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Zenith is Nigeria’s best bank at Global finance award for the fourth time in five years

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Zenith Bank Plc has emerged as the Best Bank in Nigeria in the Global Finance Best Banks Awards 2024, winning the award for the fourth time since 2019. The Bank was among other banks from 36 countries in Africa recognised as the prestigious Global Finance announced its 31st Annual Best Bank Awards Winners.

The editors of Global Finance made the selections after extensive consultations with corporate financial executives, bankers and banking consultants, and analysts worldwide. Factors considered in selecting the top banks ranged from the quantitative objective to the informed subjective. Objective criteria considered included: growth in assets, profitability, geographic reach, strategic relationships, new business development and innovation in products. Subjective criteria included the opinions of equity analysts, credit rating analysts, banking consultants and others involved in the industry.

Commenting on the award, the outgoing Group Managing Director/Chief Executive of Zenith Bank, Dr. Ebenezer Onyeagwu said, “This award serves as a powerful affirmation of our resilience and tenacity despite headwinds and a very challenging macroeconomic environment. Indeed, it is a testament to our status as the leading financial institution in Nigeria, dedicated unwaveringly to delivering exceptional value to our stakeholders.”

He expressed profound gratitude to the founder and chairman, Jim Ovia, CFR, for his exceptional vision and foundational role in establishing a resilient and enduring financial institution. He also lauded the board for their astute insights and exemplary leadership, the staff for their steadfast commitment and unwavering dedication, and the customers for their staunch loyalty to the Zenith brand.

Publisher and editorial director of Global Finance, Joseph D. Giarraputo said: “Banking has reached another watershed moment with the debut of generative artificial intelligence, which promises to rewrite the industry playbook.”

He added that: “In this ever-changing environment, the Best Bank Awards recognize the financial institutions that offer the broadest range of services, long-term reliability, and technological innovation.”

Global Finance’s “Best Banks Awards” are recognised amongst the world’s most influential banking/finance and corporate professionals as the most coveted and credible awards in the banking industry, with winners chosen in 150 countries and territories across Africa, AsiaPacific, the Caribbean, Central America, Central & Eastern Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, North America and Western Europe.

Founded in 1987, Global Finance regularly selects the top performers among banks and other financial services providers, and the awards have become a trusted standard of excellence for the global financial community.

Zenith Bank’s track record of excellent performance has earned the brand numerous awards, including being recognised as the Best Bank for Digital Solutions in Nigeria in the Euromoney Awards 2023, being listed in the World Finance Top 100 Global Companies in 2023; being recognised as the Number One Bank in Nigeria by Tier-1 Capital, for the 14th consecutive year, in the 2023 Top 1000 World Banks Ranking published by The Banker Magazine; Best Commercial Bank, Nigeria, for three consecutive years from 2021 to 2023, in the World Finance Banking Awards; Best Corporate Governance Bank, Nigeria in the World Finance Corporate Governance Awards 2022 and 2023; Bank of the Year (Nigeria) in The Banker’s Bank of the Year Awards 2020 and 2022; Best Bank in Nigeria, for three consecutive years from 2020 to 2022, in the Global Finance World’s Best Banks Awards; Best in Corporate Governance’ Financial Services’ Africa, for four successive years from 2020 to 2023, by the Ethical Boardroom; Most Sustainable Bank, Nigeria in the International Banker 2023 Banking Awards; Best Commercial Bank, Nigeria and Best Innovation in Retail Banking, Nigeria in the International Banker 2022 Banking Awards.

Also, the bank emerged as the Most Valuable Banking Brand in Nigeria in the Banker Magazine Top 500 Banking Brands 2020 and 2021; Bank of the Year 2023 and Retail Bank of the Year for three consecutive years from 2020 to 2022, at the BusinessDay Banks and Other Financial Institutions (BAFI) Awards. Similarly, Zenith Bank was named Bank of the Decade (People’s Choice) at the ThisDay Awards 2020, Bank of the Year 2021 by Champion Newspaper, Bank of the Year 2022 by New Telegraph Newspaper, and Most Responsible Organisation in Africa 2021 by SERAS Awards.

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Alleged N80.2bn fraud: EFCC face resistance as Gov. Ododo rescues Yahaya Bello from arrest

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…As Bello accuses anti-graft agency of flouting Court order

…Supporters allege witch-hunt of former Governor

…EFCC warns individuals from obstructing operatives, insists Bello not above the law

Governor of Kogi State, Usman Dodo rescued his predecessor, former governor, Yahaya Bello from being arrested by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Wednesday in Abuja.

