By Yinka Odumakin
I was one of those who opposed the appointment of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as the Central Bank Governor when the late Umaru Ya’aradua nominated him for the exalted office in 2009. My reason for considering him unfit for the office was not because he lacked the knowledge and intellect for the office but rather because I found him impetuous and his thoughts on national issues showed a narrow man whose lenses do not see beyond the prism of his own agenda. His thoughts on other nationalities in Nigeria were either rude,condescending and when at his best patronising. Anyone who doubts the above should read most of his sabre-rattling views and commentaries before he became the CBN Governor.
The Number one banker for the country should not be a man with such strong political views which negate the liberal mindset that is required to handle the apex bank.
He eventually assumed the office of the CBN Governor and has since carried himself about with all the swagger of an aristocrat and in the process did a lot of incalculable damage to the economy through his whimsical actions whose results are already staring us in the face.
Dele Sobowale in his piece titled “Another Banking Crisis Coming Up” in VANGUARD of May7, 2012 rightly opined that If anyone had asked Sanusi Lamido Sanusi three years ago his choice between becoming the Emir of Kano and the Governor of Central Bank; he would have chosen the former.” But like Prince Charles of Britain, whose mother, Queen Elizabeth II, has reigned since 1952, and is still going strong, Lamido too must wait indefinitely to pursue his ultimate ambition – which does not include being remembered as a great banker. Banking was just something to do while waiting.
That was why, unlike his predecessor, he did not lobby much for the job; instead the job came looking for him. That might have explained his distractions and his aloofness bordering on arrogance.”
In what appears a glimpse into Sanusi’s mishandling of the banking sector I quote Mr Sobowale copiously: “When Sanusi took over,he proceeded to dismantle the Soludo legacy. And although, there is no indication he intends to erect a monument, he will all the same. The crisis might occur before he goes to Kano for the coronation. It is brewing with a fury known only to beer Brewmasters.
Most banking crises start from one incident, a breach of the rules and regulations, in one bank which benefits a few people; gets copied by other banks or is repeated by the same bank until it becomes routine. The current case involving the former Managing Director of the defunct Intercontinental Bank, Plc and the former governor of Kwara State is one of the two examples which will be examined today to round up this warning. As stated last week, if the allegations are proved beyond reasonable doubt, the the Governor of the Central Bank must bear a significant portion of the blame for appointing someone whose track record had been revealed as questionable in the past.
At the moment the focus is on one allegation pertaining to granting waivers to Senator Saraki’s firms under questionable circumstances and releasing the securities for the loan prematurely; thereby leaving the bank holding to thin air for its exposure – N9 to 11 billion worth of it. One can only pray it is not true; for the sake of Mr Alabi; more for the sake of Senator Saraki and for the sake of the Nigerian banking sector. That incident raises several questions to which this writer already has some answers. The first is, was that the only loan handled in this manner? If not, how many more loans are involved? For those who might not grasp the implications of those questions, let me quickly explain
The next question is for the Central Bank to answer. Are there no guidelines which must be followed before a bank can grant this magnitude of a waiver? If, yes, were they followed and did CBN examiners to the bank check these? If not, how could the examiners have missed this huge write off? The more you look, the more it can be seen that the CBN was somehow derelict in its duties and its responsibilities to the shareholders of the bank who had no say in the appointment of the Managing Directors. And, if it was careless in one case how can the stakeholders in the banking sector have confidence that this is an isolated case. Information reaching me suggests it is not.
When we turn to the pension scandal, one is appalled and the heart melts. Here the rules and regulations guiding deposits by individuals, as well as opening of accounts are so clear that no banker can claim ignorance of them. There is the “Know Your Customer” principle and the mandatory requirement to report deposits of one million or more into an individual account.
Yet virtually all the banks conspired with old and new customers to launder stolen pension funds belonging to millions of individuals. Even with the rather lenient penalties attached to these offences, the banks face billions of naira in penalties directly; and billions more in claims from affected groups indirectly.
In these cases we are not talking about a few individuals but a systemic and pervasive violation of the laws. The bankers who have appeared at public hearings have sounded like people interested in passing the buck and running for the border than people certain of their innocence. Heads, again will roll.”
Sanusi, this time, should not be allowed to single-handedly appoint new Chief Executive Officers to replace those who might be implicated. The obvious question; to which there is also an obvious answer is: why did so many bankers risk their careers and the fortunes of their banks by engaging in widespread money laundering? The answer is “they were desperate”. Both individually and as banks people had become desperate.
Retrenchment occurs every day sending hundreds of bankers into the job market and an uncertain future. Most, on account of loans taken, would depart with very little. Under the circumstances, it was easy to bend the rules, collaborate with pension fund thieves and hope to put away something for the future. Diminished job security is one reason for the collective violation of banking rules and regulations. The negative variances between projected revenue and profits also act as catalysts to law breaking. When deposit targets are not being met, bank managers become vulnerable to dubious deals. Most succumb hoping that the violations can be concealed through a combination of other deals with CBN staff, creative accounting and complaisant auditors. Some of the tell-tale signs are there when depositors spend long hours at branches trying to withdraw money. Also, when your bank “fails” to clear local cheques deposited within three working days, or out of state cheques for almost a week, into your account – especially on week-ends — you should suspect deliberate delay by the bank. Or when salaries paid into your account “have not been processed”. Invariably, it is not just a few customers; it is every customer who is subjected to “go slow” treatment.
