To The New MD/CEO, Inter-Lagoon Bank PLC…

by Adewale Ajani

The New MD/CEO, Inter-Lagoon Bank PLC…

The New MD/CEO
Inter-Lagoon Bank PLC
Plot 419, Distress Avenue
Victoria Island

18th August 2009.

Dear Sir,

Thank you for your SMS and subsequent email assuring me of your bank’s financial stability after the CBN’s ‘Hammer of Thor’ struck the bank’s executive ménage relieving its directors of their most lucrative positions and the CBN’s consequent ‘dole out’ aimed to address your insolvency.

You may want to know that I received your missives in good health as I have developed a thick tegument and a vibrant lion’s heart to trounce such occurrences. Who could do without these anyway, if survival is vital in a country like ours? I am convinced without the minutest of doubt that both the SMS and email were not meant for measly customers like me because the information was disseminated en masse for a commercial purpose. Sir, be aware that this memo is neither to spite you nor ‘our’ bank. In fact, your new role in cleaning the augean stables is one no one will envy or touch with a long pole. I can only wish you the best and pray you succeed.

My no-brainer position in your bank’s scheme of priority customers have been reiterated many a time and via diverse means. Not a few instances abound. Whenever I have issues, your ever-sassy customer relation officers only warm up to me (or do otherwise) as a function of what my account balance reads at the particular instant of time. Moreover, several times when many individuals (including my humble self) highlighted (often times on the pages of newspapers and through various means) unwholesome bank practices, manipulated share prices on the floor of the Nigeria Stock Exchange, unrealistic profit declarations that do not match with realities of our economy (particularly in the manufacturing sector), unhealthy inter-bank competition and rivalry, unsustainable banking operations and expensive corporate governance lifestyle, debasing marketing strategies and many more; we were treated like an infant’s fart.

I also remember with pain when all banks went on rampage to secure our meagre funds through all means devisable. I joined the bandwagon (against my convictions) to purchase your bank shares and many others. Alas, I had my investments reduced to a paltry figure. During the run, I observed with dismay how you gave loans to your cronies to cash in on short-term gains because you issued their share certificates without delay while those of long-term investors like us are still in transit many years after. Their voracity eventually crashed the stock market. It seems to baffle me why would and should I ever matter to you or your bank at this point in time? As a matter of fact, it leaves a suspicious taste in the mouth.

As much as I would have loved to play a role (major or minor) in rescuing ‘our’ bank from of its present financial ‘kettle of fish’ and doldrums, regrettably I am handicapped beyond imagination. My salaried job which is currently my only source of income has merely guaranteed me peanuts with a safe abode under my mattress or sometimes my pillow. Unfortunately, the prevailing global financial meltdown (which the CBN once claimed we are immune to) has done exactly that to my remuneration – melted it. My salary now perfectly fits into my back pocket. You would agree with me that it would not make any smidgen of sense to drop this trifle into your bank coffers where predators, waiting (in the forms of VAT, hidden bank/transaction, ATM and other undefined charges) will further ravage whatever is left to nothingness.

Other businesses that could have brought me immense prosperity and whose subsequent returns could have accrued to your bank’s purse never saw the light of day. No thanks to the stringent conditions given by the bank which snuffed life out of my numerous business proposals when I came knocking for loans. The impossible interests requested for snuffed life out of the brilliant business ideas and the collaterals you asked for dealt the final blow – the only thing you did not ask for was my life. It is heart-rending however, to discover that most of your bank mega debtors that have brought it into this pickle secured these loans with no collaterals. It is more painful to observe how the CBN doled out many parts of a trillion naira to correct a few individuals’ (trusted with public funds) inadequacies and exuberances. It looks like robbing Peter to pay Paul. These are monies that otherwise could have been used to address issues that will directly impact the lives of not a few Nigerians in the infrastructure, power, education, agriculture, health and manufacturing sectors.

Of course, I do consider your bank not to be the only scourge creating its present condition. Many ‘culprits’ should not go absolved. First is the CBN itself – the supposed watchdog – who cannot claim it was oblivious of the rot being exposed now. Moreover, the piecemeal audit and exposure of the banks’ true conditions is not without some clandestine schema (of which you played into its gallery). Rating outfits that led you on a deception trail should also be blacklisted. They enjoyed the funfair while it lasted. They created a mirage of confidence that never existed either through their ignorance or deliberate cover-up. Also on the malefactor list are the ‘big boys’ – the mega debtors. They borrowed money to execute awry, failed businesses that left you the lenders to lick both your wounds and theirs. In addition, the arrogance with which they carry themselves should tell you that retrieving the borrowed funds from them will be almost impossible.

Do not be deceived by the harangues of the toothless bulldog tagged the EFCC aimed at helping you recover your funds from the untouchable ‘big boys’. It is all part of the script. Moreover, the Federal Government has also placed itself in a position where it cannot afford to throw stones because it resides in a glass house – otherwise where would the funds for the 2011 elections come from?

Sir, if indeed I matter in your bank scheme of operations I would like to lend my layman ‘non-expert’ advice aimed to help retrace ‘our’ bank steps from ignominy to fete.

Douse the voracious thirst to be the biggest – it has been proven now that the biggest is not the brightest. Flee unhealthy inter-bank rivalry – it will grind all involved to nihility. Do not covet accolades and approval from rating agents. Remember, once beaten, many times shy. Be reasonable with your lending rates – your mega debtors never argued the inordinate interests you slammed on their loans. They could not have or otherwise you might change your mind. Directly empower the manufacturing sectors while reducing investments into rent-seeking sectors and high-risk-high-yield businesses like the one that is almost causing your ruin. Trim down operational/overhead costs – flashy cars, glamour, expensive globe trotting, reality TV shows and adverts, imposing office buildings and exotic locations. In the present world of high-tech automation, banks can function well in small well-serviced office spaces. Play down on expensive corporate governance lifestyle. Finally, be open at all times. Say it as it is even if your balance sheets are more of a red colouration. Remember, public trust is the greatest asset.

Accept my widow’s mite.



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