The EFCC operatives had unsuccessfully tried to arrest Yahaya Bello over an alleged N85 billion fraud.

The commission had earlier declared Bello as being at large, noting that it was conducting a search for the former Governor.

Governor Ododo, who had arrived at the residence amid the standoff, was suspected to have later departed the residence with Bello in his official vehicle with tinted glasses.

Hours after the arrival of the EFCC operatives and inability to achieve their mission, they were reinforced with backup support from the Police and Department of State Services (DSS) operatives.

However, as Governor Ododo was leaving Bello’s residence, the security operatives got the feelers that the former governor was in the governor’s vehicle, a development that didn’t go down well with them.

Meanwhile, supporters of the former Governor addressing pressmen at the Governor’s Wuse residence described the attempted arrest as a witch-hunt by political actors.

Speaking to journalists, the Chairman of the Kogi State chapter of the APC, Hon. Abdullahi Bello said, “Maybe they are not EFCC operatives but people disguised as EFCC. He (Yahaya Bello) still saw Mr President few days ago and now this is happening. This is a witch-hunt by political actors.”

Reacting to the unsuccessful arrest, the EFCC in a statement by its Spokesperson warned individuals from obstructing its operations noting that it is a criminal offence.

“Section 38(2)(a(b) of the EFCC Establishment Act makes it an offence to prevent officers of the Commission from carrying out their lawful duties. Culprits risk a jail term of not less than five years.

“This warning becomes necessary against the background of the increasing tendency by persons and groups under investigation by the Commission to take the laws into their hands by recruiting thugs to obstruct lawful operations of the EFCC,” the Commission explained in a statement.

The Commission further added that its operatives  have had to exercise utmost restraint in the face of such provocation to avoid a breakdown of law and order.

“Regrettably, such disposition is being construed as a sign of weakness.The Commission, therefore, warns that it will henceforth not tolerate any attempt by any person or organisation to obstruct its operation as such will be met with appropriate punitive actions,” the statement concluded.

Meanwhile, in a statement from the Yahaya Bello Media Office, Bello described the action of the EFCC as contrary to a subsisting court order granted February 9, 2024 by the Kogi State High Court of Justice, Lokoja Division, in Suit No. HCL/68M/2024 between Alhaji Yahaya Bello Vs. EFCC, restraining the Commission either by itself or its agents from harassing, arresting, detaining or prosecuting him, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive fundamental rights enforcement action.

The former governor said judgement was being awaited in the same suit this same Wednesday and despite all that, the EFCC has now laid siege to his Abuja house seeking to arrest him in contravention of the extant court order.

“About 9:30 am today, the 17th day of April 2024, persons who described themselves as officers of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arrived at the Wuse Zone 4 Residence of His Excellency, Alhaji Yahaya Bello to effect his arrest.

“This is despite a subsisting Order of injunction granted on 9th February 2024 by the High Court of Justice, Lokoja Division in Suit No. HCL/68M/2024 between Alhaji Yahaya Bello v. Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, restraining the Commission either by itself or its agents from harassing, arresting, detaining or prosecuting Alhaji Yahaya Bello, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive fundamental rights enforcement action.

“The EFCC was duly served with that Order on 12th February 2024 and on 26th February 2024; the EFCC filed an Appeal (Appeal No.: CA/ABJ/CV/175/2024: Economic and Financial Crimes Commission v. Alhaji Yahaya Bello) against the said Order to the Court of Appeal Abuja division. The Appeal was accompanied by a Motion for Stay of Execution of the Order of the High Court which the Court of Appeal adjourned for hearing till the 22nd day of April 2024.

“Furthermore, Judgement in the substantive case between Alhaji Yahaya Bello and the EFCC is to be delivered at 12 Noon today in Lokoja.

“Contrary to all of the above, the EFCC has now laid siege to the home of H.E Yahaya Bello seeking to arrest him in contravention of the extant orders!

“It is a surprise that an agency led by a lawyer could flagrantly disobey a subsisting court order by taking actions contrary to the reliefs granted.

“We are aware of the total commitment of the current administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to the rule of law and can say categorically that the leadership of the EFCC might have offered the agency on a platter of gold to desperate politicians to convert to their score settling tool without minding the effect on its integrity and the image of Nigeria as regards the rule of law.

“A situation where law enforcers disregard the rule of law is a definite recipe for anarchy, which will adversely affect every aspect of the nation’s economy.

