Urhobo Historical Society




GARLANDS FOR THE VANGUARD NEWSPAPERS

(On Their Reports and Opinions on the Debacle at the Central Bank of Nigeria)

By Dr. Kola Afolabi
Lagos

 


Was Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi being altruistic when he let the sledge hammer fall on five targeted banks? Was he being patriotic when he injected N420 billion into the five banks to prevent them from failing and causing catastrophic consequences for the nation's economy, shareholders and depositors? Or was he pursuing a personal vendetta and a group agenda when he sacked the five chief executives who were his colleagues up to June 2009 with so much disdain and gusto in a generalissimo style? For a man who is an alumnus of the famous King.s College, Lagos, where young Nigerian students are raised not to be tribalistic and myopic in handling national assignments, it was easy to want to believe that Maliam Sanusi could not have been motivated to act the way he did to wrest the banks from those who were alleged to be playing ducks and drakes with shareholders and depositors funds, besides his sense of altruism. That belief is bound to endure with anybody until one has access to the March 23,d, 2009 Vanguard edition which revealed five months earlier all that Mallam Lamido Sanusi was to play out on 14th August 2009.

In the aforementioned Vanguard publication scooped by Omoh Gabriel, the Business Editor of The Vanguard, and his colleague, Emeka Mamah, the nation was alerted to some sinister moves by persons from a certain part of Nigeria, disgruntled with the outcome of the banking consolidation, who were bent on causing real upheaval in the banking sector to get even with policies of our immediate past President, Chief General Olusegun Obansanjo. What did Omoh Gabriel and Emeka Mamah reveal? How accurate were they?

They reported that:

· "Anti-consolidation forces have regrouped with the hope of ... and forcing a takeover of top five banks in the country. How many banks did Mallam Sanusi take over? Five banks! After achieving the group's aim, is it any wonder that Sanusi was unashamedly judgmental that he did not expect any major surprises in the remaining 14 banks that were yet to be audited? Indeed, the chairman of one of the banks yet to be audited played the cheer leader in London during Sanusi's road show. How tactless and unethical can we get?

· The grand plan by the group is to cause panic and uncertainty in the banking industry and make the target banks look unsafe for depositors" Was such panic and uncertainty caused? Information now in the public domain confirms unequivocally that the First Bank where Mallam Sanusi held sway as Managing Director had a field day de-marketing selected banks, leading to panic withdrawals by customers ofthose banks.De - marketing is a heinous, diabolical and unethical marketing practice, a fact which Mallam Sanusi admitted in his circular to his staff!

· The aim of the anti - consolidation forces is to cause loss of public confidence in the banking industry and compel the Federal Government to move in by injecting funds. Furthermore, they ultimately plan to instigate government to take equity holdings in the targeted banks. Mallam Sanusi, barely two months in the saddle as the Governor of the Central Bank, as predicted by The Vanguard, moved in by injecting funds into the five targeted banks with the ultimate plan to take equity holdings in the five banks. It is also now known that an exercise had been conducted in July to pre - select investors that would ultimately be used to re- enter the banking industry from the back door, explaining why the CBN Governor held a private session with investors at the end of his recent London road show! Mahmoud Lai Alabi, the current MD of Intercontinental Bank, confirmed Sanusi's new investors' goal when he was reported to have said, "whenever it is necessary that we can have credible investors in Intercontinental Bank, I'll not shy away from completing the process as early as possible" The CBN advertorial of September 10, 2009 also confirmed that the Governor explained the actions of CBN to foreign investors and correspondent banks. So, why the subterfuge that he does not have the sale of the banks in his agenda? If he cedes the ownership of the banks to foreign investors, is that not tantamount to the sale of the banks to them? CBN semantics cannot pull the wool over people's eyes.

·  Part of the plans hatched by the group is to ensure that the incumbent Governor of the Central Bank, Professor Chukuma Saluda, does not get a second term. The group was resoundingly successful in this part of their plan as Professor Soludo did not get a second term, notwithstanding the President's view that Professor Soludo's tenure would "remain sources of inspiration to an entire generation." Elsewhere, someone with Professor Soludo's gargantuan antecedents would be the toast of many governments of different political persuasions:

 

 Professor Soludo was consultant to 18 international organizations including the IMF, the World Bank, OECD Paris, European Union, African Union, USAID, UK DFID and ADB ... in addition to having to his credit over 80 scholarly publications, 15 books and about 250 monographs, conference papers and public lectures. Didn't they say all things bright and beautiful, Nigeria kills them all?

·  The plan is also to ensure that whatever gains consolidation recorded are discredited. it is evident that literally all the actions of Mallam Sanusi and his cheer leader have been geared towards discrediting the gains of consolidation.

