By Omoh Gabriel
LAGOS ‚Äî Anti consolidation forces have regrouped with the hope of dissembling the banks and forcing a take over of the top five banks in the country, Vanguard can now reveal. The grand plan by the group is to cause panic and uncertainty in the industry and make the target banks look unsafe for depositors. Their aim, Vanguard gathered, is to cause loss of public confidence in the banking industry and compel the Federal Government to move in by injecting funds. Further, they ultimately plan to instigate government to take equity holdings in the targeted banks.
Vanguard investigations reveal that the group at work is made up of former bank owners who lost out during the consolidation exercise, a powerful clique in the present government, and some aggrieved persons in three of the six geopolitical zones in the country who felt left out in the consolidation exercise.
Presidency sources disclosed that those who felt left out in the consolidation exercise are grieved and are up in arms to recoup what they felt they lost during Obasanjo years.
Part of the plan hatched by the group is to ensure that incumbent Central Bank governor, Professor Charles Soludo does not get a second term. The plan is also to ensure that what ever gains that consolidation had is discredited. This it was learnt was meant to force the President to act quickly in matter of appointment of a successor to Soludo as they anticipate that the president‚Äôs slow move may scuttle their dreams and cause the renewal of Soludo appointment for a second term.
The group second game plan is to make Nigerian banks look un safe in the eye of the banking public. They have perfected their game by spreading rumour that some categories of 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 target banks. At the moment the group‚Äô target is one of the high flying new generation bank where they have sent out several messages. One of the text messages which one of the operators gave to Vanguard stated ‚Äú—, one of Nigeria‚Äôs high-flying banks is facing serious difficulties that could force it into liquidation before the end of 2009. The bank‚Äôs precarious situation is due to its huge exposure to toxic loans to stockbrokers and importers of petroleum products.
‚ÄúWhile CBN has offered a stout defence of the bank‚Äôs financial position, a detailed investigation has confirmed that the bank‚Äôs net assets are dwindling by the hour. The FIRS recently stopped the bank from collecting revenue and the EFCC has invited some of the bank‚Äôs top brass over the N19 billion facility given to the CEO of an oil marketing company. The bank recently tried to raise some money by increasing its minimum savings balance from N1,000 to N10, 000 hoping to use the cash to bolster its books. The move backfired as the general public could not understand the rationale behind the directive.
‚ÄúAs people rushed to withdraw their funds, the bank shut down its systems on March 6, 2008 and later blamed it on a technological problem. Staffers of the bank are already looking for jobs in other banks as it has become obvious that only a miracle will save — empire. His well publicised plans to buy a Rolls Royce Phantom on his sixtieth birthday may soon have to be placed on hold as the stark reality finally dawns on him.
‚ÄúYesterday‚Äôs CBN directive would have carried more weight if the agency could be trusted. Professor Soludo promised depositors before the consolidation that no depositor would lose his money after the merger process. That turned out to be a blatant lie. Sylvester Odigie, a prominent businessman still has 300 million trapped in Fortune Bank not to talk of smaller customers that cannot afford to publicise their plight on the pages of newspapers. Soludo knows that there is a 95 per cent chance that he will not be offered a second term at the helm of the CBN so he can afford to endorse the bank knowing that he is on his way out.
By the way, the Bank has developed the habit of using its ‚ÄúBest Bank in Nigeria‚Äù award as a cudgel. Whenever, the bank receives bad press, it reminds us that The Banker, an affiliate of The FT named it as the Bank of The Year for 2008. But the same lazy researchers at The Banker, a PR rag, said that Spring Bank was one of Nigeria‚Äôs top five banks. A few months later, Spring Bank nearly collapsed.
‚ÄúLesson: Awards mean nothing. Always do your own due diligence.
By the way, I received a ‚Äúdamage control‚Äù text message from the Bank today. It read, ‚ÄúDear esteemed customer, the minimum balance on your savings account remains N1,000. Kindly disregard our earlier SMS on the increase. We regret any inconveniences and appreciate your continued patronage.‚Äù It came too late. I‚Äôve already cleaned out my account. I advise you to do the same‚Äù the text message read.
CBN official who spoke on condition of anonymity said that it is unfortunate that the top five banks are caught in the cross fire. The banks he said are sound. The CBN had mistaken in the past the ongoing move as de marketing by banks competitors saying it is unhealthy competition. The group is using this means to make depositors panic and undertake massive withdrawal of funds from the targeted banks in attempt to cause liquidity problem in the bank. In that state they hope to cause a take over by the government which may buy a stake in the bank and later sell to these privileged group who may be appointed in the interim into the board of the banks.
File: anti consolidation 21/03/09