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Saturday , 18 November 2017

Heritage Bank staff protest ‘non-payment of N486.8 million loan’

A group of protesters on Thursday gathered at the office of Nigeria’s Communication Satellite, NIGCOMSAT, at Airport Road, Abuja to lament the alleged non-payment of a N486.9 million loan allegedly owed the bank by the agency.

The protesters said they suspected that funds may have been misappropriated by NIGCOMSAT’s cooperative management staff.

A staff of the bank,who spoke  on behalf of the protesters said the loan “which was shared across over 300 staff of the agency” is yet to be paid, despite the agency’s admittance that the loan has been “refunded by nearly all the staff it was given to.’”

He said the Heritage Bank (formerly Enterprise Bank) decided to increase the interest rate after the period of payment elapsed but hesitated to implement the increment after appeal by the bank.

“NIGCOMAT’S staff had approached our bank through their agency’s cooperative (society) four years ago for a loan of N811.9 million.

“The loan was given to them at 18 per cent interest rate per annum for a period of four years. The total sum expected to be paid back, including the interest rate amounted to about N1.3 billion.

“They paid about N812 million, remaining N486.9 million.

“After the expiration of the payment period in May, we approached them with several letters including a final demand letter dated June 13. In that letter, we stated that the initial advice to increase the loan to 28 per cent interest rate would not be implemented and that we would wave N24 million process charges which would have been added to the loan.

“In that letter, we maintained that the interest rate of 18 per cent was agreed on and that the outstanding debt was N486.9 million. We also made suggestions on how to ensure an extension of the loan for another period of two years which they agreed to but no response has been heard from them since then.’’

Responding to the claims made by Heritage Bank, the president of NIGCOMSAT’s cooperative, Steven Kwande, said the outstanding debt is owed by some of NIGCOMSAT’s staff who have left the company.

“What they are asking for is the default charges and interests. We have paid them over N800 million that was taken as the capital loan. All our current staff who partook in the loan have paid. Only the ones who left the agency are left.

“We have begun a litigation process to ensure that they refund their money. But Heritage Bank which is not the initial bank we took the loan from, is asking us to pay the remaining amount at an interest rate of 27 per cent; who will pay that?

“We had the transaction initially with Enterprise bank which was taken over by Heritage Bank. And like I said, all our staff have paid, only about 15 people are left,” Mr. Kwande said.

However, reacting to Mr. Kwande’s claim, the Heritage Bank staff said the bank had a mutual agreement with NIGCOMSAT on the restructuring of the loan facility after the expiration of the initial period.

“Our company approached them at the end of the period of four years which elapsed in May. We asked them to pay N100 million from the money owed us and pave the way for a fresh agreement wherein we would extend the period of payment for two years. We told them we would increase the interest rate during the period. They said they could only do 20 per cent. After negotiation, we arrived at 23 per cent rate and everybody shook hands. But according to the June letter I have shown you, nothing was done after that.

“And if they are saying that only 15 people have not paid. How come the amount is that high? Remember that this loan was shared among over 300 people. So, what are they not telling us,” he said.

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