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Failed Bank Debtors

IN a surprising, but  bold move, the Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions, last Tuesday released names of prominent Nigerians listed as owing the failed banks huge sums of money totaling  over N49 billion.

Senator Nkechi Nwaogu, who leads the Committee, started receiving threat messages while still reeling off the names.

With the dawn of our democracy, scandals, allegations of corruption, other financial and political malfeasance are routinely raised on the nation’s high and mighty.

The latest Wilbros, Siemens and Halliburton as well as the list of sponsors of the Niger Delta militants, which the Joint Task Force, JTF, claimed it recovered from the residence of Mr. Government Ekpemupolo (alias Tompolo) after the invasion of Gbaramatu and militants’ bases in Delta State. The nation is still waiting for the identities of those involved to be made public.

It was patriotic of committee members to ignore threats to their lives, confident their hands were clean on the matter. We congratulate the Committee and the Senate at large for this gesture, which is one of the rare pro-people measures associated with the current session of both chambers of the National Assembly since their proclamation in 2007.

The people involved are not mere bank debtors, they are worms. When worms invade an entity, they unleash their voracious appetite upon it, devouring it and giving nothing back in return.

That was exactly what these worms did to the banks that went under with the savings and deposits of many innocent Nigerians whose only sin was to respond to the enticing advertisements of these banks.

The money ended up in the pockets of those who were influential enough to sit on the boards and top managements of these banks, or command some political and social visibility, which made them seem credible.

Calling them bank debtors is a glorifying misnomer. A true bank debtor pays his debts and adds value, to the banking system and the economy at large. Banks depend on genuine debtors for their businesses to thrive.

With the exposure of these individuals who are among the affluent members of our society, we urge the law-enforcement agents to swing into action in these directions – invoke the full weight of our laws upon them, recover these debts, and prosecute them as the law prescribes.

Banks should also adhere to regulatory provisions to secure lending and avoid insider loans. The law forbids insider loans, but is mostly breached. The Central Bank must stop these abuses through better scrutiny of persons who become directors of banks and the books banks keep.

Senator Nwaogu and her Committee members deserve better security to forestall attacks on them. One of the best forms of security for society is for violators of the laws to be punished. It is possible there are more of them than appeared on that list.

The job would be partially done until insider lending is over in our banks, or at least accepted as a crime.


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