• EFCC waits on directives from CBN
By BLESSING ANARO
THE Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has tacitly backed the list published by the banks in National Daily newspapers. Spokesman of the central bank, Ibrahim Mu’azu, who spoke with National Daily on telephone, said most of the debtors crying foul may actually not have any reason to do so other than to portray themselves in good light. According to Mu’azu, “by the end of the day, let us see how many of them that will actually have genuine case against the banks”. But for him, being a debtor is not a criminal case, but a situation where some have the money but decidedly refused to pay is too bad.
According to him, debtors who are already shamed with the publication of their names on national dailies but remain recalcitrant may be taken to court to ensure they meet with their obligation to the various banks they are owing.
Mu’azu said, although owing debts on its own is no crime, after the publication of debtors name, those who refused to service their debts may be taken to court by the banks to ensure they pay back their debts.
Also speaking with National Daily on telephone, Wilson Uwajaren, spokesman of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), said for now there is nothing the agency can do because owing is not a crime. He however said that any action the commission will take in the future will depend on what the Central Bank advises.
The EFCC spokesman explained that the banks could take them to court if the situation becomes dire and further actions need to be taken. This firmly leaves the ball in the court of the apex bank.
Some prominent political debtors among them include: Former Minister of Finance and National Planning, Kalu Idika Kalu; owes First Bank, Senator Ayodele Arise and former Minister of State for Works, Mr. Dayo Adeyeye ; owe Unity Bank; former Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on the Diaspora, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa; owes Diamond Bank, though she sought redress in court; Sir Emeka Offor ; owes Diamond Bank N181million; former Delta State Commissioner for Sports, Solomon Ogba ; owes Diamond Bank; former governor of Adamawa State, Murtala Nyako ; owes Union Bank; Former chief of defence staff, General Domkat Bali; owes Fidelity Bank; and former presidential aspirant on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) ,Sam Nda-Isaiah; owes Enterprise Bank.
In their own reactions to the publication of their names and photographs, Messrs. Adeyeye and Arise threatened to take legal actions against Unity Bank for the publication and urged the CBN to take the matter very seriously. In separate statements, both politicians said they did not owe any bank, either in Nigeria or abroad for any reason.
In a statement in Ado-Ekiti, Mr. Adeyeye said his only relationship with the company, International Payment Devices Limited, listed on No. 64 of the publication by Unity Bank, was his nomination by his friend, Mr. Arise, as a nominal director of the company.
The former Minister was listed along with Robinson Pere, Robinson Ebiowe, Arise Ayodele, Olagbegi Bowo Prince, Adeyeye Dayo, Adebiti Yinka, Arise Seye and Obilana Ayo as directors of the company. “Truly, a friend of mine, Senator Ayo Arise, owner of International Payment Devices Limited, included my name as one of the directors just to satisfy the Corporate Affairs Commission requirements,” Mr. Adeyeye said in his statement. “I have never been part of the operations of the company since it was incorporated. I have never shared any dividend from the company, or carried out any function on behalf of the company. Most importantly, I was never involved in any transaction between the company and Unity Bank Plc, and the bank never informed me that I was involved in any transaction on behalf of any company.”
He argued that only a competent court of law could say whether or not any individual or organisation was a debtor, pointing out that it was unethical for a bank to publish names of its clients and categorise them as debtors when it should have simply taken over the collateral used to secure the loan.
On his part, Mr. Arise expressed sadness over the mention of his name on the list of debtors, saying, International Payment Devices of which he was a director did not owe Unity Bank Plc. The listing of his name in the publication, the former senator said, portrayed the bank as lacking probity and organizational competence.
The spokesperson for AMCON, Mr. Kayode Lambo, who confirmed this on Monday, said companies which failed to regularise the terms of their loans with the agency would have their names published.
“As many companies who have not been servicing their loans will have their names published,” he added.
The names of firms belonging to prominent Nigerians who have not been servicing their loans may appear on the list.
In 2009, the Federal Government spent about N5 trillion to buy the NPLs from banks to save them from imminent collapse.
AMCON, the government agency created after the 2009 banking crisis, was the special purpose vehicle used to acquire the NPLs from the banking sector.
The Central Bank of Nigeria had on April 22, 2015 directed the banks, discount houses and AMCON to publish the list of delinquent debtors from August 1.
They are to publish the names in at least three national newspapers on a quarterly basis.
In line with the directive, the banks gave the chronic debtors a three-month grace period, which expired on July 31.
The Director, Banking Supervision, CBN, Mrs. ‘Tokunbo Martins, had in a circular dated April 22, 2015, said, “In order to ensure that the industry NPL ratio does not exceed the prudential limit of five per cent and to improve the credit culture in the banking industry, banks and discount houses are directed to observe prudent credit underwriting and monitoring standards.”
The debtors are those whose accounts have been classified as lost and include persons, entities, directors, subsidiaries and other related parties, according to the central bank.
The central bank had stated that delinquent debtors in the category described above would be blacklisted and “banned from participating in the Nigerian foreign exchange market and in the Nigerian government securities market.”
Global rating agency, Fitch Ratings, had in February, after the second round of devaluation of the naira, predicted that the banks’ non-performing loans would rise above the CBN’s five per cent limit by the end of this year, but below 10 per cent.
Zenith Bank Plc, Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, Union Bank Plc, Sterling Bank Plc, Skye Bank Plc, Fidelity Bank Plc, Stanbic IBTC Bank, Heritage Bank Limited, Enterprise Bank Limited, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Access Bank Plc, Diamond Bank Plc and Unity Bank Plc published names of bad debtors on Monday last week.
The four other banks that published debtors name on Tuesday are First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Access Bank Plc, Unity Bank Plc and Diamond Bank Plc that have Emeka Offor’s Global ScanSystem. United Bank for Africa published theirs on Wednesday.