By Andante Okanya
Prominent businessman Amos Nzeyi made his long-anticipated testimony in the case where he alongside other business partners purportedly changed the name of Kigezi bank to National Bank of Commerce.
He gave his testimony at the Commercial Court in Kampala presided by Justice David Wangutusi.
The case arose in July 2010, when former Supreme Court Justice, George Kanyeihamba, together with 320 other minority shareholders, petitioned court.
They are querying the bank’s legality, claiming that it was wrongfully reconstituted. Kanyeihamba claims the bank’s name was changed without his authorisation and that of the 320 other shareholders. The bank was founded in 1991 to provide banking services and soft loans to people in Kigezi.
Currently, the bank is closed, with its licence having been revoked by Bank of Uganda in September 2012. Deposits of its clients were taken to Crane Bank.
The aggrieved accuse majority shareholders, Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, Information, Communication and Technology minister Ruhakana Rugunda and Nzeyi, of being behind the illegality.
Asked by the plaintiffs’ lawyer Deogratius Odokel, to explain the name change and the disposal of the bank properties, Nzeyi stated that he did so for the benefit of all shareholders.
Court documents show that the certificate of change of name is dated March 7, 1997. But Odokel quizzed him, and displayed a copy of the notice in the Gazette dated the same as the certificate.
“Yes, they were issued on the same day. We could not wait for the 30-day or so after publication in the Gazette to lapse because we were under pressure from Bank of Uganda and our internal auditors,” Nzeyi stated.
The businessman disclosed that on May 18, 2003, it was resolved that the bank go public. He said a meeting was held in the Kenya capital Nairobi, with the prominent business-centric Gidoomal family, the new bank investors.
Nzeyi asserted that all shareholders at the general meetings consented to the changes made. However, he admitted that no copy of the minutes was signed in the meetings from 1999 to around 2003.
Explaining how Mbabazi, Rugunda, and himself became majority shareholders, stated that the Gidoomal family at a certain point resolved to sell their shares to the Nigerian owned United Bank for Africa.
He said they snapped up these shares to avoid being rendered minority shareholders.
Nzeyi dismissed Kanyeihamba’s allegations as baseless.He stated that Kanyeihamba had never taken the initiative to buy more shares and was only lamenting because of his personal frustrations.
Mbabazi who made a brief apperance at court had been lined up as a witness. However, their lawyer Dr. Alex Byamugisha said Nzeyi had exhaustively and adequately responded to the queries.
The court will convene on May 2 to map a timeline for submissions, as the case concludes.