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Published On: Mon, Jun 26th, 2017

Exposed: How Ecobank ripped-off ex-AIB Staff

• 51 ex-staffers die in penury

By Ayoola Olaoluwa

Several years after they were unceremoniously disengaged from service, ex-workers of the defunct African International Bank Limited (AIB) are still waiting eagerly for their severance benefits.
They had toiled and sweated as commanded by the scriptures, “If anyone is unwilling to work, let him not eat”. However, the acquires of AIB, Ecobank Plc, have refused to off-set the wages of the former workers.
According to the aggrieved ex-employees of AIB, the management of Ecobank Plc has failed to fully implement the final terms of settlement of a court of competent jurisdiction in 2007.
And in the process of the endless wait for their legitimate entitlements, over 51 have succumbed to the cold hands of death; some are down with avoidable chronic ailments due to unavailability of funds for early diagnosis and treatment, while a lucky few have picked up the pieces and moved on to new endeavors.
The workers ordeal began prior to the Prof. Charles Soludo’s banking consolidation of 2005 when African International Bank closed shop after running into financial crisis.
After a protracted negotiation, including court cases with an interested investor, Diamond Bank Plc and regulators, namely Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN) and the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), a final settlement of N1.7billion was reached, far from the initial N4.7billion the workers demanded in a final Court Judgment/Terms of Agreement.
Unable to bear the commitments, the management Diamond Bank backed out of the deal, thereby opening the door for Ecobank Plc which indicated interest in taking over the defunct bank.
According to court papers obtained by BH, Ecobank went into negotiation with ex-workers of AIB based on the final Court Judgment/Terms of Agreement on the payment of their terminal benefits and an agreement was reached and sealed in June 2007.
After agreeing to adhere to all the resolutions in the final Court Judgment/Terms of Agreement that was abandoned by Diamond Bank, CBN approved the acquisition of the bank by Ecobank Nigeria Plc in a letter dated November 24, 2008, which effectively transfers all the private and public sector liabilities of AIB to the bank.
The court also resolved one of the knotty issues that came up during negotiations in favour of the workers. The disagreement bothers on Ecobank’s classification of workers’ salaries domiciled in AIB as deposits and that they should be treated like any other depositors. What this implies is that it is the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) and not Ecobank that should be responsible for the payment of the workers’ funds in the failed bank as stated by the NDIC act.
However, the workers kicked against the proposal, insisting they didn’t operate a deposit account but a salary account. They argued that since they were forced to open salary accounts with AIB by the bank’s management, they should not be categorized as willing depositors. The court subsequently agreed with them.
An extract from the Judgment of the Court/Terms of Settlement in suit No. FHS/CS/507/2006 obtained by BH, says, “The parties agree that the payment of the said sum of N1, 972, 639, 792.00 (One Billion Seven Hundred And Thirty-Six Thousand , Seven Hundred and Ninety-Two Naira only) shall be full and final settlement and satisfaction of the Terminal Benefits and Emoluments, including Gratuity, Arrears of salary from December 2002 to December 31, 2005”.
The court ruled that that no staff of AIB Limited can be regarded as a depositor with his or her outstanding salary up to 31st December 2005.The court however agreed with the bank that any other sums of money relating to a staff can only be captured as deposit under the ‘Share and Purchase Agreement’ if it has nothing to do with salary up to 31st December, 2005.
However, nine years after, the deal has broken down with aggrieved workers alleging that Ecobak reneged on the agreement.
A serious breach of the judgment is the refusal of Ecobank Plc to pay the balances of ex-workers current account for the months of September to December 2005.
According to the spokesperson for the former AIB staff, Mr. Oladimeji Olawuyi, Ecobank altered the deal by reintroducing ‘The Share Sales and Purchase Agreement’ which permitted the bank to pay balances in the accounts of depositors of AIB Limited as reflected in the AIB deposit Register as at 31stAugust 2005, against the Court/Terms of Settlement order made payment of the outstanding salaries of ex-workers up to December 31st, 2005as part of the terminal pay.
He alleged that the bank went ahead to implement the Share Sales and Purchase Agreement with the approval of the Central bank of Nigeria (CBN), thereby denying the workers four months’ worth of their terminal benefits.
The aggrieved workers, however, protested Ecobank’s action, alleging that the bank tricked CBN into sanctioning the ‘new arrangement’.
“With the uncontroverted facts at my disposal in the computation of the ex-staff terminal benefits, both gratuity and the arrears of salary were not included. The situation the entire staff of AIB Limited found themselves was for their accounts to be credited without naira backing and so the only correct figure for these arrears of salary is the individual balance in the staff statement of account as at the said date of 31st December 2005.
“Therefore, to have refused, given any excuse, to pay the balance on individual staff current or savings account up to 31st December 2005 means that Ecobank, with the support of Central Bank of Nigeria, did not carry out fully the terms of settlement of a competent court of law to the letter”, says Mr. Oladimeji Olawuyi, the ex-workers spokesperson.
Angered by the bank’s action, the workers wrote to the management of Ecobank, demanding that it pays the balances of their deposits with defunct AIB up to their terminal date of December 31, 2005.
In its reply of June 10, 2010, Ecobank declined the request, insisting that the only verified deposit register with which it signed the purchase agreement is that as at August 31, 2005 which it used to pay all affected workers.
The CBN, through its Banking Supervision Department in its letter of February 17, 2017 also supported Ecobank’s position.
After a lot of protest to regulatory bodies and threats of legal actions, Ecobank bowed to pressure but invented an ingenious means of denying the ex-workers their entitlements by asking them to individually provide bank account statements as evidence of balances in their accounts.
