• Bank Targeted To Be Stolen, Says Utomi
PRESIDENT Jonathan has been urged to review the takeover of Bank PHB Nigeria Plc (now Keystone Bank) by the Central Bank of Nigeria under the suspended Governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.
The apex bank, in October 2009, removed the managing director/chief executive of the bank, Mr. Francis Atuche, citing high level of non-performing loans arising from poor corporate governance practices, lax credit administration processes and non-adherence to the bank’s credit risk management guidelines.
Sanusi had, earlier in August, sacked the managing director/chief executives and executive directors of five banks; namely, Afribank Plc (now nationalised and run by AMCON as Enterprise Bank), Finbank Plc (now acquired by the FCMB), Intercontinental Bank Plc (taken over by Access Bank), Oceanic Bank Plc (acquired by Ecobank) and Union Bank Plc.
The affected chief executives were Mr, Sebastin Adigwe (Afribank), Mr. Okey Nwosu (Finbank), Dr. Erastus Akingbola (Intercontinental Bank), Dr. (Mrs.) Cecilia Ibru (Oceanic Bank), and Dr. Bath Ebong (Union Bank).
But Mr. Atuche, the former chief executive officer of Bank PHB, in a 19-page letter to President Jonathan, prayed for review of the “forceful take-over” on grounds that it was done without due process. According to the letter, a copy of which was made available to The Guardian, “subsequent events have shown that former governor Sanusi’s action” was done in bad faith “to subvert free enterprise in Nigeria and destroy shareholders’ investment in Bank PHB” (now called Keystone Bank).
Atuche, who described his removal, revocation of Bank PHB’s banking licence, nationalisation and takeover of the financial institution through the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) as the beginning of a gloomy tenure at the CBN, said that it was marked by “unprecedented capacity for abuse of power, impunity in the exercise of authority by a public officer, gross distortion of financial facts and sustained random acts of manipulation of figures to suit predetermined outcomes – all in an effort to enable Sanusi Lamido, the former CBN governor, attain the ends of illegality appropriating Bank PHB Nigeria Plc.”
According to him, “the forceful takeover of the bank was without any regards for due process or consultation, nor consideration for the opinion, thoughts and/or interests of the directors, management, shareholders to the owners of Bank PHB Nigeria Plc.”
Atuche’s position was corroborated by Founder of the Centre for Values in Leadership (CVL) and Professor of Political Economy, Pat Okedinachi Utomi, who told The Guardian that the bank was “deliberately targeted to be stolen.”
Prof. Utomi argued that the purpose of government is to ensure dispensation of justice to citizens, saying Nigerians now have ample evidence that those in power at the time had intention of taking over the institution and selling it to their cronies in Pakistan.
According to him, there was nothing wrong with the bank as a financial institution at the time the CBN, under Sanusi, moved in to acquire it. He noted that CBN examiners did not find anything wrong with the accounts of the bank and were sent back to the bank with specific instruction to indict certain aspects of the bank’s operations.
Utomi empahasized that even after Bank PHB was marked down, the CBN generally asked shareholders to recapitalise the affected institutions in conjunction with willing partners but surprisingly turned down the move made by shareholders of Bank PHB. He explained that a partner provided by the bank was politely told at the CBN that a Pakistani investor had been asked to take over the bank. “There was nothing wrong with Bank PHB as a financial institution. My call repeatedly was that international evaluators should evaluate the finances and boards of banks that were not affected. And the truth is that Bank PHB was far healthier than the banks that were not affected. It was all about personal interests of power.”
Asked to comment on the evaluation officially done by the apex bank at the time, Utomi said, “The evaluation was the most arbitrary exercise that I have ever seen. It is documented that they (CBN examiners) were sent back…that they must have missed something; and marked some of the loan portfolios (which they had certified okay) as doubtful, just to satisfy the boss.”
Atuche accused the CBN, under Sanusi of preparing the grounds for acts of “extreme economic hostility” towards a leading Nigerian bank and dishonest takeover of Bank PHB Nigeria Plc. “The CBN, led by Sanusi Lamido, he said, “orchestrated a campaign of calumny on our bank and the bank’s management with a view to causing the public to lose confidence in the institution by making deliberate slanderous comments against Bank PHB and its management, launching a media blitz for the purposes of demonising some marked banking professionals, such as the CEO of the bank, and systematically deconstructing some of Nigeria’s fastest growing banking institutions.”
Atuche, in his submission to the President, had insisted “the devious plan was executed through a compromised media that was used to purposefully misinform the public in an aim to primarily enable the CBN, under the leadership of Sanusi Lamido, achieve the goal of usurping ownership of our Bank PHB. These activities were further engineered to a determined end by using arbitrary and irrational acts well-suited to undemocratic and authoritarian regimes.”
He, therefore, appealed to the president to intervene in the matter to restore the investment of over 650,000 shareholders.
• Bank Targeted To Be Stolen, Says Utomi