By Peter Egwuatu
LAGOS â€” THE Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), yesterday, officially handed over the properties of Savannah Bank Plc to the promoters, even as the Central Bank (CBN) says the bank will not be open to the general public until the issue of solvency and other matters are resolved.
On its part, Savannah Bank commended President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua, the CBN and NDIC for adhering to the ruling of the court in returning its licence after seven years of legal battle, and assured the general public that Savannah Bank has re-emerged and is better positioned to render world class banking services. It also appealed to both the CBN and NDIC to co-operate with it in the on-going process of re-opening for operations.
Speaking at the handing over ceremony of the bank at its corporate headquarters in Lagos, the NDIC Managing Director, Mr. Ganiyu Ogunleye said, â€œwe are obeying the ruling of the Appeal Court to formally hand over the properties of the bank to its owners today.
This is just the first step of the process in re-opening the bank. It is our hope that the owners of the bank will now meet the CBN to address other issues before it commences operation.
Continuing, he said: â€œit would be recalled that in February 2002 when the licence of Savannah Bank was revoked by the CBN and the NDIC was appointed the primary liquidator, we swung into action by securing the properties with the police manning the buildings.
But since the owners of the bank were not satisfied with the judgement of the Federal High Court in Abuja that led to the circumstances of the revocation of the licence, they challenged it and appealed the ruling.
After the ruling of the Appeal Court in their favour that the revocation of the bankâ€™s licence was not done in accordance with the law and that CBN should surrender the licence of the bank to their owners, the CBN complied with the order but the other issues to be met by the bank is still on-going.
As at the time we took over the bank, we were told that the bank branches were 104 but we never gained access to 25 of the branches.â€
Weâ€™re willing to assist Savannah â€” NDIC
He further disclosed that NDIC had in April 2009 held interactive session with owners of the bank, saying, â€œwe gave them the status report and told them whatever issues that needed clarification, we are ready to let them know so that they can realise their objectives.
This is the final step of the handing over as far as we are concerned.
Once the owners gain access to the building, whatever issues that need to be resolved will be with the CBN which is the authority that issues licence.
I want to assure the owners of Savannah Bank that we are willing and ready to assist them as best as we can in realising their objectives.â€
Speaking, the Director of Banking Supervision, CBN, who was represented by his deputy, Mr. Sola Awoyungbo said, â€œI am happy to be here at the history making event, though I am representing the Director of Banking Supervision.
“I commend the NDIC Managing Director who has chronicled the history of the takeover and transfer of the bank to its owners.
This is just the first of so many other steps that need to be settled before Savannah Bank can open its doors to the public.
We believe that they will respond to the initiatives of the regulator in complying with the other issues before its door can open to the public.
Nwobodo lauds Yarâ€™Adua
In his response, leader of the majority stakeholders, Chief Jim Nwobodo said â€œI commend President Yarâ€™Adua for his adhering to the rule of law.
I also commend the NDIC and CBN for also adhering to the judgement of the Appeal Court to restore the licence of Savannah Bank. This action will definitely bring succour to the depositors, staff and shareholders of the bankâ€.
Continuing, he said, â€œlet me assure the general public that Savannah Bank has re-emerged and better positioned to render world class banking services.
Though the financial services industry has changed significantly in the last seven years, we are confident that the new Board of Directors to be led by Mr. Richard Abraham and a new management team will deliver exceptional banking services built on trust and integrity.â€
Nwobodo further said â€œin line with this, the bank has put together a very strong team of advisers in virtually all business and technical areas to assist in managing the takeover process as well as the business planning activities preparatory to the formal re-launch of the new bank.â€
Speaking also, interim Chairman of the Bank, Mr. Abraham said he has been with the bank for over 30 years and promised that the bank will be run in a more professional way compared to other banks in the country.
According to him, â€œtoday merely marks the commencement of the takeover process of the bankâ€™s asset from the NDIC which has kept these assets in trust over the last few years.
The process of re- launching the new Savannah Bank will be handled in a very deliberate manner in order to ensure that we build a world class institution that can compete favourably with any other bank in Nigeria and indeed globally.â€