….Shift transactions to Mbaise, Mbano, Owerri, Okigwe ,Enugu
Are you are a customer of First Bank Nig PLC in the Imo and Enugu States and you have been wondering why the halls are been overcrowded recently ? The pressure is coming from Abia State.
All branches of First Bank PLC numbering over 20 were sealed three weeks ago by an order of Court of Appeals, Owerri and they have remained closed since then.
As a result of this, many customers of the bank in Abia have now discovered a new access to their money and that new route is to do business in the nearest First Bank branches in Imo, Anambra and Enugu States.
A special visit to different branches of First Bank by this correspondent showed that First Bank has 3 branches in Umuahia , 1 branch in Ohafia, 1 in Arochukwu , 1 in Ahaba Imenyi (Akara junction ) 1 branch in Isuochi and about 10 branches in Aba are all under lock by the orders of the judiciary .
The oldest bank in Nigeria, reportedly owes some debts to an Umuahia-based company, Standard Polyplastic Industries LTD situated at 85/87 Aba road and the debts is a judgment order by the Appeal Court.
While the debt, as pasted on the walls of First Bank branches breach is N5m, the bank also allegedly owes the company some debt in American dollars.
It was gathered that Standard Polyplastic Industry appealed an earlier judgment, which had gone in favour of the bank and it eventually secured victory on the matter against the bank.
Another finding also revealed that the suit started about 21 years ago when the company was still in production and has been lingering in different Courts until the recent judgement by the Appeal Court .
A source in the banking sector told this paper under anonymity that the company is insisting that payment of the said debt which is in American dollars should be made in the current Dollar-Naira exchange rate and not the old exchange rate of about 21 years ago.
This demand , according to the banker, did not go down well with the bank as it insisted that should it agree to pay anything , the payment should only be made according to the rate of the foreign exchange in the old year of the originating suit.
Though First bank has not issued any official statement concerning the problem, some senior staff who was met standing outside the bank’s gates said they may be penalised if they spoke on the issue.
One of such official Umuahia main branch explained that since the bank was closed by a Court order, it may amount to disrespect of court to speak on the same issue.
The female official however promised that efforts were on to settle the matter and get the bank reopened for business soon even as she acknowledged that the bank was losing heavy revenue since the closure .
Many of the affected customers who could not wait any longer, now travel down to Okigwe, Owerri, Mbaise, Mbano in Imo State while those from Umunneochi now go to either Enugu or Anambra branches of First Bank for transactions.
Businessmen in Aba and government officials from Umuahia who also have cheques to deposit or cash also take the trans-Abia trip to Imo or elsewhere.
However, youthful customers who installed mobile bank applications on their phones have been transferring their money away to other banks in Abia and subsequently withdrawing them from the other end.
A businesswoman, Mrs Erinma Echeta who deals in children’s wears in Ariaria Aba complained that the money she intended to use for Christmas season was trapped in Aba and to beat the importation deadline, ” I went to Okigwe to withdraw the money before it will become too late.
Mrs Echeta said it was shameful that First bank would be subjecting her customers to pains. Unfortunately, some sick elderly customers have resorted to fate, waiting till the day the bank’s doors will be reopened.
It would be recalled Abia State Internal Revenue Service had also sealed Abia State branches of First Bank twice in 2021, on the allegations that the bank failed to remit millions of naira worth of income and other taxes to the government agency .