The global picture is what Nigerians should consider in the face of the ongoing bank shake-up. There is a need for caution in the entire setting to avoid a huge international embarrassment this may cause. The mixed feelings and the likely fear this entire scenario could or might have created so far in the minds of investors and prospective ones could allow for more worry and uncertainty among the citizenry. It is not that these things don’t happen, but in our own kind of terrain and developing democracy, a lot of things call for concern. The bank shake-up of Lamido Sanusi as far as some players and
The lifestyle of these latest cowboy bankers popularly called “the big boys” who through their sharp practices live ostentatiously on other people’s money is undoubtedly questionable. But then, if we have to be objective in all of this, the entire banking industry is cancerous and many of them are soon going to suffer a fate that is most likely going to be worse than the ones that are being negatively celebrated as it were. As for Intercontinental Bank, a lot of observers in the financial domain cannot consider this as unusual; they saw it coming as this particular bank has been having some problem for some time but still struggling to keep up. There are others like that in the same or even worse situation than that of these five banks. Although, for the average sentimental and emotion laden public who will feel sorry for these executives on the basis of their traumatic experience in the hand of the law presently, it is important to allow reason to take preeminence. Does it mean these people never really envisaged trouble in all of the banking transactions of which they were mostly directly involved?
When people began to live contrariwise to accepted banking norm, should they not have visualized the possibility of what is happening now? Although some known investors are “institutionalized robbers” who are part players who made room for these happenings. However, one can categorically say that the issue of stock market crashing world over has been one major reason for the entire hubbub in the banking industry lately. We all know that when the banks of America and some others in other parts of the world began to lay off staff and some crashing out rightly will of course have direct effect on the Nigerian economy.
One very disappointing thing is about so much profit declared at the end of the year without it reflecting positively on the investment of the average Nigerian investors but the bulk of the profit finds itself back to the pockets of these bank executives and others favoured in the system, perhaps mere paper declaration.
There has been a particular trend and feelers have it that Lamido will end up as others who have been avant-gardes and catalysts of change in different sectors of the economy in Nigeria. Although, the reason for this is not farfetched stemming from the occurrences of the past, how these agents of change fell out of favour with government and became like outcasts and pariah to the state. The ‘use him and dump him’ syndrome seems to have become identifiable with the Nigeria system, this is why sometime, when the public air their views on current trends, their opinions may be difficult to fault since they have grounds for the point they claim. On the ongoing bank executives’ prosecution, it is a welcome phenomenon in that no one could have ever thought that possible sometime back. Things are changing and I want to believe that rebranding is permeating the so called untouchables.
Truly, to feel pity for any of these people would be out of place when you see the sharp practice that is the stock in trade of the bankers. Apart from the major executives undergoing the present shakeup, a thousand and one other bankers will end up in jail when the sword of Damocles catches up with them with time. Just watch and see; this is the beginning. What about the regular manipulations they do to people’s account which is oftentimes unnoticeable to a lot of investors. What about the interest that ought to accrue on accounts which never see the light of day? But these people will never spare anything in order to take their charges on any withdrawal called the C.O.T (Commission on Turnover), one can always agree with the latter but what about some illicit charges that could not be explained. I attended one seminar in 2004 when one Pastor Odeyemi of RCCG in Education said with the trend in the banking industry then that many bankers would end up in jail. It was not long after that we began to hear of the cases of some bank executives prosecuted on the basis of their unscrupulous acts.
El-Rufai, that diminutive bulldozer is one personality that cannot be so easily forgotten in Nigeria considering the change he brought to Abuja, though did not go well with a lot of people who were affected by his move, which was detailed on following the original plan to the letter. At the end, he was dropped and later faced a barrage of interrogations and persecutions. If you would agree, it is clear that El-Rufai’s feat as the Minister of the Federal Capital, Abuja is unmatchable so far. But the question is, where is he now? You could imagine how much he probably would have achieved for the country because of his unusual approach if allowed to fulfill and perfect his dream for the capital city. How far was he allowed to go?
Ribadu, the anti-graft and anti-corruption Czar on exile – an archetype of sort, who through the EFCC challenged the unchallengeable in Nigeria at some point and we all know just like Obasanjo said ‘there was no sacred cow’, even stalwarts in the PDP ruling party had the axe of Ribadu hitting them until he was dropped and become the haunted. The fear for Lamido Sanusi is mounting in different quarters that caution ought to be applied on his part too. He was in that system as a risk management expert and no doubt understand the running of the system. But, isn’t this the trend for the motifs that are archetypes? It is believed that any of the bank executives in the EFCC hall today could have ascended to the position of the CBN Governor that Sanusi holds, sometimes the metaphor of fate. How far will he go in this shake-up?
There is no doubt that so far so good Nigeria is proving a point in the African continent that no matter what we may experience, democracy has come to stay in Nigeria. However, justice has to be done to this by the practitioners that transparency and accountability as it is popularly referred is given its rightful place in the system. With the ongoing shake-up, the Nigerian government has to prove itself very worthwhile, responsible and reliable o
n the steps taken so far. There are different groups of people who are of the opinion through feelers that there is a game plan at the back of all this, that is to say that the genuineness of the move is doubtful due to some enshrouded facts, particularly on the point that the activity is sectional and ill directed. On the whole, the Nigerian government owes its public the duty of assuring them that what is going on through the Central Bank is a true reflection of what the people are to expect, that all, will end up to favour the common man whose meager earnings stashed away for safe keeps in all these banks won’t be like those days. A publication in the Punch newspaper showed that Vanguard newspaper of March has its cover page mention the game plan of the Nigerian government to acquire these five banks and in August this is happening, the fears of Nigerians needs to be allayed to disprove their thinking.
The fact remains that the experience of the people is still very fresh just before the consolidation and capitalization exercise where so many people lost a huge investment and never got anything in return from these banks that went under, whereas the chief executives of these banks are enjoying themselves at the expense of the poor investors. I still remember vividly the likes of Banigo of the All States Bank, Pepple of Fortune Bank, Ajayi of Republic Bank, Igbinedion and a host of others then still moving around in town without anyone questioning them. Meanwhile, there are a number of investors since that exercise that never recovered from the traumatic experience the financial crisis plunge them. The government has an explanation to make to the people to douse whatever kind of tension that could generate from all of this. And it is hoped that what government is doing through CBN will not countervail the weak democracy as it is.
Nigerian populace has to tread very carefully with regards to the comments and criticism they make on this bank palaver so that they don’t find themselves making unfounded and baseless comments. It is unfortunate that the era of investigative reporting and journalism is fast ebbing, otherwise a lot of things on the bank imbroglio would have either been made very clear and some issues would have been laid to rest by now to avoid speculations and statements that would only end up in more controversies.
My take is that it appears there are speculations that all the actions and the steps taken so far by CBN through its governor is nothing but a ruse. The truth of the matter is that there really can’t be any rumour without an iota of fact. In this situation the CBN on behalf of the government has to come out clean to make the people believe in the system and make the entire scenario as clear as possible. What more are there to expect in this bank hassles?
Segun Imohiosen writes from Abuja.