“Nigerians have perceived the desperation of the anti-graft agency to embarrass and harass the former Governor by all means through spurious allegations, especially the latest one dating back to September 2015, way before he assumed office.

“We are aware that there are clandestine moves to correct the error, but with even more questionable allegations, which would embarrass the Commission and Nigeria more than the initial one.

“It is unfortunate that an agency that is supposed to enforce the law is now the first culprit with respect to disobedience of court orders. This is a big dent on the fight against corruption. He who comes to equity must come with clean hands.

“We call on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to call the EFCC to order in the interest of legal sanity,” the statement read.

Similarly, the EFCC has stated that it will arraign the former governor before a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja despite the resistance it met in arresting Bello.

The anti-graft agency revealed that Bello will be arraigned before Justice Emeka Nwite alongside three other suspects, Ali Bello, Dauda Suleiman and Abdulsalam Hudu on 19-count charges bordering on money laundering to the tune of N80,246,470,088.88 (Eighty Billion, Two Hundred and Forty Six Million, Four Hundred and Seventy Thousand and Eight Nine Naira, Eighty Eight Kobo).

Count one of the charges reads: “That you, Yahaya Adoza Bello, Ali Bello, Dauda Suliman, and Abdulsalam Hudu (Still at large), sometime, in February, 2016, in Abuja within the jurisdiction  of this Honourable Court, conspired amongst yourselves to convert the total sum of N80,246,470,088.88 (Eighty Billion, Two Hundred and Forty Six Million, Four Hundred and Seventy Thousand and Eight Nine Naira, Eighty Eight Kobo), which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of your unlawful activity  to wit, criminal breach of trust and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18(a) and punishable under Section 15(3) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended”.

Count 17 of the charges read: “That you Yahaya Bello between 26th July 2021 to 6th April 2022 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this Honourable  Court aided E-Traders International Limited to conceal the aggregate sum of N3,081,804,654.00 (Three Billion, Eighty One Million Eight Hundred and Four Thousand Six Hundred and Fifty Four Naira) in account number 1451458080 domiciled in Access BankPlc, which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of proceeds of unlawful activity to wit, criminal breach of trust and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18(a), 15(2) (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended and punishable under Section 15( 3) of the same Act.”

Count 18 of the charges reads: “That you Yahaya Adoza Bello  sometime in November 2021 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court  indirectly procured E-Traders international Limited to transfer the aggregate sum of $570,330.00 (Five Hundred and Seventy Thousand , Three Hundred and Thirty Dollars) to account number 4266644272 domiciled in TD Bank, United States of America which sum you reasonably  ought to have known  forms part of proceeds of unlawful activity to wit, criminal breach of trust and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15(2) (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended and punishable under Section 15( 3) of the same Act.

“It is needful to state that Bello is not above the law and would be brought to justice as soon as possible,” The statement read.

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All who threaten Nigeria’s sovereignty will have themselves to blame — Tinubu to Yoruba agitators

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…Afenifere urges Tinubu to review command structure of security agencies

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has sounded a strong warning to agitators for Yoruba nations and terrorists that they will have themselves to blame for the actions they are taking.

Speaking when he received leaders of Afenifere, at the State House in Abuja, the President said his administration is re-engineering Nigeria’s finances and seeking to boost the purchasing power of citizens, and spread prosperity down the line, by instituting a credit system where the element of cash is not an impediment to a significantly enhanced standard of living for all citizens.

He said Nigeria must secure itself economically first before it can achieve any of its more sophisticated objectives.

The President in a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Chief Ajuri Ngelale, was quoted as saying, “We are committed to the economic survival of our country. To re-engineer the finances of our country, we must start in earnest. So first, retool, revamp the economic opportunities available, and resolve to continue taking the firm and steady baby steps that are necessary.

“Education is a strong weapon against poverty. To empower the people, we must invest in the future of our youths. We have seen the problems parents face in training their children in school; it is the reason why we established the National Student Loan Programme, which is taking off well.

“We are equally examining what to do with the high degree of unemployment. We must help vulnerable people by providing social security. We are looking at how to provide allowances for the unemployed, and we are developing ways to boost the purchasing power of citizens with the Consumer Credit Scheme. If we remove the cash upfront element to buy a car or a house, we will reduce the propensity for fraud and corruption across the land,” Tinubu said.

Speaking on security, the President declared that those who threaten the sovereignty of Nigeria would pay a heavy price.