Like all the previous bank crisis, this too started slowly, by a few bank managers in a few branches and regional offices. Suddenly, the exception became routine once again in Nigerian banks. But, as appetite grew with eating, it became an all-comers affair. Now virtually all the banks were consumed by it. The CBN had been issuing threats to deal with all the banks involved. That is akin to wanting to close the gate after the cows have fled. To start with the bankers opening dubious accounts did it deliberately and were paid for their “services”. Furthermore, a lot of the funds deposited and which, if reported as required by law, would have been recovered intact have been spent. A great deal of the stolen funds and the bribes to the bankers have vanished; but the banks are liable.
Once again, the question is: where were CBN bank examiners while all these were going on? Increasingly, what these cases reveal is a governor and group of Executive Directors who have been derelict in their duties; who have not been supervising the banks and who have allowed another crisis to develop so soon after the last one. Like drunken sailors on shore leave our bankers have stumbled from one crisis to another – thanks to poor supervision this time.”
Our dear aristocrat has in words and actions confirmed the position of the columnist that he is just marking time at the CBN while waiting for the current Emir of Kano to transit so he can fulfil his long held ambition of becoming the next emir of Kano.
At the peak of the fuel subsidy crisis early this year ,another columnist, Tunde Fagbenle ; in an exchange with Sanusi Lamido Sanusi had nicely cautioned him against his undisguised ambition of getting turbaned as Emir while there is a reigning one.The following exchange took place between Fagbenle and SLS as published in Fagbenle’s column of SUNDAY PUNCH of March 25,2012:
“I know you’ve set yourself the ‘supreme ambition’ of becoming the Emir of Kano (the stool of your grandfather), though I think it is impolitic to have declared such ambition so soon while the incumbent is still alive (well, by my Yoruba custom, that is!); but I would want to see a movement that can help in bringing someone like you, Oshiomhole, Fashola, and, even, Okonjo-Iweala to run Nigeria. What a great country that would be!” Regards, TF From SLS “
Thank you very much, Tunde.
“Starting from the lighter note, it was not so much a declaration of ambition. In our own part of the world, the emir takes it for granted that every prince wants to be an emir and in fact, it would be a sad day if a prince, when asked his ambition in life, ranked another office higher than the throne of his ancestors.” It was in showing that his ambition of becoming an emir ranks higher than being CBN governor that he dipped his hands into CBN purse to donate N100m to the victims of Boko Haram in Kano when the apex bank had not made any such donation to the many victims of terror strikes by Kano. It is from the same mindset that a CBN governor who ordinarily should not be heard except on monetary issues granted an interview where he said that the reason why Boko Haram is on rampage is the skewed “derivation” formula in the country!
The final moment for the total unravelling of SLS came with his arrogant display of insensitivity and soullessness by going ahead with his being turbaned as Dan-Majen Kano at a period the burnt bones of 160 Nigerians who perished in the Dana crash are still being sorted in Lagos mortuary.Given the mood of the nation a man who understands the responsibility of his office would have lost nothing by postponing the event for at least two weeks.
Aside from the general grief the nation is enmeshed in, nine people who worked under SLS at the CBN were among the 153 passengers who died in the ghastly crash.The deceased persons are Amiaka Rapheal and Antonia Attu, both Senior Managers; Bamaiyi Adamu, a Senior Supervisor and Talmata Muhammed, an Assistant Director. Others are Ibrahim Yusuf, Principal Manager; Kim Norris, Special Adviser to the CBN Governor on Banking Supervision; Mutihir. I., Deputy Manager and Samuel Mbong. Sanusi was not reported to have visited the crash scene where eight of his staff lost their lives.All that mattered to him was the chieftaincy he was about to take.I argued with a friend who was invited to Kano but made up his mind not to go given the tragedy that occurred,on Thursday night that the SLS I have studied would still go ahead with the ceremony.My friend was still optimistic that a last minute cancellation would take place.Sadly I was proved right.
Shame on heartless Sanusi and his soulless guests who have shown us that tragedy means nothing to them.Does the blue blood in SLS’s veins so royal it cannot be touched by the sorrows of others? Could that tragedy not have happened to any of us? Would the emir change his mind altogether if he had asked for a shift of date? How cold would these fellows be if they had to take actions that involve the lives of people behind closed doors if they can merry while the nation mourns?
To SLS I commend the words of John Webster, The Duchess of Malfi:
“Ambition, madam, is a great man’s madness” May the souls of the CBN8 (who most likely would have been in Kano to celebrate their ‘Oga’ had they not perished) forgive SLS for this display of utter insensitivity.