Breaking Banks’ Bad Behaviours

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By Adeola Akinremi, Email: adeola.akinremi@thisdaylive.com

In another bad sign, one of the Nigerian banks is struggling to explain how its misconduct has given it a new name and make its own slogan a useless phrase.

 Infidelity is not a word anyone can stand, but it’s now what the customers and admirers of Fidelity Bank will have to deal with. Inconceivable!

The arrest of the bank’s managing director, Nnamdi Okonkwo and the revelation of his dishonest deal in handling dirty money for the former Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Alison-Madueke makes it necessary for me to repeat myself on this page. Below is an edited article I wrote on December 18, 2015, under a different title.

Does the revelation of the $115million bribery scam rocking Fidelity Bank makes your blood boil? It’s Just an example of how greed and self-interest of a clique can bring an entire nation to its knees.

 But how did we get here? The problem started on Broad Street, the symbol of our banking institution, where the battle inside banking hall has been about good versus evil and greed versus greatness.

The clear truth is that our banks are sick!  The banks are like patients that now require diagnosis. Today, the reputation of the banks continue to sag in the face of revelation that some of the arms money passed through them in a suspicious way without any leakers taking the courage to alert the taxpayers on the scale of money laundering in our banking system.

Despite banking laws designed to flag the movement of large sums of money by private individuals and government figures, their families and close associates, the Nigerian banks ignored several atrocities of the clique to become accomplice in undermining our country’s economic growth. Should the bank heads, where the suspicious funds have been traced to be spared? I will simply say no, no, no!

Of course that will make mess of the war against corruption, because such banks will continue to aid and abet the corrupt politicians.

But one of many reasons why the bankers will continue to collude with those stealing us dry is that a lot of these dirty monies have kept the banks alive.

So the heads of the banking institutions will prefer that money laundering goes on in the country, while they shy away from reporting it as part of their duties. Indeed, to make known the dirty act will be against their selfish interest.

The Nigerian banking system is still filled with unethical conduct practices that include insider abuse, fraudulent dealings, irregularity/inaccuracy in the rendition of statutory returns, window dressing of accounts, poor corporate governance and many more that have now made the banking reform of 2009 a useless adventure.

The Global Integrity report released in 2015 shows that Nigeria is culpable in illicit financial flows as the 10th country on the list.

Of course the CBN responded by issuing a press statement to build citizens’ confidence. But cleverly, the apex bank first whittled down the effect of the report that was an indictment on its supervisory role by creating an impression that the report may be fictitious since it couldn’t undertake “independent confirmation of this assertion,” and then went on to confirm that “the report estimates that about US$15.7 billion of illicit funds go through our system annually.”

To be sure, the CBN’s had said in the statement that “In the light of this avoidably negative commentary, we wish to draw the public’s attention to several protocols on illicit fund flows, money laundering, and terrorism financing both in Nigeria and around the world, and warn that the CBN will increase its vigilance to ensure that Nigerian banks are not used as conduits for illicit fund flows, especially in foreign currencies.”

Regrettably, it turned out that CBN has been involved in the cash-and-carry business. The CBN shirked its own responsibility as a regulator to become a participant in illegal activity of allowing hard currency to be freighted from its doorpost into homes of politicians and their contractors. What a shame!

Already, Alhaji Umaru Ibrahim Managing Director/Chief Executive of the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), had said in June 2015 that  unethical deals  has been one reason Nigerian banks are sick.  Poignantly, he made that statement after a special examination conducted on the 24 banks in Nigeria by the CBN and NDIC revealed that 10 of the 24 banks were critically distressed as a result of many factors amongst which was poor corporate governance.

“The special examination revealed that boards and executive managements in some banks were not equipped to run their institutions as their ineffectiveness manifested in the form overbearing influence of some board members, ineffectiveness of board committees; non-adherence to the CBN code of corporate governance and weak ethical standards amongst others,” he said.

And I agree with him that some bank directors should rethink their suitability and competence to remain as bank directors in the face of the ongoing revelations. The supervision and management of banks should be on personal responsibilities of directors and chief executive officers.

Yes, one may draw many conclusions from the ongoing anti-corruption campaign of President Muhamadu Buhari’s government, but we cannot deny that Buhari has paid careful attention to facts, conducted excellent investigation and steel himself for his action. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission needs to do more by going after other corrupt bankers that are still pretending to be doing good business. We are all eyewitnesses to history.q