Recently, shareholders and management of Heritage Bank Ltd., issued a press statement disclaiming embattled Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki’s shareholding at Heritage Bank. However what the bank failed to explain to its audience was the true ownership structure of Heritage Banking Company Limited which grew out of the distressed Societe Generale Bank of Nigeria then owned by the late patriarch of the Saraki Family, Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki and at various times, Dr. Bukola Saraki, the embattled Senate President held sway as Executive Director of the Bank before his father introduced him to politics . In a January 28, 2013, report in the PM NEWS, the paper reported that “The influential Saraki family, now headed by Senator Bukola Saraki, immediate past Kwara State governor will no longer be dominating control in the bank. In the new dispensation, International Energy Insurance, IEI, has acquired a major stake in the revived financial institution, with the Saraki family also retaining a 10 per cent shareholding, but with no principal control.” Neither the bank nor its shareholders disputed the revelation because Saraki, then was a powerful ex-governor and an influential senator of the People’s Democratic Party and was not at loggerheads with the then government of the day.
While reporting the return of the Saraki Family owned Societe General Bank as Heritage Bank, in March 2013, the Vanguard Newspapers wrote “The shareholding structure of the new bank showed that 80 per cent of the new bank is owned by a core investor, 9 per cent by Saraki family (owners of SGBN) and the remaining 11 per cent to depositors of the bank. The new bank emerged from former Societal Generale Bank of Nigeria (SGBN) having met the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s requirement to operate as a regional bank” the bank’s management and shareholders never issued a rejoinder.
Remember Robert Mbonu, he was the former managing director of Societe Generale Bank who midwifed SGBN’s take over by International Energy Insurance and its subsequent emergence as Heritage Bank Nigeria Ltd. Mbonu was arrested in 2013 by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in 2013 for his involvement in the pillaging of the SGBN’s vault. He was Saraki’s main man at Heritage Bank and was deeply involved in the boardroom politics that eventually consumed him. The embers of discord were further stoked between the Mbonu and Sekibo when Heritage Bank acquired Enterprise Bank. Mbonu allegedly believed that, being a tested and trusted turn-around expert, he would be given the responsibility of integrating the moribund bank into the Heritage Banking Company Limited. Alas, that was not to be. Yet, his competence and prolificacy are not in doubt – a fact attested to by the bank on its website. Mbonu was allegedly paid off by the bank when the managing director, Ifie Sekibo began seeing him as a rival, backed by Saraki influence, who might hijack the bank, thereby putting paid to Saraki’s growing influence in the bank.
Another Bukola Saraki’s man Friday at Heritage Bank is Olufela Ibidapo, who currently heads the Corporate Affairs at Heritage Bank. A close business ally of the Saraki Family, Olufela, whose name cropped up in the Saraki’s chapters of the Panama papers, was appointed as a replacement for Ama Annan, on the board of Ensol Limited (Environmental Solutions), registered in the Republic of Seychelles, with registration number 028376, which partly belongs to Laolu Saraki.