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First Bank staff diverts ₦40 billion

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Last Updated on June 1, 2024 by Fellow Press

First Bank, a Nigerian bank with a market capitalisation of ₦829 billion has begun legal action to recover “huge sums of money” allegedly diverted by an employee at a head office team in Iganmu, Lagos. The employee, now on the run, allegedly diverted those funds to 98 bank accounts classified as first beneficiaries, including his wife’s.

The bank reported the incident to the Nigerian Police Force on March 25, 2024, and obtained three court orders between April 4–8, 2024 to block hundreds of bank accounts believed to have received the stolen funds.

Three people with direct knowledge of the incident told TechCabal that while the initial amount discovered to be diverted was around ₦12 billion, it now stands at around ₦40 billion ($29 million).

As a manager on the electronic products team at First Bank, the employee, identified by court documents as Tijani Muiz Adeyinka was authorised to process reversals for customers, said one First Bank employee with knowledge of the matter. It meant he controlled an account with which he processed those reversals and could credit merchant accounts.

Muiz allegedly used that authority to instead credit customer reversal requests to a merchant he controlled. As the last line of authorisation on the team, he allegedly did not need any further approvals, it allowed him to carry on diverting customer funds for almost two years without detection.

His scheme was eventually discovered when a customer made a complaint that was eventually escalated to the bank’s internal control unit. The control unit discovered several suspicious transactions and reported to the police.

“We hereby bring to your notice the discovery of fraudulent transactions into various transactions within and outside the bank and request your good offices to set up the machinery of investigation in place with a view to unravel the circumstances surrounding the said fraud and get the culprits apprehending to face the wrath of the law,” read a letter dated May 10, 2024, from First bank to the Lagos State Commissioner of Police.

First Bank did not respond to multiple calls and emails from TechCabal requesting comments.

A spokesperson for The Nigerian Police Force did not immediately respond to a request for comments. The spokesperson Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) did not respond to a request for comments.

“I discovered that one Muiz Tijani Adeyinka, a former staff of First Bank was involved in the nefarious posting of fraudulent transactions,” read a statement from the investigating Police officer in charge of the case signed March 26, 2024.

“It was discovered that he made some fraudulent transactions to his wife’s account number (name withheld) domiciled with Zenith Bank, which in turn transferred to other beneficiaries totaling thirty-four accounts which also gave birth to second beneficiaries domiciled with other banks totaling 1,190 accounts,” the statement added.

Across multiple court documents and complaints, First Bank did not state how much money was stolen. It was also silent on how the money was obtained while asking the Police to “unravel the circumstances surrounding the fraud.”

Despite a decline in reported cases in Q1 2024, fraud remains a big issue in Nigeria’s financial services industry. While fintech startups receive disproportionate scrutiny, the country’s biggest banks are often on the receiving end of fraud attacks too. In 2023, Access Bank lost ₦6.15 billion to fraud and Fidelity Bank lost ₦2.5 billion in three incidents, per a report from BusinessDay.

First Bank obtained an order on April 8 to block the bank accounts of the first and second beneficiaries of the illegally obtained funds from a Federal High Court in Lagos. The bank also obtained additional orders dated April 8 and May 5 from a Jalingo and a Lagos high court to block additional accounts believed to be involved in the incident.

One first beneficiary account reportedly used some of the stolen funds to buy the stablecoin USDT from several crypto traders, according to an anonymous email sent to TechCabal detailing their bank accounts.

Those traders claimed their only involvement was selling USDT and denied knowing the funds they received were proceeds of fraud. They have now been drawn into a legal battle with the bank with restrictions on their accounts at the time of this report.

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Dangote to venture into steel production

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Last Updated on June 14, 2024 by Fellow Press

Africa’s richest man, Alhaji Aliko Dangote has mooted plans to delve into steel production in the near future stating that he wants to ensure that every steel used in West Africa comes from Nigeria.

The industrial mogul stated this during an interview at the ongoing Afreximbank Afro-Caribbean Trade & Investment Forum in Nassau, The Bahamas.

When asked if he is taking a break after the refinery, he noted that the next venture after the refinery project would be in Steel manufacturing and ensure that all Steel products used in West Africa comes from Nigeria.

He also encouraged African leaders to take agriculture and solid mineral development seriously lamenting the fact that food imports cost the continent dearly by increasing unemployment and poverty.

He said, “What we need to do that is missing is actually to concentrate and pay more attention to agriculture and solid minerals.
I don’t like people coming to take our solid minerals to process and bring the finished product.
We should try and industrialise our continent and take it to the next level.”

“I told somebody we are not going to take any break. What we are trying to do is to make sure at least in West Africa, we want to make sure that every single steel that we use will come from Nigeria”

Nigeria has tried unsuccessfully to become a leader in the steel manufacturing industry with a handful of failed projects like the Ajaokuta steel plant, Delta Steel Company, Osogbo and Jos rolling mills even under government and private ownership.

Like the oil refineries, the federal government under different administrations has spent billions trying to put the local steel plants to work but has been unsuccessful.
The administration of President Bola Tinubu had promised during the campaigns to ensure steel production starts in the multi-billion-dollar Ajaokuta steel complex.

The federal government in the 2024 appropriation act budgeted around N4.45 billion for the plant but hopes to raise around N35 billion from private investors to bring the plant to life for the first time in its history.

However, the Minister of Steel Development, Shuaibu Audu has also stated that reviving the plant could cost around $2 billion to $5 billion.

According to the National Steel Raw Materials Exploration Agency (NSRMEA), total steel consumption in the country averages around 10 million metric tonnes of which 70% is imported.
The current Minister of Steel Development had earlier stated that Nigeria spends around $4 billion on steel imports annually despite having around 74 steel plants and fabricators across the country.

Nigeria is home to significant iron-ore deposit- a critical raw material in steel production found in Kogi state.

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CBN speaks on plan to revoke licences of more banks

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Last Updated on June 4, 2024 by Fellow Press

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) says it has no plans to revoke the licences of Unity, Polaris, and Keystone banks.

Online reports had claimed the apex bank would terminate the licences of the three banks, following the revocation of Heritage Bank’s licence.

However, in a post on its social media pages on Tuesday, the bank said the content was not authentic.

“The content is fake and not from the CBN,” the post reads

On June 4, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) revoked the banking licence of Heritage Bank.

According to the CBN, the decision was made due to the bank’s inability to improve its financial performance.

“The Board and Management of the bank have not been able to improve the bank’s financial performance, a situation which constitutes a threat to financial stability,” the bank said.

However, the apex said Heritage Bank had not improved and “has no reasonable prospects of recovery”, thereby making revoking the licence the next necessary step.

The bank said the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) is as a result of this appointed as the liquidator of the bank per Section 12 (3) of the Banks and Other Financial Act (BOFIA) 2020.

The revocation, according to the apex bank, reflects its continued dedication to take all necessary steps to ensure the safety and soundness of Nigeria’s financial system.

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