Unfortunately for the affected workers, most of them have misplaced the statements of account over time. The bank then went ahead to do selective payment to some of the lucky few who succeeded in retrieving their account statements, while it left out a large chunk of those who presented the document as required on the premise of their matter being “handled on a case by case basis”.
Up till the time of going to press, most of the workers are still being owed the arrears of four months.
Apart from their unpaid four months’ salary arrears, the workers gratuity is also trapped in their Pensions and Gratuities accounts domiciled with Ecobank.
According to documents made available to BH by the aggrieved workers, the Court Judgment/Terms of Agreement made the Pensions and Gratuities Scheme to contribute N363 million to the payment of terminal benefits from deduction from the various P & G deposits in other banks, namely Associate Discount House and IBTC/Chartered Bank.
The fund was promptly transferred to the coffers of Diamond Bank, which was initially involved in taking over the defunct bank. After Diamond Bank’s withdrawal from the deal, the Trustees of the AB P&G Scheme called for the transfer of the money to Ecobank, which also holds N77million of the scheme’s fund. With the transfer of the N363million to Ecobank, the balance in the P&G account in the bank stood at N440million.
However, the ex-workers alleged that all efforts by the trustees of the AIB P&G scheme to access the fund for distribution to members have been allegedly frustrated by Ecobank in connivance with a member of the trustee.
It was learnt that when the trustees approached Ecobank to take over the P&G account through a letter it wrote on June 10, 2010, the bank demanded, among others, the presentation of the Trust Deed executed in 1983, in its letter of reply dated November 11, 2011. Unfortunately, the deed is said to be trapped in the locked up AIB Plaza which is enmeshed in several takeover battles in court.
The troubled trustees thereafter approached the CBN which advised that they should approach the court to get a sworn affidavit, which they subsequently obtained.
However, their enthusiasm was doused when Ecobank insisted in its reply dated December 15, 2011 that the sworn statement sworn to by the acting managing director and chairman of the board of trustees would not be accepted. It insisted that they must produce the Trust Deed and that all the seven (7) trustees of the scheme must sign to complete the verification of the accounts.
However, a member of the trust, Mr. Buhari Dangaladima, has refused to sign the document at the behest of Ecobak’s management. “Ecobank ensure that one of the trustees, Buhari Dangaladima, did not cooperate with others. Any time Buhari is called for a meeting of the trustee he will not show up and neither will he sign any documents.
“All entreaties to the bank that since six out of the seven trustees had formed a quorum, the verification should go head were rebuffed. It is in this our matter you see that a mathematical formula where six people will not form a quorum out of seven people”, the ex-workers lamented.
Curiously, Ecobank has allowed several withdrawals to be made from the AIB P&G account domiciled with it by the seventh the ‘uncooperating’ trustee, Mr. Buhari Dangaladima.
According to documents, Dangaladima on two occasions withdrew the sum of N6 million and another N12 million from an account where the N20, 000 deducted for cost of negotiation/litigation by each of the 600 ex-staffers was lodged.
“Ecobank made sure that Buhari Dangaladima illegally withdrew the sum of N6 million and N12million from one of the accounts belonging to the scheme”.
Another area of disagreement between the ex-staffers and Ecobank is their share of the assets of AIB transferred to Ecobank. The workers are claiming 12 percent of the AIB Plaza valued at N2.1billion, since they are part owner of the defunct bank with 12% equity.
According to them, the plaza was excluded from the final settlement in 2007 because of litigation on it. “As the matter was therefore in court, the value of the said property was removed from the amount due to be paid to the shareholders pending the determination of the matter”, Olawuyi said.
The workers are also demanding a fair share from the rent on the plaza from the time the case went to court till present.
“The rent received on the plaza over time before the judgment, either at the first court of hearing or one at the appeal belongs to the shareholders and this is in millions. We had a time lag when the AIB Limited must have been receiving rent to the time the court matter came up. Who got the rent.
“We had a situation when one of the tenants refused to pay an amount in the region of N30 million on the ground that the owner of the plaza then was not certain. As shareholders, we are entitled to know”, the workers demanded.
However, BH is currently investigation the current status of the plaza viz; the current owner, occupiers and rents paid so far. The findings would be published in a follow-up to the story.
Meanwhile, attempts to get the reaction of the bank to the story were not successful. After several unsuccessful efforts at reaching its Head of Media Relations, Mr. Austen Osokpor, BH succeeded in getting across to Messrs Ola Akionla and Odidison Omankhanlen, both staff in the Corporate Communications Department who pleaded that they should be given enough time to prepare their response. They also implored our correspondent to put his enquiries in writing.
The questions were promptly forwarded to the email address provided, odidison@gmail.com, as demanded on Friday, June 16. Barely an hour later, our correspondent got a reply: “Thanks for sharing this information with us. We will study and revert accordingly. Thanks. Odidison.”
However, more than a week after the initial request for the banks response to ex-AIB staff allegations, officers of Ecobank Nigeria Plc were yet to get back to BH with a verbal or written response or a reply to the several reminders left for them as at press time.

Displaying 3 Comments
Have Your Say
  1. Mohammed Bello says:

    My predicament is in the same league with yours, hoping justice will finally prevail.

  2. I left AIB in 2004 to Gateway Bank. To my surprise l discovered that my 20years pension contribution was not transferred to Gateway Bank. I have retired from banking industry and the only pension l am receiving now is my 2004 to 2012 service l rendered at Gateway Bank , intercontinental Bank and Access Bank where l retired in 2012. My 1983 to 2004 contributions are still pending with the bank or Ecobank bank that took over. If anybody knows what happened to our pension should pls let me know. I was told that one of the top management staff Mr. Eluche was the one who invested the found for the bank instead of remitting the found to the appropriate authorities.

  3. […] Exposed: How Ecobank ripped-off ex-AIB Staff […]

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