First Bank of Nigeria has failed to pay a N2.3 million debt to JEF Integrated Synergy Ltd., one of its contractors, two months after FIJ reported how the company was being owed by the bank.
FIJ’s report in August had revealed that First Bank engaged the Lagos State-based document management company in 2019 and 2020 on an office documents reorganisation project.
The company later complained about not getting paid in full for the services it rendered to the bank in both years.
Christian Umukoro, a representative of the document management company, told FIJ that his company had to obtain loans with huge interests in order to complete the bank’s projects.
FIJ learnt that First Bank was to pay JEF Integrated Synergy for each year’s project in three different tranches. The company said it only received two payments in each year while the bank withheld the third payment.
DRIBBLING EXCUSES, FAILED PROMISES
Umukoro revealed that between August, when FIJ published the story and now, instead of credit alerts, his company had only gotten excuses and unfulfilled promises from First bank.
He also said that Saheed Abolade, Acting Head, Documents and Records Management at First Bank, once invited his company to an online meeting on August 30 to discuss the outstanding payments.
Apart from Abolade, Gift Ogbevire, the bank’s Unit Head, Records Management Governance and Control, and two other FBN personnel, were also said to have attended the meeting.
“We were quite optimistic that we would get paid. They asked some questions about a remedial job they wanted us to do in 2021,” Umukoro said.
“After paying us for the 1st and 2nd milestones for the 2019 project, they emailed us in February 2021 that we were to work in their Enugu document control centre for a correction of the work we had done.
“Meanwhile, the contract agreement that binding JEF Integrated Synergy Ltd to the Wave 1 project had expired since August 30, 2019. There was no extension communicated, agreed upon, or endorsed. All the while, the bank had refused to pay us what we were being owed.
“I sent emails twice to the Deborah Olaniyi, the FBN contractor, that we would not be able to deploy our staff to Enugu at that point, citing security reasons and unavailability of funds. Also, we needed to be sure that FBN would pay us on time after the work was done and taking a loan that will be serviced with interest was not a profitable option for my company anymore. There was no response from her.
“When we finally notified them that we were ready to go to the site as the security in Enugu was a bit fair and we had funds to run the project as well, we were told the project had been closed and our outstanding payment forfeited. All of these happened in the same 2021.
“I told them at the Zoom meeting that the remedial job was not up to N100,000 according to our calculations, and as such, we ought to get paid for the earlier job we did. The bank’s representatives said they would convey my points to the bank’s management.
“Since then, they have continued to say they would get back to me. They even requested for the invoice for the second wave, third milestones last month, but we have not been paid till now.”
According to Umukoro, the bank neither gave any reason for the delay nor when it would pay its debt till date.
On November 5, Ogbevire, who is in charge of vendors payments, sent a message to Umukoro saying the “approval process for wave 2 has commenced. Update on wave 1 will be provided soon”.
On November 8, Abolade, just like Ogbevire, said that JEF would hear from First bank latest by the following week.
Since that time, however, neither Abolade nor Ogbevire had given the company any update regarding the outstanding payment.
FIRST BANK’S RESPONSE
When FIJ contacted Abolade on the matter, he said First Bank would soon pay JEF.
“We are already discussing with the company, and I don’t think this is what I need to divulge. We told them that we were already working on the payment,” Abolade said.
“We have paid over seventy per cent of that money, and what remains is the balance and it is even because they had issue with the contract. We already had that discussion with them, and they are going to get paid.”