I Acted Because I Felt It Was In The Best Interest Of FirstBank, Shareholders – Awosika

Sacked Chairman of Board of First Bank, Mrs Awosika

The sacked Chairman of First Bank Nigeria Limited, Mrs Ibukun Awosika, has said that the decision to removed Adesola Adeduntan as the Chief Executive Officer of First Bank last week was done in the best interest of the bank and its shareholders.

For the first time since the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) reversed that decision and eventually sacked her and other Board members of First Bank, Awosika in a statement shared on Instagram, titled “My FBN Group Journey,” said she maintained consistency in her contributions to the development of the bank in over five years as chairman.

The board of First Bank had last Wednesday announced the replacement of Adeduntan as CEO with his deputy, Gbenga Shobo. However, the CBN stepped in after it issued a query on the purported removal and followed up with the dissolution of the bank board and that of FBN Holdings Plc. The regulatory bank also announced the restatement of Adeduntan as the CEO of the bank, constituted an interim board to replace the sacked boards.

However, Awosika in her first reaction to the regulatory action, traced her involvement with the bank to when she joined the board in October 2010 after which she was appointed to chair the board of FBN Life Insurance Limited. She said the decision to end the tenure of Adesola Adeduntan as the bank’s Managing Director was taken in the bank’s best interests.

“In October 2010, I was appointed to join the board of First Bank of Nigeria. A few months later, I was appointed to chair the board of its startup FBN Life Insurance Limited (a joint venture with Sanlam of South Africa). As its pioneer chairman, I had the privilege of working with a strong management team led by Val Ojumah.

“Together with the rest of our team we built a company that became profitable in twenty-four months and continues to be so. In early 2013, I was moved from FBN Life Insurance Ltd to assume the chairmanship of FBN Capital working with a brilliant team led by Kayode Akinkugbe as the Managing Director.

“We worked hard to build the institution, bought Kakawa Discount House which I was again asked by the Group to Chair.

“We eventually merged the companies to create the FBN quest Merchant Bank Group, which I chaired until my appointment as chairman of First Bank of Nigeria on January 1st 2016.

“For over five years, I have worked with a dedicated team of board and management, with the support of the Central Bank of Nigeria to rebuild and restructure the institution for its future.

“This included cleaning up non-performing loans, establishing good operational governance systems and processes, building controls and an effective and robust risk management system.

“I am confident we have brought First Bank of Nigeria to a place where it is more than able to deliver utmost value to its stakeholders and the nation at large.

“As a board, we acted in what we clearly believed to be in the best interest of the bank and we had great plans and aspirations for where the bank could go to in its future, building on all the work that has already been done in the last five plus years.

“Without a shadow of doubt, I will unequivocally state that I have always acted in honor and integrity with the utmost interest of the institution, all our stakeholders and the nation.”

But the CBN in its regulatory action said the removal of Adeduntan cut short his tenure by eight months and the action was without consultation with the regulatory bank.

The regulatory bank in a letter to the chairman of the board of the bank on April 28, said Adeduntan tenure is yet to expire while his removal has “dire implications for the bank and also portends significant risks to the stability of the financial system.”

CBN in the memo asked the chairman of the bank Ibukun Awosika to provide a comprehensive reason for the removal of Adeduntan eight months to the expiry of his tenure.

The regulatory bank also said the appointment of Shobo as the CEO of the bank was “done without due consultation with the regulatory authorities, especially given the systemic importance of First Bank.”

“The CBN was not made aware of any report from the board indicting the Managing Director of any wrong-doing or misconduct; there appears to be no apparent justification for the precipitate removal.

“We are particularly concerned because the action is coming at a time the CBN has provided various regulatory forbearances and liquidity support to reposition the bank, which has enhanced its asset quality, capital adequacy and liquidity ratios amongst other prudential indicators.

“It is also curious to observe that the sudden removal of the MD/CEO was done about eight months to the expiry of his second tenure, which is due on December 31, 2021,” the CBN said in the memo to Awosika.

The CBN followed its memo with wider action the following day, dissolving the entire board of the bank and its Holdco, FBN Holdings Plc, leading to the exit of Awosika as First Bank Nigeria Limited board chairman and Oba Otudeko tenure as chairman of the FBN Holdings Plc chairmanship.

Among the allegation leveled against the First Bank board including its failure to divest its holdings in Honey Well Flour Mills, Bherti Airtel and other non-financial institutions contrary to its directive to do so and also perfect its lien on the shares of Oba Otudeko in FBN Holdings Plc.

The regulatory bank also directed First Bank to immediately recover the outstanding debt of Honey Well Flour Mill within 48 hours of receiving its memo or risk being sanctioned.

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