By Samuel Malik
Following our report, First Bank Vendors Cry Out Over N200 Million Unpaid Fees, on January 20, that contractors providing address verification services to First Bank of Nigeria accused it of owing them several months’ pay, the bank has settled its debt, the icirnigeria.org has learnt.
Many vendors had complained that they were being owed for about six months and that all efforts to get the bank to pay up had proved futile.
The bank had explained that the delay was caused by a new system put in place to revalidate the invoices submitted by the vendors in order to prevent paying money for work not done.
“The address verification payment process was recently modified to protect the Bank from making payments for poor quality services. This is especially with respect to operational loss from frauds arising from false address verification reports,” Babatunde Lasaki, the bank’s head of media and external relations, said in response to our enquiries.
Following our enquiries, the bank hurriedly approved the payment of 57 per cent of invoices for July and August last year, which Lasaki put at N57.3 million. But, despite the approval, only few were paid.
This website learnt that following the publication of our report, the bank ordered the 57 per cent payment to all vendors whose invoices had been approved and they were paid that same day.
“I was on my way home in the evening when I received a message. I did not check it because I was driving but when I got home and read the message, I shouted,” an excited vendor called to tell our reporter.
According to him, he used his personal property as collateral for a loan taken by his company and had worried about what to do if First Bank did not pay him.
Two days later, January 22, the outstanding 43 per cent balance for July and August and invoices for September to November were paid while between January 29 and February 1 this year, the bank cleared the invoice for December 2015.
Some of the vendors who spoke to our reporter expressed their delight, even though they said a larger part of the money was used in settling debts and interests.
“We are happy with how the issue has been resolved. If the bank sticks to the terms of the contract, I see no reason why one will not enjoy working,” a vendor said.
Another was less excited, as he said the bank has not renewed their expired contract possibly out of anger by the media attention the issue attracted.
“They seem to be looking for scapegoats and have refused to sign the renewal of the contracts that have expired while the vendors continue to work. We believe the plan is to throw them out any time since there is no formal contract,” he noted.
First Bank says it has always conducted its business in adherence to highest global standards and due diligence, adding that contract renewal is the prerogative of the bank, which is subject to satisfactory performance by the vendors.
“The confirmation by the vendors that their invoices have been paid corroborate my earlier position that all invoices are being treated in batches and that the Bank is not owing or any vendors or renege on its commitments,” Lasaki said in an email after the payments were made.