their reportage. Of course, the biased and mischievous reporting stems from the fact that Zinox Technologies took out a N2billion libel case against them at the FCT High Court, Abuja, over these fake publications. Hence, it is important for the reading public to understand that Premium Times writes from the perspective of a disgruntled and aggrieved medium, due to the case Zinox has against them.
‘‘Also, neither Zinox or Mr. Ekeh has transacted any business with Mr. Joseph. He had been unqualified to enjoy credit from Technology Distributions Limited, another company affiliated with Mr. Ekeh and when he was aided by his business partner who approached TD Africa on his behalf, he had attempted to criminally corner the proceeds without paying for the items supplied on credit. Failure to achieve this aim had seen him turn around to claim that the items were not supplied to the FIRS and later, that he was not aware of the contract and that his signature was forged to execute the contract. He has since resorted to relying on some of our competitors who are funding him to continue his campaign of calumny against Zinox and Mr. Ekeh.
‘‘We make bold to say that Mr. Ekeh is a globally respected corporate citizen who has been in business for over 35 years with local and internationally reputed partners and without a single shred of scandal, fraud or underhand practices to his name.
‘‘Once again, we urge all Nigerians, our partners and other well-meaning people to ignore his antics, even as we await the speedy dispensation of justice in the suit involving him (Joseph) and Premium Times before the courts,’’ the statement concluded.
Capitalism must be balanced with social impact – Niyi Adenubi
Niyi Adenubi, Executive Director at VFD Group chats about investments, capitalism and much more.
The Executive Director, Institutional Business and Investor Relations, at VFD Group, Niyi Adenubi recently sat for a chat with Chinasa Ken-Ugwuh on her radio show called Social Conscious with ‘Nasa hosted on Africa Business Radio.
The focus was on the 21st-century capitalists’ dilemma: Social Impact or Profitable Value Creation. The conversation also featured ex-Diamond Bank GMD and Chief Sparkler at Sparkle, Uzoma Dozie.
As today’s corporate executives build and the world changes more and more, it has become apparent that the capitalism as practiced from eons may not be suitable for the yonder. “You have to balance economic prosperity and social development to take all stakeholders into consideration,” Niyi says.
Who are the most critical stakeholders in your view – are they the customers and employees?
I think customers and employees are critical stakeholders. I totally agree. The most critical stakeholders are your customers because customers are directly correlated with your profitability. If you cannot serve your customers right, they will go somewhere else, and you will be losing money. They are always the number one. But a very close second in our company, is our employees. And it is very important especially now that we are hiring young people. We have graduate trainees’ programmes. These people come to us straight from university. Millennials and Generation Z are very different in terms of their aspirations. So, it is very important for us to start building our own culture in our company to manage them so that they can be optimal. We also have a minimum pay structure – one that ensures that everyone that works in VFD earns a certain minimum. This is very important. Of course, our regulator is quite important too and on the last, but not least are our capital providers – bankers, equity providers and shareholders – they are very important too.
How is VFD reacting to investors’ expectations on capitalism?
I think the investors are ready for this change. COVID has accelerated the pace for most people. The days of running a business primarily and solely for shareholders are gone. I think even employees demand that we are socially conscious. When we started our ESG program at the company, it was to make our internal stakeholders happy and we have been pushing for this for a long time. Ever since we became quite successful, we have been able to give back and that has encouraged our staff to give more in some of the things we do. On the social and governance side I think we have done quite a lot in our organization.
Do you believe in stakeholders’ capitalism over shareholders capitalism? Do you agree with the idea?
I sincerely believe in it. About six or seven years ago, I read this book by a French economist, Thomas Piketty, called ‘’Capitalism in the 21st century.’’ It was basically the summary of what is now trending and which the world is going through. We see more poverty, more famine, more climate change dislocating more farmers, more inequality in the world. For me, that was a wake-up call personally. It suggested that the world was returning to an age where the middle class is being eradicated.
I just picture a world where, for example, Nigeria, where the inequality is just so wide, that there will be security issues as we have now. At VFD Group we are very conscious to educate our shareholders of the importance of all stakeholders’ management; for example, the environment in which we are operating must benefit directly from what we are doing. Our staff must be directly beneficial both from the point of salary and profit-sharing and from the general standard of living. We will not squeeze ourselves just to maximize or earn an extra dollar. All those things are very important to me since I came to that actualization six or seven years ago, I have tried to incorporate them in the policies that shape the Group’s ESG and CSR policies.
At the point when you started to think like this, was there any resistance and how did you try to persuade them?
Yes, I think there is always resistance to change. But in my situation, there was none. It was quite logical.
