Billionaire businessman Femi Otedola has accused Jim Ovia, chairman of Zenith Bank, of engaging in fraudulent activities related to the bank account of his company, Seaforce Shipping Limited.

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Otedola claims that Zenith Bank illegally used Seaforce Shipping’s account for trading activities without his consent or knowledge. These unauthorized transactions allegedly began in 2010 and continued without the account being actively operated. A whistleblower within Zenith Bank tipped off Otedola about these activities, leading to his discovery of the fraudulent transactions. He also alleges that Zenith Bank created a fictitious loan of NGN 6 billion on Seaforce Shipping’s account, which he asserts never existed. This so-called “CP Facility” was followed by a series of debits and credits, giving the false impression of financial activity. Significant debits noted include NGN 6 billion on February 7, 2008, and NGN 4.48 billion on February 7, 2009.

One major point of contention is the discrepancy in the reported debt amounts. In a letter dated March 19, 2018, Zenith Bank informed Seaforce Shipping’s auditors, Shofolawe-Bakare & Co., that the account had a debt of only NGN 2.28 million. However, the bank statement reviewed by Thepaan News indicates a closing balance of NGN -5.92 billion, with total debits amounting to NGN 16.93 billion and total credits of NGN 11.01 billion.

Legal Actions and Investigations

In response to these revelations, Otedola has taken legal action. Seaforce Shipping, along with Zenon, Luzon Oil and Gas, Garment Care Limited, and Otedola himself, has secured a federal high court injunction against Zenith Bank, Quantum Zenith Securities and Investment, Veritas Registrar, and the Central Securities Clearing System.

This injunction prevents these entities from trading shares or paying dividends until a motion for an interlocutory injunction is heard. Despite this, Zenith Bank declared a dividend of N3.5 per share on April 8, 2024, and made payments a month later. The Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID) of the police is investigating the allegations, with senior officials of Zenith Bank already questioned as part of the ongoing probe.

Roots of the Dispute

An earlier report from Thepaan News stated that Otedola accused Zenith Bank of fraudulent activities, including improper disposal of his shares, manipulation of bank accounts, and forging documents to obscure their actions. The dispute began over claims of dishonest accounting in calculating Otedola’s liabilities before the bank sold his multibillion-naira debt to the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON).

AMCON is a government entity that acquires non-performing loans from banks to manage and recover them. After failing to resolve the dispute through other means, Otedola sought judicial intervention and police involvement. Technical teams from Zenith Bank and Zenon Oil met on May 20, 2024, to address the issue, but the meeting ended without resolution. A subsequent meeting at the Lagos Oriental Hotel also failed to resolve the matter, leading to threats of new legal action from Zenon Oil.

Current Status

Thepaan reached out to Zenith Bank’s corporate communications for comments, but no response was immediately obtained. The investigation and legal proceedings are ongoing, as Otedola continues to push for accountability and resolution.




Victoria Ibiama