Former Enterprise Bank, now Heritage Bank, has apologized to Sam Nda-Isaiah for erroneously including his name, his wife’s (Zainab) and Banana Republic in a list of debtors published by the bank in two national dailies.
Mr. Nda-Isaiah is chairman of Banana Republic Ltd.
The bank, in a letter to Mr. Nda-Isaiah, dated August 31, 2015, admitted it erred in portraying him as a debtor.
“We wish to state regretfully that the inclusion of Banana Republic Limited, your name and that of your wife on the list was done in error,” the bank said.
”We hold you (Mr. Nda-Isaiah) your family and Banana Republic in high esteem. Again, we regret whatever insinuation or public harm done to your persons,” the statement said.
The apology is came on the heels of a petition by Mr. Nda-Isaiah to the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) over alleged defamation of his character by Enterprise Bank Limited.
The commercial bank had on August 10 published Banana Republic Limited among its delinquent debtors.
But Mr. Nda-Isaiah, in a petition to the CBN Governor, called for an investigation into the loan granted to him by the bank.
He explained that in 2013, the food and hospitality firm, where he is the chairman, approached Enterprise Bank for a facility for the expansion of its business into Maitama District of Abuja and the construction of a 5-star hotel in Guzape, Abuja, on a 1.4 hectare hilltop prime location.
According to the politician and chairman of LEADERSHIP Group, the bank then advised that the firm should apply for a facility to enable the company to expand into Maitama first before proceeding with a different application for the 5-star hotel.
The petition explained extensively how Banana Republic Limited applied for a facility of N80 million for the new branch in Maitama and then engaged an international consultancy company to commence a feasibility study on the 5-star hotel project.
“We placed the 1.4 hectare hilltop land in Guzape worth more than N2billion as security for the N80 million facility since it was the same bank that would also handle the hotel project anyway. The loan was promptly approved by the bank because it was considered a good project.
“But that was when our problem started. It was at this point that our account officers started behaving strangely and unprofessionally. Sometimes they even showed signs of incompetence. The breakdown of the approved facility was N67.5million for the purchase of equipment and N12.5million for working capital to operate the restaurant.
“Upon approval, our account manager opened an escrow account in our name without our knowledge and deposited N67.5million and started charging interests right away from July 25, 2013, on the entire N80million sum, without any form of notification to us,” he explained.
Continuing, he stated that it was only several weeks later that the management of his food and hospitality outfit knew that an unusual banking practice had happened, alleging that they were not allowed to draw the equipment facility even though they had started charging us interest on the entire approved sum.
“The first drawdown of N18,647,500.00 in August was only allowed nearly one month after they had started charging interest on the entire loan sum. The next drawdown of N43,372,500.00 in September 2013, was only allowed nearly two months after commencement of interest charges to us.
“The total sum we were allowed to draw from the N80million facility was only N61,920,000.00 even though they were charging interest on the entire N80million approved,” he said.
According to Mr. Nda-Isaiah, when there seemed to be no headway, he then instructed the group managing director of his holding company to intervene, which he promptly did by travelling to Lagos, the head office of the bank.
He noted that the failure of the bank to allow drawdown of the N12.5million working capital, which was part of the N80 million facility, complicated the dispute further.
He added: “Banana Republic informed the bank clearly that they were not going to pay interests on the amount that had not been disbursed. Even as I write this, Governor, the entire N80 million has still not been disbursed to the company but interest charges are going on.
“Because there was a dispute, we stopped paying money into Enterprise Bank as their practices became similar to a Ponzi scheme or at best a strange strain of voodoo banking.
“About three months ago when communication was re-established with Mr. Lekan Busari, the head of the Abuja operations of the bank, it appeared that we were at last making a headway.
“Because of that, we promptly paid in N5.6 million on June 3, 2015, into the account in good faith, pending the resolution of the dispute.
“We also agreed to pay N5 million every week for three weeks starting from
last week to bring down the indebtedness as we expected them to pay the balance of the N80 million immediately and redress the voodoo interest rate schemes they had been engaged in since 2013 even before we started operating the facility.
“Busari assured us that he would handle the matter and he agreed to restructure the loan on the understanding that Banana Republic’s facility is a disputed facility, not a bad loan or a defaulting facility. The facts are clear.
“He assured the group managing director of our holding company of a quick resolution, only for us to wake up on Monday, August 3, 2015, to see the name of Banana Republic on the list of loan defaulters.
“With the publication, the agreement to pay N5 million every week abruptly collapsed and I started a conversation with my lawyers.”
He insisted that Enterprise Bank had impugned his reputation and that of his family, stressing that all his life, he had tried to be very careful.
“I have built a public image and a brand, which I cherish and protect jealously. I will not just sit by and watch such a brand rubbished because of the incompetence and unfathomable motives of some people.
“I am therefore suing Enterprise Bank. They are going to have their day in court and I promise to give the proceedings maximum exposure as they unfold. But I also request that you investigate my claims. I shall be available for further details,” he said.