Tinubu said, “I am irrevocably committed to the unity of Nigeria and constitutional democracy.

“Constitutional democracy is reflected greatly here since we assumed office. What we face now is the challenge of terrorism. Security of life and property is very necessary for development. I can tell you we are achieving success. We have degraded terrorism to a level that they cannot threaten the sovereignty of Nigeria any longer.

‘’Banditry and kidnapping will be defeated. And there is no payment of ransom whatsoever. We are taking the battle to them. We are getting results more rapidly than before.

“We are working hard on intelligence gathering. Those who think they can threaten the sovereignty of Nigeria will have themselves to blame. They have a price to pay. And we are not going to relent.”

Earlier in his remarks, His Royal Majesty, Oba Olu Falae commended the President for his courageous decisions and for the rehabilitation of the Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos, as well as other critical ongoing projects.

He urged the President not to relent in ensuring fairness and equity for all Nigerians while noting the importance of a constitutional amendment to devolve more powers to the states.

“We are delighted about what you are doing for our country, and we assure you of our continued support. We thank you for your visit to Akure in February 2024, and we believe it is right and proper to reciprocate your kind gesture. We appreciate this relationship, and we need to make it work in the interest of Nigeria.

“Mr. President, you are the leader of Nigeria now and the most important political figure in Africa. We expect you, in view of your legacy and pedigree, to lead our country with knowledge, courage, and integrity. We have no doubt that your tenure will mark a turning point in the history of our country. Under your leadership, Nigeria will be repositioned.

“We will stand by you as you make all efforts to change the Nigeria story for the better. Be assured Afenifere will not abandon you in fair or foul weather. As long as you remain faithful to the principles of fairness, integrity, and courage that is expected of you as the leader of Nigeria, we will stand by you,” Oba Falae said.

The Yoruba socio-cultural group also urged the President to review the command structure of security agencies.

The group alleged that some ethnic groups have certain security agencies in their pockets.

The delegation was led by Pa Reuben Fasoranti, leader of Afenifere; Oba Falae, alongside other eminent citizens.

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Banks’ LDR lowered to 50%

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The Loan to Deposit Ratio (LDR) of Banks in the country rose to 50 percent from 65 percent.

This was disclosed by the apex Bank, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in a circular to Deposit Money Banks titled “Re: Regulatory Measures to Improve Lending to the Real Sector of the Nigerian Economy.”

The LDR is a metric used to evaluate a bank’s liquidity by comparing its total loans to its total deposits over the same period, expressed as a percentage. An excessively high ratio may indicate insufficient liquidity to meet unexpected fund requirements.

In a bid to increase lending to the economy especially Small and Medium Enterprises, SME, retail mortgage and consumer loans, the CBN on July 3, 2019 increased Banks’ LDR to 60 per cent from 57 percent. The LDR was further raised to 65 per cent in January 20020.

The circular read, “The Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) regulatory directive on the above subject dated January 20, 2020, referenced BSD/DIR/GEN/LAB/12/070 refers.

“Following a shift in the Bank’s policy stance towards a more contractionary approach, it is imperative to review the loan-to-deposit ratio (LDR) policy to align with the current monetary tightening by the CBN.

“Accordingly, the CBN has decided to reduce the LDR by 15 percentage points to 50 percent, in a similar proportion to the increase in the CRR rate for banks. All DMBs are required to maintain this level and are further advised that average daily figures shall continue to be applied to assess compliance.

“While DMBS are encouraged to maintain strong risk management practices regarding their lending operations, the CBN shall continue to monitor compliance, review market developments, and make alterations in the LDR as it deems appropriate.”

The reduction in the LDR according to analysts at Afrinvest Securities is to allow banks to comply with the Cash Reserve Ratio, CRR of 45 percent.

They said, “Today, the CBN in a circular to Deposit Money Banks titled “Re: Regulatory Measures to Improve Lending to the Real Sector of the Nigerian Economy” announced a scale down of the Loans to Deposits Rate (LDR) by 15.0ppts to 50.0 percent – reversing previous threshold set by the past CBN administration in January 2020.’

“In our view, this downward review of LDR allows banks to comply with the 45.0 percent CRR directive, and eases off pressure on the lenders considering the restrictive nature of other CBN directives including the Net Open Position (NOP) ceiling of 20.0 percent short and 0.0 percent long. Thus, we believe this policy would enhance the ability of banks to sweat out assets without creating unnecessary risks.”

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