BY UDEME CLEMENT
The on-going reforms in the banking sector in Nigeria have taken a new dimension with the declaration by theÂ Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) toÂ issue new licences that would categorize banks preparatory to phasing out universal banking system in 18 months.
Speaking onÂ this development, an executive director, Fidelity Bank Plc, Mr. Willie Obiano, said the existing banking practice has been on for a long time and to which most commercial banks are already used to, adding that CBN must carefully study the industry to be able to restructure the system to align with the new policy.
He said,Â â€œCBN is the apex bank and has the responsibility to regulate the activities of the financial industry in the country.Â This means that commercial banks doing business in Nigeria must follow its guidelines in order to operate within the same policy framework to stimulate economic growth and development.
â€œIt is would be too early to start condemning the idea. The major thing right now is for the CBN to release the new policy for everyone to carefully examine the details and see how it would improve efficiency in the system. It is the policy framework that would determine the implementation strategyâ€. On the importance of the banking industry and whether the decision by CBN would reposition the sector for greater productivity, he said, â€œThe banking sector plays a major role in economic growth and development important. So, there must be transparency and accountability for the industry to produce the desired resultâ€.
Also speaking on the unfolding regime in the banking sector, a financial analyst and ex- officer, Association of Senior Staff of Banks Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI), Afribank Unit, Otio Nathaniel, said â€œit is quite clear that the CBN under Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, has lost focus and Nigeriaâ€™s economy is going under because it has no direction, since the financial sector is also collapsingâ€.Â â€œUniversal banking is the best because it is a one-stop shop, offering a range of financial services such as mortgage, stock broking, insurance, merchant banking, commercial banking and bureau de change under one unitâ€, Nathaniel added.
â€œWhat Sanusi is doing currently is complete cancellation of the monetary polices of the past regime together with what ought to be the gains both in human resources as well as the structure and this is not good for our economy, because it would not allow development. There is need for the present management of CBN to harmonise the policy framework of the past regime to form a common front for the economy to prosper. Sanusi should build on what the former governor left on ground and try to improve on it for the banking industry to thrive, rather than trying to bring the industry backward.
â€œThe Federal Government that empowered Sanusi to give the financial sector a direction must call him to orderÂ as a matter of urgency to prevent the economy from total collapse. Within a short period, he has derailed the entire banking structure put in place by the previous management. For the economy to have tangible outputs, the inputs of both the past and present management of CBN must be harmonisedâ€.
Universal banking system was introduced in 2000 by the then monetary authority. The initiative was to enable commercial banks doing business in the country offer financial services such as mortgage, stock broking, insurance merchant banking, commercial banking and even bureau de change under one unit. But the incumbent governor of CBN criticised the system, saying the existing structure allows banks to deviate from their areas of core competence and put shareholdersâ€™ funds at risk thereby portending danger for the sector.