Court has quashed target report on FGPL, says Duru
• ‘First Guarantee Pensions mismanaged since my ouster’
• ‘Why contributors can’t migrate to other PFAs’
Founder and promoter of First Guarantee Pensions Limited (FGPL), Nze Chidi Duru, has condemned media reports alleging that he defrauded FGPL, warning that he would file defamation and contempt-of-court charges against persons making the allegations.
Duru, who said this in an interview with journalists in Lagos, alleged that not only has FGPL been mismanaged since his illegal eviction, the pensions industry suffered a crisis of confidence because of his controversial ouster, amid other corporate governance infractions by industry players.
He said the accusations for which he was being persecuted were contained in a target report produced by interested persons, noting that court judgments in 2011 and 2012 threw out the document.
Earlier reports had said Duru was on a collision course with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over allegations of fraud and abuse of due process, adding that he shortchanged shareholders, who entrusted him with funds to buy the company’s shares.
It was reported that “in order to protect over N100b worth of pension assets managed by FGPL, the EFCC has invited a former member of the House of Representatives, Chidi Duru, one O.O Ojo, and a South African, Mr. Derrick Roper, representing Novare Holding Limited, for diversion of the company’s assets worth millions of naira for their personal use.”
It further accused him of diverting N16m being part of the equity contribution of Novare Holding, a South African firm, to another business without due process and obtaining board approval as well as collecting N20.5m as ‘executive allowance.’
Duru responded by petitioning the presidency over a gang-up against him by the Pension Commission (PenCom) and disgruntled investors, who are now sending the EFCC after him, accusing the pension industry regulator of being complicit in his ouster from the company.
A major character in the crisis, the Chairman of FGPL, Alhaji Kashim Imam, subsequently challenged Duru to go and clear his name at the EFCC if truly he had nothing to hide, noting that it was mysterious that he was walking free after alleged fraudulent activities were investigated and established by FGPL, in addition to indictment by PenCom.
Imam said Duru was being wrongly addressed as promoter of the company, noting, “By 2011, when Duru exited the company after eight years, following his indictment, the company’s account was in red to the tune of N385m. But following the intervention of PenCom, being the regulatory body, an interim management and board was formed; the assets of the company have grown to about N140b, with profit of over N3b, just in four years.”
But Duru told journalists in Lagos that the persecution has put him at the crossroads, where he must now choose between his personal liberty and reputation, and the going concern of FGPL, stressing that he got to this point because of threats to his life over time despite letters and judgments to vindicate him.
“My position is that my personal liberty is more important. My friends have said if I have these letters and court judgment and these people are still threatening that they would kill me, it is about time that I speak to the public,” he said.
On how the company has fared since his ouster, he said: “First Guarantee Pensions has been grossly mismanaged. In the last five years since they chased us out, there has not been any Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the business. The Company and Allied Matters Act insists that except you have just set up a business, you are given an allowance of 18 months, else you are to file your annual report every 12 months.
But for the past five years, between 2011 and now, no annual report has been tendered to a shareholder in an AGM. No dividends have been paid to the shareholders. And because this has not been done, the company has been unable to pay taxes to relevant government agencies.”
“Today, if you indicate an interest — which the law empowers you to do — to move from one PFA to another, you cannot.”
This is because the technology to make that happen in the industry has not been initiated. And yet, every year, they spend billions of naira on this.
That has also worked in the interest of FGPL because our existing clients are not been able to move. On a monthly basis, those who are able to contribute, bring in their own share. So, every year, what they have in the company’s asset keeps growing. But before, we have always grown by 100 per cent year-in year-out, until last year when the growth was 50 and 45 per cent. Even if calculate that, investors expect that the share should be between N380b to N420b as asset under management.”
He reiterated the alleged complicity of PenCom in the crisis, noting that the Director General was a major player in his ouster from the company even before she ascended office.
“Of course, my other shareholders say that they are targeting assets under the management of FGPL, so they can move it to Premium Pensions. But I don’t dwell on such issues.
“I learnt that six shareholders wanted to sell their shares in December and have recruited another three. They were to sell the shares to a company called Springlife, but that had been scuttled and they were not happy with it. They said they wanted to call an Extra Ordinary General Meeting of the shareholders to remove the people they consider as stumbling block.”