·  Part of the game is to spread rumours that some banks are unsound and are on the verge of collapse. They send out text messages to individuals and account holders passing wrong information on their targeted banks. At the moment, the group's target is one of the high­flying new generation banks where they have sent out several messages. Akingbola's deposition in the court, now in public domain, succinctly confirms that First Bank under Mallam Sanusi's watch was caught with its hands in the till, with Mallam Sanusi asserting in a circular that he had warned his staff to desist from such unethical behaviour. A report in the media also confirms that Professor Soludo had "mediated and advised that they resolve their differences. Sanusi visited Akingbola in the office to make peace but was kept waiting endlessly." It is evident that Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi had a personal axe to grind with Dr. Akingbola before he became the Governor of Central Bank. No wonder Akingbola had to scurry away for safety!

Intercontinental Bank was certainly a highly visible, flying new generation bank and the unethical, de-marketing tactics of First Bank literally brought the bank to its knees, necessitating Soludo's CBN's intervention which saved the day. Mr. Alabi, the new helmsman at the bank, had this to say recently about the bank: " ... it is a good bank. One, it has a strong brand, which is aggressively promoted. Two, it has dedicated and highly committed staff Three, its spread is NATIONAL (emphasis mine) and the brand acceptability all over the country is unbelievable. Four, it has solid dedicated products targeted at key market segments and it is obvious that these products have strong market acceptability. "

          The Arewa Consultative Forum(ACF) has expressed concern over what it described as the rapidly deteriorating liquidity situation in the banking industry and tasked the Central Bank to make public information on causes of the development as well as the scale of the crisis. Did they have inside informers? Mallam Sanusi confirms in the aforesaid interview with The Punch as follows, "I have had a meeting with northerners even before I became governor. When they said they had the Bank of the North and that after consolidation, they lost it I said you never had Bank of the North", implying that Mallam Sanusi had been cohorting with his fellow northerners over their complaint that they had lost their Bank of the North to consolidation. The Managing Director of Unity Bank, Mallam Falalu Bello, had also been reported as presenting a paper titled "Nigeria: One Country, Four Economies" sometime in 2008 in which he unabashedly accused the South West and South East Regions of the country of "controlling 94% of the country's banking assets, 88% of insurance assets and 90% of the industrial assets and is home to the three deep sea ports of Apapa, Tin Can Island and Roro." Taken together it is evident that the northerners were deeply concerned over their relative inaction in the economy and were determined to seize the heights of the economy by whatever means, fair or foul. So, was Mallam Sanusi pursuing a group agenda? No wonder the Norhern Caucus in the House of Representatives are backing "Hurricane Sanusi" 100 per cent!

·   Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi was being touted among five northerners as the prospective governor o/the CBN. The Kano Prince turned out to be the President's blue - eyed boy! Vanguard's prediction was again correct.

·   It is unfortunate that top five banks are the target. The banks ... are sound. Mallam Sanusi himself corroborates the soundness of the five banks when he said in an interview he granted The Punch and repeated in the August publication of the Federal Ministry of Information and Communication Open Government publication, "that these banks are safe. What we have done is to take actions to make sure that the banks are safer." If the banks are safe, why did Malam Sanusi rush pell-mell to inject N420 billion which the banks' Treasurers, as reported in The Vanguard, now say they didn't actually need as much? Why could Sanusi not take the pains to analyze the nature of the so called non-performing loans? Would he not have found out that the worst culprits of the so-called non-performing loans are his masters? Fasehun, the OPC leader asserted, and no one has contradicted him, thalt the Federal Government is owing the five banks N3.2 trillion! If the Federal Government honoured its obligations effectively, would all the hues and cries have been necessary? Was Sanusi being driven by his inordinate desire to deliver promptly the outcomes expected by the group?

The Vanguard in its well considered editorial titled "Kill Economy, Save Banks" our attention was drawn to the havoc being wrecked on the economy by the most unfortunate hasty actions of the CBN Governor, Mallam Sanusi. The outcry has been deafening, coming from all segments of the economy: Chairman of the Economic Summit Group, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa; Group Political Editor of The Guardian, Akpo Esajere; a Professor of Finance with the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa; Fasehun, Founder and President of Oodu'a People's Conference (OPC); Advertising Agencies; Estate Valuers; Shareholders' Associations; Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria, Credit crunch in the inter-bank market, Foreign banks, etc; The Vanguard certainly deserves our garlands for its incredible investigative journalism that exposed five months in advance the terrible and evil plans of those who have a penchant for forcibly seizing what belongs to others and destroying them.

