GTBANK: Serial Debtor Or Killer Of Businesses?

Source: icampus/Samod Biobaku -

The silent rule of responsibility has always hammered on the fact that, 'to whom much is given, much is expected' and this takes us straight to one of Nigeria's biggest financial institutions in the banking sector, Guarantee Trust Bank (GTBank).

Like everything that has a bright and shiny side that gleams with accomplishments and innovation, GTBank is not an exception as it also has it's dark side.

Over a period of time, I have watched GTBank drag itself into the murky waters of controversies and messy deals that have seen the bank slip deeper and deeper into the disturbing depths of shooting down vibrant Nigerian brands and businesses.

Are you surprised to learn that GTBank could ever move towards destroying corporate brands and businesses? Well, the answer is yes and the truth is that even as the bank might not have set out to cripple existing brands at the point of going into business with these establishment, its modus operandi has seen it go after the jugular of these organisations.

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This takes us to two clearly distinct establishments; the first being Nigeria's first indigenous automobile manufacturer, Innoson Motors Nigeria Limited recently slammed a N30 billion suit against GTBank, as a result of damages the company suffered following an ex parte order of Mareva Injunction, which GTBank applied and obtained, freezing Innoson's accounts in all the banks in Nigeria.

We must however, not hurriedly condemn GTBank as it is first and foremost a profit-making establishment and such organisations ensure that contracts are formally entered into; legally; especially in the case of loan contracts getting breached.

The running legal battle between Innoson and GTBank started when Innoson challenged the action of Nigerian Customs Service for auctioning its goods.

Interestingly, GTBank has appealed to the Supreme Court.

What I find curious is whether GTBank had considered other less confrontational ways of resolving its strained business dealing with Innoson before things went out of hand.

Let me take you as far back as 2011; into the case of GTBank and multi-channel digital satellite TV service, HiTV.

The dispute between HiTV and GTBank was as messy as it can possibly get especially when the latter announced the appointment of a receiver/manager for the company allegedly due to the TV service's inability to repay a N9.228 billion loan facility.

According to reports, GTBank appointed legal practitioner Ajibola A. Aribisala (SAN) as receiver/manager over the entire undertakings, stock, goodwill, plant and machinery, floating and fixed assets, movable and unmovable inclusive of money and assets kept in any bank in Nigeria and or/all assets belonging to HI Media Limited, the operator HiTV.

All HiTV offices were eventually locked up by officers of the Nigerian Police Force and as for what finally happened to HiTV, the rest they say, is history – the company was declared bankrupt and died as if it were human.

There are several questions that we are immediately confronted with; some of them include:

Did GTB exhaust all possible options of recovering the load without declaring HiTV bankrupt?

Did GTBank issue HiTV a 'statutory demand' for payment of monies owed – typically via a debt recovery agency, which engages a solicitor and support staff to recover the debt due?

Did GTBank employ mediation service?

It should be recalled that in May 2015, a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Apo, Abuja, ordered GTBank to refund N5.3bn illegally withdrawn from the account of one its customers, Dr. Ted Edwards.

The money was said to be for the settlement of a judgment got by his clients, Impecca Services Limited and His Royal Highness, Eze Ezekwo, against the Association of Local Government of Nigeria, as cost of consultancy services they rendered to the 774 local governments.

GTBank currently groans under the weight of huge debts portfolio by its A-list customers.

The bank's debtors, comprising Nigeria's super rich, have failed to refund loans taken from the bank to the extent that some of the loans have to be written off as bad debt.

Consequently, Segun Agbaje, the erstwhile sinewy and athletically-built MD/CEO of GTBank is losing sleep over the huge debts.

I see GTBank's reputation in tatters and quietly ponder over how it intends to shed this serial debtor skin or if it already has in its sight, another indigenous company on the verge of being shot down like a wounded gazelle and declared bankrupt.

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