By Babajide Komolafe
The suffering of depositors of Savannah Bank is aptly reflected in the email received from one of our readers, Izuchukwu Emmanuel. “Please I was very optimistic to read your repor , when I saw the headline on your firm’s online page. Please I want to know if there is any hope that the bank will to re-open for business. My late dad had an account with the bank and my mum is suffering from financial burdens since the demise of my dad. Please keep me informed if there is any. Thanks.”
Though brief, the email is loaded with meanings, and silent on many various ways the Savannah Bank saga is impacting families and businesses across the country. For example, how are we sure that the money trapped in the Bank did not in any way contribute to the death of this man’s father?
How are we sure that the inability of the family of the deceased to access his money in Savannah Bank has not affected the education of his children?
It won’t be surprising that one or more children of the deceased had dropped out of school because the family could not pay school fees. How are we also sure that the money trapped in Savannah Bank has not transferred a middle income family to the swelling ranks of the over 70 percent of Nigerians living below the poverty line?
Savannah Bank was closed in February 2007, and many have forgotten that the bank was closed on a Friday night, few hours after millions of individuals and businesses deposited their cash takings for the week into their bank account. Many of these customers would have done so with the intention of accessing the money the following Monday to address one family or business need or the other.
The manner in which the bank was closed, which is akin to a coup detart, aggravated the severe impact of the closure on the customers. There is no doubt, the closure and continued closure of Savannah Bank have contributed significantly to the problem of poverty and unemployment in the country. Hence it is a national shame.
While the ability of the owners of Savannah Bank to raise the needed capital to reopen the bank, and the response of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to the plight of the depositors of the bank would greatly determine how long the family of Izuchukwu Emmanuel and other depositors will continue to suffer, the attitude of the depositors themselves can play a critical role.
If they adopt a ‘siddon-look’ attitude, they might suffer forever. But if they decide to take action to recover their money, their suffering may end in a matter of weeks or months. It is good that the depositors have formed a group, which last year, petitioned the President and Minister for Finance over their money trapped in the bank. Given the fact that there seems to be no concrete response to their petition, it is time for the depositors to take more action.
The first step is to explore the option of dialogue with the management of the CBN. The depositors of Savannah Bank should send a delegation to the CBN Governor, to seek the position and plan of the apex bank on the continued closure of the bank and the entrapment of their money. The delegation should go with well articulated list of demand with deadline for the apex bank on the release of their money. If the apex bank and the owner of the bank fail to comply with this deadline, then
the depositors should explore the option of legal action. To be continued next week. Send comments and enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org