The intellectual myopia exhibited by the CBN in the handling of the contrived illiquidity of the banks is simply astonishing! When Governor Francis Sanusi (the Sanusi before the coming of Soludo) edged out the chairman of one of the five banks, now given a clean bill of health by the Mallam Lamido Sanusi (remember that he was the Risk Manager at the bank), for unethical conduct, no one felt the whimper of his actions. When Professor Soludo eased out some tin gods of some private banks, it was achieved without any perturbations to the economy. So, why couldn't the Prince of Kano resort to such subtle and adroit moves? Why the grandstanding? Why was it necessary to hug the klieg lights when handling such a highly sensitive matter that would hurt the economic arteries of the nation? We recommend that Mallam Sanusi should read the" Mischievous Dog" in Aesop & the CEO so that next time he can follow due process whenever he wishes to use his enormous powers of sacking bank executives. We now run the grave risk of destroying through our military leadership style our macroeconomic reputation which the Global Economic Forum recently lauded as the nation's key strength, ranking Nigeria in the 20th position out of 134 nations on this factor of global competition. Why destroy the edifice so well put together by Prof. Chukuma Soludo and Dr. (Mrs.) Ngozi Okonjo Iweala?

Mallam Sanusi made mountain out of the use of extensive resort to the "Expanded Discount Window" in his televised outing as a major reason for sacking the five executives of the banks and injecting the whopping N420 billion into the banks. In a recently paid advert placed in many newspapers the CBN asserted that, "The CBN Act empowers the CBN to manage money supply in the economy through different mechanisms. The CBN, as banker to other banks, has been increasing money supply by lending money to the banks through the Expanded Discount Window (EDW) and the injection of the N420 billion into the five banks is SIMILAR ( Emphasis mine) to that function. " SO WHY DID SANUSI DELIBERATELY CLOSE THE EDW IF IT IS SIMILAR TO THE FUND INJECTION?? Who in Nigeria or abroad had bothered about the goings on in the EDW which his immediate predecessor had quietly and sensibly created to deal with the aftermaths of the global meltdown? Ifthe funds withdrawn from the EDW are loans, didn't they have repayment terms and duration? Why did Sanusi deliberately disrupt that seamless mechanism simply to achieve his goal of presenting the five TARGETED banks as distressed and ready for take over? If they were obtaining funds from that source, surely that must mean they were positioned to meet their obligations to their customers as and when due. There was no known case that any of the five banks was unable to discharge its obligations before Sanusi, the best Risk Manager in Africa, decided to ambush the banks to take them over.

 

Another grave harm Mallam Sanusi may unwittingly be sowing is the destruction of the entrepreneurial spirit of Nigerians. Among the four founding fathers of Intercontinental Bank -- ENUHA, ALABI, OBIERI and AKINGBOLA -- we have an entrepreneur par excellence. Engineer Enuha, a 1974 University of Rochester first class Chemical engineer and an MSc Cornell University graduate has, with exemplary integrity, contributed most creditably to the progress and advancement of Nigeria in many ways. He has trained and inspired a whole generation of Nigerian engineers who have distinguished and are still distinguishing themselves in Shell, Mobil, Texaco and Elf Petroleum. His company which he founded at the youthful age of 27 with Mr. Chris Alabi has become the Bechtel of Nigeria: the company has engineered, constructed, installed and commissioned petroleum products loading facilities for OBAT Petroleum, Petroleum loading depots, constructed fire water tanks, LPG spheres etc. Engineer Enuha, is one of the leading voices of local content development in the Oil and Gas Sector and has contributed in no small measure to the existence of the Organization of Design Engineers of Nigeria (OGDEN). Generous to a fault, he does not believe that life is worthwhile unless it is lived for others. He, Alabi, Obieri and Akingbola have built Intercontinental Bank over the past 20 years to the enviable state that has made it the first target of those who want to seize the economic purse strings of the nation.

It is trite knowledge that any board of directors anywhere in the world is as good as the materials management decides to tender before it. Akingbola, as the chief executive among the four of the founding fathers from the inception of the bank bears the greatest responsibility for the performance of the bank. It is doubtful that any of these gentlemen, particularly Akingbola who has been in banking all of his adult life, and whose middle name is Bankole, would have knowingly and deliberately run their bank, which is one of their most important life investment, to the abyss as now asserted by Mallam Sanusi. Let Mr. Akingbola evince courage by coming out of hiding to face his accusers and traducers to clear his name and enhance the release of his respectable colleagues from the EFCC Black Hole of Calcutta. Dr. Raymond Obieri, Chief Samuel Adegbite (who turned around Wema Bank and was an astounding CEO) Mr. Chris Alabi, Engineer Hyacinth Enuha, Chief Sanni Adams, Alhaji Isyaka Umar (a Kano Prince), all senior citizens, do not at all deserve the unfortunate humiliation to which EFCC has subjected them to for the past weeks by holding them hostage because Dr. Akingbola fled from the battle field. They are some of the finest Nigerians this nation can boast of.

Signed:

Dr. Kola Afolabi,

Medical Director,

Ago - Medical Centre

Okota, lsolo

Lagos

 

 

 


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