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CBN and the sack of bank managements

By Akeem Adebayo
THE brazen decision of the Lamido Sanusi-led Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to sack the CEOs and Executive Directors of Oceanic Bank, Afribank, Intercontinental Bank, Union Bank and Finbank should be treated with the due suspicion that it deserves.

The present predicament of the banks was long in coming. The bitter, persistent complaints of alleged marginalisation of the ‘North’ by the Soludo consolidation policy by Northern politicians, journalists and traditional rulers during the Obasanjo administration, gave an inkling of what fate would befall the banks immediately this adminis-tration came into office.

And the ‘Northern’ saboteurs went into action as soon as Yar’Adua was sworn in. They first focused their attacks on Soludo and its main achievement, the consolidated banks, which were blamed for all manners of ills plaguing the country’s economy.

The African Finance Corporation, which was established by the Soludo CBN in partnership with Nigerian banks, was portrayed as a gigantic fraud. The Presidency even set up a special investigative panel which could only find Soludo culpable of alleged procedural mistakes in setting up the continental development financial institution.

Then came the accusations that the ex-CBN chief was not policing the banks properly and that he co-owned some of them.

Series of pressure was mounted on the Professor of Economics, making him to embark on a series of measures to pacify the powers that be. He gave back the operating licence of Société Générale and to achieve regional balance also Savannah.

Moreover, he even forgave the 70 billion naira debt of Unity Bank. But all to no avail. The North wanted that position at all costs. When the time came for the renewal of his term of office and against all rules of logic in view of his world-acclaimed achievements, Soludo was asked to go and Sanusi was swiftly named in his replacement.

The curious thing about the processes of appointment and Senate confirmation of Sanusi was the lack of controversy which should normally have characterised them because of the antecedents of the Fulani man.

Sanusi is an unabashedly  Fulani nationalist and he has made that clear in many articles he has written since 2000 and which were published in Nigerian newspapers and online, especially on gamji.com.

He has made disparaging remarks about Chief Obafemi Awolowo and even attacked Abacha and Babangida, non-Fulani former Northern heads of state.

He made sure his readers understood him well that he was foremost a Fulani — he even described the term Hausa-Fulani a nonsense nomenclature. In fact, the title of one his articles was “The Fulani without Apology”. Sanusi’s writings were so nauseating that Garba Shehu, the non-Fulani Northern rights activist, once described them as “racist crap”.

Aside from that, Sanusi at First Bank was rumoured to be actively engaged in the infamous de-marketing campaign, a charge that Intercontinental Bank made against him, in a veiled reference, in a newspaper advertisement early this year.

Doubts about the veracity of the widely-held suspicion were dispelled by the negative feature on Nigerian banks published by The Africa Report, in which Sanusi was the main source of information. He was also exclusively interviewed in the report.

That such an unabashed tribalist could be appointed into such a professional national office without any protests shows the political lethargy of the Southern elite.

And that must have emboldened the Fulani CBN chief that he made very negative remarks about Nigerian banks in the very first interview he granted the press upon his assumption of office. In the interview, with the West Africa correspondent of the Financial Times, he made it point blank that he would prefer new investors to come into the market, even expressing his preference for foreign players at the expense of those he referred to as anonymous Nigerian nominees.

That interview also failed to elicit condemnation despite its patent patriotism and its potentials to cause a confidence crisis in the capital market. No wonder that Sanusi felt so sure of the docility of his victims that he devised the so-called audit programme, carried it out in a rash and without even waiting for the completion of the exercise or informing the boards of the affected banks of its findings, he went ahead to change the managements of the banks.

Without doubt Sanusi’s actions are premeditated and are meant to change the ownership structure of the banks. Why the haste to take the decisions when the so-called CBN audit has not been conducted in all Nigerian banks?

Why did Sanusi not invite the boards of the banks to show them the results of the so-called audit and ask them how they think they could solve the problem; for example, giving them a deadline to recapitalise?

Why wield the axe so soon?

The practice all over the world is to first demand that the existing shareholders meet the capital adequacy. It is only where they are not able to raise the required capital that forced intervention by the regulators takes place.

These are indications that Sanusi is following a script.

The appointment of Southerners as acting MDs of the 5 banks is a smokescreen. When the smoke clears, Fulanis would have become the majority shareholders of most Nigerian banks. As Sanusi has said that he would invite investors to shore up the capital of these banks and take stake in them.

There is a grand conspiracy by the Yar’Adua administration to foster Fulani control over all facets of life in the country. What Sanusi has just done must be linked with what his people are doing in other sectors of the economy where they’re edging out other Nigerians, such as in the oil & gas industry.

Today, it’s the banks. Yesterday, it’s the petroleum products importers. Who knows who’s next?

When will Southerners and other marginalised Nigerians begin to resist this blatant process of internal colonialism?

Akeem Adebayo writes from   Dubin, Ireland


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