Just look at the calculation that we did. On the return on capital, we always exceed the growth rate of the economy which means that richer people will go in a certain direction and if you don’t incorporate the right policy you will be squeezing the middle and getting more people poorer. So, it was not that hard to do and even on the investors’ relations side, even our local investors are aligning to the ideas. So, it has not been that difficult and with COVID we have pushed more in that direction.
Most corporate leaders are moving into philanthropism these days. Do you think that there is capitalism agenda behind this CSR?
I think there is a way that the world works and until we find a better way, we just have to use it. So, I completely understand what you are saying.
If I give money to a cause just because I want something back in return and if that is the motivation for me to do well and make that cause to happen, that will be my legacy. It is not bad. I particularly like the kind of philanthropy that is done in America. Americans give more money than anybody in the world. They also make more money than any body in the world. When they build a new hospital or when they build a new library or research center in a university, they want it name after them or stuff like that.
What is your view on socialism?
I do agree that this is the period we should wear our socialism tag. At the height of the lockdown, it was very obvious that in a place like Nigeria where there are no social safety nets, asking people to stay at home while they are can’t feed, and their children are crying and dying, will make them become aggressive. And I believed the fallout of the #ENDSARS protests was as a result of that. We need to have a more balanced approach in handling problems. For me, I believe that more Nigerians are dying of hunger than are dying of COVID-19.
On CACOVID’s Covid-19 interventions
I think the identification project is a very crucial one. The BVN project was a big one too. Once we get identification right in the country, that should solve a lot of our infrastructural problems in terms of identifying people to give them the palliatives or to send money to their accounts and to avert all those other disasters that happened to CACOVID. The uproar surrounding CACOVID could have been avoided if we had a way of identifying ourselves.
Do you find that your value, vision, and mission at VFD addresses all the stakeholders?
At VFD Group, our mission statement says in part about building a socially conscious ecosystem from the environment that we are operating. It is top priority for us as I said.
Our stakeholders are quite excited about it. Our customers are quite excited about it; our employees are quite excited about it and our shareholders are excited about it. It has always been a very conscious and deliberate thing for us.
One part of it is to have this statement, how does it translate into the culture?
We have these recurring strategy sessions where we set goals for the organization. We are a goal-setting organization. Every year, we ask what we want to achieve that will be in line and in tune with our mission statement. We list them and through the course of the year, we evaluate for execution. We carry everybody along that helps us.
How else are you able to demonstrate this value apart from goal setting?
Our values are innovation, integrity, teamwork, and newly empathy. I would like to talk specifically on empathy. We had a strategy session in 2018 or thereabout to prepare for the new year and empathy generated a lot of debate in the organization amongst everybody.
The whole idea when we were pushing for empathy as a value is that it should drive our business. The key thing is if you can put yourself in the shoe of the other person either customers or another colleague or your regulator or your auditor and understand where they are coming, from there is less friction and it solves the problem. Our work is about providing solution.
If a customer calls and you answer the phone and maybe cannot solve the problems at that point because you don’t work directly in that business. For example, a customer calls for something with V Bank and the person that answers the call works with the Asset Management subsidiary, it is expected that you attempt to solve the problem before transferring in a professional way. Empathy does not mean that you are soft or vulnerable.
London Stock Exchange welcomes Ecobank Nigeria’s US$300million Senior Bond Issuance
Ecobank Nigeria opened the market at London Stock Exchange to mark the listing of its 5-year fixed-rate senior unsecured US$300 million bond.
Ecobank Nigeria on Thursday opened the market at London Stock Exchange via a virtual ceremony to mark the listing of its five-year fixed rate senior unsecured US$300 million bond.
Ecobank Nigeria, a subsidiary of Ecobank Transnational Incorporated, the parent company of the Ecobank Group, provides the full suite of banking products, services and solutions through multiple channels to retail, commercial, corporate and public sector customers.
The bond carries a coupon rate of 7.125%, significantly below its Initial Price Thoughts of 7.75%. The successful launch was three times oversubscribed and is the lowest coupon/yield by a Nigerian financial institution for a benchmark bond transaction since 2013. It has an Issuer Rating of B- from Fitch Rating Agency and S & P. Citi, Mashreq, Renaissance Capital and Standard Chartered Bank acted as Joint Lead Managers and Bookrunners.
The proceeds will provide medium-term funding and help to enhance the capacity of the Bank to support international trade and service across Africa.
Patrick Akinwuntan, Managing Director, Ecobank Nigeria, said, “The strong demand for our bond shows the international appetite for the Ecobank franchise in Nigeria, its unique positioning for facilitating pan-Africa trade and the attractive opportunity for the many investors seeking to back world-class Nigerian corporates.”
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