Thursday, October 29, 2015

FRC’s investigation of Stanbic IBTC is an orchestrated attack

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The theory is emerging that the Financial Reporting Council’s media attack on Stanbic IBTC is merely the actualization of a script handed down to Jim Obazee, Executive Secretary and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) by his benefactors, the Mahtani brothers.
People familiar with Obazee’s reputation however, betrayed little surprise noting that he had always been known to swing like a pendulum in the direction of money and power.

It would be recalled that Obazee earned his notoriety when he took on the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and present Emir of Kano, SanusiLamidoSanusi, for blowing the whistle when about $20 billion allegedly took flight from the nation’s treasury during the immediate past administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.

Obazee instigated a phantom audit and investigation of Sanusi’s tenure and subsequently produced a shady indictment of Sanusi thus providing an excuse for Jonathan to suspend the former CBN governor and invariably terminate his appointment as leader of the apex bank. He is currently using the same tactics against Stanbic IBTC to help the Indians achieve their aim of forcefully grabbing more stake in the bank. Obazee allegedly suspended the affected parties over fabricated allegations of misconduct.

Nobody knows if truly, Bhagwani and Ratan Mahtani commands Jim Obazee, Executive Secretary and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) by a pay-leash, but everybody thinks Obazee has sold out to the Indian brothers and owners of Churchgate Nigeria Limited. And the reason is hardly farfetched: the recent suspension ofthe registration of four directors of Stanbic IBTC and that of its audit engagement partner, KPMG, by the FRC, was reportedly masterminded by the Mahtanis through their alleged pawn and gofer in the FRC, Obazee.

The FRC issued the suspension accusing the affected parties of what it called, ‘financial misstatements.’ The council also called on the Central Bank Nigeria (CBN) and the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) to investigate Stanbic IBTC and KPMG. The council in a report released on Monday, also noted, that KPMG Professional Services, remains suspended until its innocence in the matter is ascertained.
But reacting to the report, Stanbic IBTC Holdings described the FRC allegations as “inaccurate and unfortunate,” noting, that “although the matter is in court, we are constrained to respond to certain aspects of the report for the benefit of our stakeholders and the general public.
“Stanbic IBTC is a very responsible organization and fully complies with all extant laws and regulations in Nigeria and international best practices applicable to the conduct of its business,” claimed the bank. Although the FRC named four directors suspended to include AtedoPeterside, Sola David-Borha, Arthur Oginga and Dare Owei, but the bank said, “Contrary to the media reports, the Directors of Stanbic IBTC have NOT been ousted. The directors, who are from Nigeria and elsewhere, are reputable individuals who uphold the best corporate governance practices and whose credibility, integrity and proven track record are impeccable”.

According to FRC, “the schedules supplied to the council by Stanbic IBTC revealed that the total fee paid to KPMG Professional Services for non-audit services was inconsistent with what was disclosed in the financial statements for the years under review.”

The Mahtani brothers who naturalized to Nigerian citizenship, have been fingered in series of corruption cases recently; they have been accused of fleecing Nigeria off crucial taxes even as they strategically hound competitors off the business arena. Recent developments indicate that they are at their antics again, trying to muscle innocent Nigerians to take over their businesses or force them to part with huge stakes. Their current move against Stanbic IBTC and its executives have raised several eyebrows in the financial business sector as stakeholders are wary that they just might have their way given Stanbic IBTC’s seeming inexperience and unsavoury skills at engaging the brothers and their stooge, Obazee, in the filth of mudslinging, which is unfortunately the forte of Obazee and the Mahtanis.

Why the Mahtanis are gunning for Stanbic IBTC’s jugular.
The Mahtanis used to own 100 per cent of the former Regent Bank Plc which in the various mergers and acquisitions that took place in the Nigerian finance industry teamed up with IBTC and Chartered Bank in 2005 to form IBTC Chartered Bank Plc and they held significant shares of the hybrid institution resulting from that merger.

However, the Mahtanis’ stake suffered significant decline when IBTC Chartered Bank Plc in further consolidation, aligned with Standard Bank in 2007. At the end of this second merger, the equity of the Indians was notably diluted and it seemed like they were left holding the short end of the stick, with just a paltry amount of shares in Stanbic IBTC Plc.

Ever since, the Indians with Nigerian passports have resorted to desperate tactics to arm-twist the financial institution to their advantage.

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