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And the beat goes on…

By Awa Kalu

Don’t forget the lyrics’ is the title of a very popular and relaxing family entertainment programme that is currently running on several Television Channels both at home and abroad. You can bet that I have not forgotten the lyrics of the hit song, ‘And the beat goes on…’ released in the seventies by the equally popular group, ‘The Whispers’.

If you have been following recent developments in the banking sector (such as the purge of the top echelon of five banks, the arrest of certain Chief Executives and other Directors of those banks, their arraignment on multiple charges before different Courts and the saga that has followed such arraignment, etc.), then exercise a little patience and make a meal of relevant portions of the lyrics of that song.

It goes like this: And the beat goes on just like my love everlasting, And the beat goes on still moving strong on and on; Do you ever wonder that to win, somebody’s got to lose, Just like fishing in the ocean, there’ll always be something new, You did me wrong ‘cos I’ve been through stormy weather; And the beat goes on just like my love everlasting, And the beat goes on you’d better believe it still moving strong on and on; Don’t stop for nobody, this time I’ll keep my feet on solid ground.

Now I understand myself when I’m down, like the sweet sound of hip music there’ll always be something new to keep the tables turning, Hey this super song, there’ll never be an ending; And the beat goes on just like my love everlasting, And the beat goes on still moving strong on and on (the beat goes on) on,…; Get down playing that fee, sure the beat is real the beat goes on; And the beat goes on,…

Certainly, the beat goes on. It is difficult to forget the crisis that hit the banking sector in the nineties, leading to the collapse of several banks including other financial institutions. The military regime of that era proceeded against major players in that sector as if they were toxic and noxious substances, fit for annihilation. Thus, many bankers of that era including their chieftains took to their heels, absconded or chose voluntary exile. Those who were around were arraigned before special tribunals created for the purpose of sanitising or ridding the banking sector of bad eggs.

The sanitisation of the sector was also said to require draconian legislation and we got them aplenty. The collapse of several banks was then attributed to several factors including greed, poor management, low capacity building and wait a minute, poor credit and risk management. Does the beat go on?

Before we proceed further, note that banks deal with money, of which a lot has been said. Again, let me crave your indulgence to repeat some of the things that have been said and in fact, written about money… In the words of V.C. Oliver, “if a man runs after money, he’s money-mad; if he keeps it, he’s a capitalist; if he spends it, he’s a playboy; if he doesn’t get it, he’s a never-do-well; if he doesn’t try to get it, he lacks ambition; if he gets it without working for it, he’s a parasite; and if he accumulates it after a lifetime of hard work, people call him a fool who never got anything out of life”.
Margaret Thatcher, first female British Prime Minister and politician of note, in a television interview, (1980), quipped that “No one would have remembered the Good Samaritan if he’d only good intentions. He had money as well”. Clint Murchinson Jnr (1895 – 1969) US industrialist in Time Magazine, 16 June, 1981, noted that “money is like manure. If you spread it around it does a lot of good. But if you pile it up in one place it stinks like hell”. The French existentialist writer, Albert Camus (1913 -60), on the other hand, thought that “it is a kind of spiritual snobbery that makes people think they can be happy without money”.

Agatha Christie (1891 – 1976) the well known and versatile British detective story writer (Endless Night, BK II, ch. 15) wrote that “where large sums of money are concerned, it is advisable to trust nobody”. You may at this stage now pause and ask yourself whether it is really all about money (having regard to earth shaking and unfolding events in our banks) but before you come to any conclusion let me refer you to three other famous quotes about money.

According to Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803- 1882), “money often cost too much!” Money is a terrible master but an excellent servant” -P.T. Barnum (1810- 1891).

Finally, the Holy Bible, (Ecclesiastes 10:19) says that “A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry; but money answereth all things”. Again, before you think that it is time to decide whether or not the events in our banks concern money only, please note the very popular proverb worldwide: the love of  money is the root of all evil.

Of everything you have read above concerning money, the one that is inexorably true is that where large sums of money are concerned, it is advisable to trust nobody. Banks certainly deal with large sums of money and the past and present trends in that sector prove convincingly that Agatha Christie was right and this is probably why banking is one of the most regulated sectors of the economy. Of course, there is the Central Bank Act, there is also the Banks and other
financial institutions Act and another enactment which establishes the National Deposit Insurance Corporation, etc.

These enactments make several provisions concerning banking business. Aside from establishing elaborate procedures and guidelines for determining who can participate in the business of banking, there are stringent guidelines for sustaining presence in the business. For good measure, some of the guidelines including mainstream provisions in the Acts prescribe penal consequences for their breach. For the avoidance of doubt, only a company duly incorporated and licensed for the purpose, can venture into banking business. Such corporate persons require a minimum capital base stipulated by the Central Bank.

Those who are familiar with the law in this area will confirm that it is not just any Tom, Dick and Harry that can participate in the commanding heights of the running of our banks. As such, the regulatory authorities such as the Central Bank must be aware of the antecedents of members of the Board of Directors, their Chief Executives and Chairmen or Chairpersons as the case may be. If you stretch it a little, you will be correct to assume that management personnel at the highest level are known or are supposed to be known by the apex bank.

Banking business is carried out in an environment that encourages confidentiality-even secrecy in some cases. But the confidentiality does not extend to transactions such as loans involving the Directors of the Banks. This means that if a Director is interested in a loan transaction, for instance, the full extent of his or her interest must be fully disclosed.


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