CBN, nationalised banks and investors

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) was established by an Act of Parliament with the primary responsibility of formulating and implementing fiscal policies and regulations for the enhancement of socio-economic and development activities in the country.

Consequent upon the appointment and assumption of duty by Malam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, as the CBN Governor, in June 2009, there is no gainsaying the fact that he and his team at the Apex bank have attempted to ensure some measure of sanity in respect of enforcing macro-prudential guidelines, good corporate governance, adequate disclosures, transparency, Know Your Customers, KYC, and the limiting of the tenure of banks’ managing directors and external auditors among others in the Banking sector of Nigeria’s economy.

Nevertheless, numerous stakeholders in the financial industry and Nigerians in general have well-observed over time, that Malam Sanusi’s carefree and occasionally inconsistent policy pronouncements on certain burning fiscal issues concerning Nigerian and foreign investors alike, leave much to be desired.

Perhaps, out of sheer arrogance, disrespect for constituted authorities, and ineffective communication skills to marshal his arguments well, he yet seems to have continued to make such stirring remarks and pronouncements on fundamental monetary issues affecting the nation’s economy at every turn, not caring about whose ox is gored in the process.

Among such crucial monetary matters, of late, include those of Islamic banking model, devaluation of the Naira, fuel subsidy removal, Capital Market investment, cost of transaction (COT) on cash withdrawal limits at the banks’ counters, in lieu of using Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs), and fate of shareholders of the three acquired banks.

It will be recalled that the CBN, acting in consonance with the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) as the liquidator, engineered the revocation of operating licences, liquidated and subsequently acquired former Afribank Plc, BankPHB Plc and Spring Bank Plc, and consequently changed their names suddenly, all nationalised and being managed by the Assets Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON), even without considering the investments of the shareholders in the affected financial institutions.

It was in the light of the foregoing that Sanusi made his latest appearance before the distinguished Senators on the Senate Committee on Banking, where he is currently seeking an approval for the release of N500billion supplementary fund, to “invest” in the three nationalised financial institutions that initially had gulped N620billion, the total amount now netting N1.12trillion, if the fresh request is granted.

Regarding taking responsibility for what the original investors had probably lost in terms of dividends and bonuses as returns on their investment since AMCON “compellingly took over” the management of the three banks, “scholarly” Malam Sanusi, again, dazed the Senators and the rest of Nigerians, as if addressing elementary school pupils, in his characteristic manner thus: “It is my job to protect depositors. If you go and buy shares, you are taking a risk. The bank paid dividends, you took the dividends. Share price went up, you sold and tripled your money. Those that sold made money. Those that didn’t sell lost; it is a risk you took.

“The depositor did not go to lose money. We told them don’t put your money in the pillow, go and put in the bank. He expects to get that money on demand. My obligation is to make sure that every depositor gets his money. I have no obligation to the shareholders. It is not my job…. Shareholders are not happy with me. I understand that and I accept it. I am happy that they are not happy because that means that I am doing my work,” he added the clincher. But, is he not really doing a poor, unjust and hatchet man’s job by ostracising the shareholders from benefiting from their sweat when his acquired banks possibly return to profitability in future? What manner of loose pronouncements from a supposed leader in Nigeria’s financial industry?

Thus, there a number of relevant questions Sanusi need to answer at this juncture: What does it mean and require to acquire a business concern? Who actually own the banks the CBN and AMCON have acquired and nationalised on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria, if not the investors? Does the acquisition of an organisation not include both its assets and liabilities? Was Sanusi in Nigeria at all, when these banks kept mobilising Nigerians to invest in their stocks in the early years of consolidation exercise before things went awry in the Market, beginning from 2008?

Among other scores of Nigerians already alleging that Sanusi is probably up to some hidden agenda with his obvious anxiety in heating up the banking sector and achieve a purported ulterior motive in recent times is Mr. Sunny Nwosu, President, Independent Shareholders’ Association of Nigeria, who said: “Yes, AMCON was created to actualise the secret agenda of the CBN Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. That is why he (Sanusi) is so desperate to use AMCON to threaten the banking environment…. They have set up AMCON to rape and cheat shareholders in this country.”

For instance, in his recent chat with a national daily, Mr. Oscar Onyema, Chief Executive Officer, NSE, lamentably posited that “the (Capital) market has been struggling as you know by the All Share Index…. But the market is reflecting certain sentiments, not necessarily all the market fundamentals, outside of the banking sector. So, part of the reason why we are doing the market segmentation study is to make sure that we get investors and market participants to start thinking in terms of sectors and to be reflective of what is going on in the various sectors so that sum of the parts can actually make the whole.” But, how can he and other stakeholders in the market attract more investors with Sanusi’s kind of sarcastic comments against genuine investors?

Surprisingly, major regulators in the nation’s Capital Market, including Mr. Onyema, Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) himself; Ms. Aruma Oteh, Director-General, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC); and Mr. Bukar Kyari, Managing Director, Central Securities Clearing System (CSCS) Limited, whose “mantra” in recent times has been on encouraging investors to “deepen the market” and restore confidence in the Nigerian Capital Market have all kept mute since Sanusi made the newest dispiriting remarks over the fate of the investors in the three acquired banks. Instead, along with other notable Nigerians, they all gleefully celebrated “50 years of regulating” the heavily distressed Capital Market with its Market Capitalisation currently hovering around N6.63trillion from about N13trillion in 2007.

As things stand in the all-important Banking sector of the economy, the Federal Government, in the spirit of equity and justice, must intervene by insisting that innocent shareholders of these nationalised are not fleeced of their investments.

Despite the commendable Banking Reforms, Sanusi needs to learn how to communicate better and with a sense of responsibility. Talking tough and stirring a hornet’s nest in the nation’s entire banking and financial system with careless pronouncements and feeble arguments, doesn’t necessarily mean he is communicating anything to the generality of Nigerians.

The NSE, SEC and CSCS Managements should intensify more efforts at instituting market development programmes aimed at reviving the much-needed investor confidence and illiquidity challenges currently confronting Nigerian Stock market. Helplessly watching the CBN Governor and his cohorts taking a swipe at both existing and prospective stock investors, sure will only culminate in negating the revival programmes lined up to t

urn around the fortune of the market. Yet, the Capital Market remains the barometer with which to measure the performance any worthwhile economy the world over.

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