General News of 2014-01-16

Ibrahim Mahama finally pays Merbank debt

When Jamaican reggae legend Peter Tosh admonished in one of his much-loved hit songs that “If you live in a glasshouse, don’t throw stones,” the world acclaimed musician might have foresaw circumstances such as the ‘tsunami’ that is about to befall the New Patriotic Party regarding some of its core members and sympathizers’ indebtedness to troubled Merchant Bank.
Indeed, functionaries of the opposition NPP might have stubbornly ignored Peter Tosh’s admonishment when they went on a wild goose chase, crucifying young business magnate and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Engineers and Planners Company Ltd, Mr. Ibrahim Mahama, for owing the distressed Merbank, as dependable information reachingThe Al-Hajj indicates E&P has finally settled its debt with Merchant bank.
This singular milestone in the raging debate on the sale of Merbank to Fortiz Equity Fund would obviously box the NPP and its appendages into a tight corner with no option than to lick their wounds, especially when majority of the debtors to the bank are its members; as the new owners of the bank have vowed to use all means including court action to retrieve their monies from its debtors.
This paper can confirm that following final discussions between Engineers & Planners and its new investment partners, African Export Import Bank held on Tuesday, January 14, 2014, managers of the Afriexim bank are expected to transfer USD 28m into E & P’s account with Merchant bank, which Fortiz now has a controlling majority by close of day today (Thursday).
This latest move is expected to ruffle the feathers of functionaries of the NPP and has also sent shivers down the spine of their members and sympathizers who, like Mr. Ibrahim Mahama’s E&P, are among huge debtors of the troubled bank, but have not initiated moves to honor their indebtedness; hoping their party bigwigs would succeed in getting South African First Rand (which was not interested in the banks debts) to have assumed ownership of the bank.
Deliberately sidelining the huge debts owed the failed Merchant Bank by the likes of their founding Member and party financier, Mr. Appiah Menka of Apino Soap fame, one of its loud mouth MP from the Fante caucus who is also said to be heavily indebted to National Investment Bank and companies of some of their faithful sympathizers such as Myroc, Western Steel, Kinsman Enterprise and Seth Dovlo among others; the NPP has constantly and consistently cited Ibrahim Mahama’s debt as the sole reason why the bank went under.
It has been widely suspected that NPP’s detestation to a Fortiz takeover of Merchant Bank instead of South African conglomerate, First Rand, who also showed interest in the distressed bank, was to save their leading figures and sympathizers the challenge and embarrassment of being chased to pay back their loans.
And true to Fortiz's pledge, Merchant bank’s newly appointed Managing Director, Ms Nilla Selormey only this week told Graphic Business that her outfit is poised and indeed has started processes to retrieve its monies from all debtors.
“We will reopen dialogue with the debtors in the hope that we can persuade them to do the right thing. However, if we need to pursue them in court we will pursue them in court, but I can assure you that we will leave no stone unturned to collect what is owed the bank; remember also that in quite a few cases, we do have personal guarantees of directors, and if you execute such an agreement you are just as liable as the firm whose debt you guaranteed," she told the Graphic Business in her first exclusive interview with the media since the changeover of ownership of the bank.
She went on to say “We have looked at the portfolio and we are strategizing on how to proceed bearing in mind that a cordial resolution is our preferred option," Ms Selomey said; adding that “First and foremost, we have started to invite some companies to initiate a process of dialogue in order to see whether we can have some amicable solution in terms of restructuring those debts to fit into their own cash flows, but we will not leave any stone unturned in terms of what is done within the law to get the money back from the debtors. We should shortly be seeing one of the large debts paid off and that will be testimony to the efforts we have begun to make".
Whereas the NPP out of political expediency thought it was dragging the name of President John Dramani Mahama in the mud by using its media collaborators to link him to his brother’s indebtedness to the bank and even went to the extent of accusing him of “conflict of interest;” beginning next Monday, core NPP members and sympathizers will be those to bear the brunt of the new Merchant bank.