CBN: Heritage Bank Not Distressed

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Obinna Chima and James Emejo in Abuja

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) yesterday said Heritage Bank Plc is not currently in distress as being falsely insinuated by some online media.

The central bank noted that there had been “false and malicious stories on the social media insinuating that Heritage Bank is under financial distress and therefore unable to discharge its obligations to its depositors.”

But CBN acting Director, Corporate Communication, Mr. Isaac Okorafor explained in a statement that: “We wish to state that Heritage Bank is not in distress and as such its depositors should go about their transactions without fear. For the avoidance of doubt, we wish to further state that no Nigerian bank is in distress.

“The CBN, as the industry regulator, has a duty to depositors, in particular, and the economy, in general, to ensure the soundness of all financial institutions. We therefore wish to assure all depositors of the safety of their deposits.”

The CBN added it will remain alive to its responsibility of ensuring banking system stability and soundness through constant monitoring and supervision of all licensed institutions.
“The Central Bank of Nigeria wishes to reiterate that the banking system remains resilient enough to weather the current economic storm,” he added.

The CBN had last month also allayed concerns over the soundness of Nigerian banks, and had assured members of the public that they are sound and have strong capital buffers.

The CBN had however, admitted that just like in other oil and commodity-dependent economies, banks in the country were also feeling the headwinds in the economy.

The Director, Banking Supervision, CBN, Mrs. Tokunbo Martins had stressed that to say “seven banks are undercapitalised is absolutely not true”.

She added: “That is not to say that the banking sector is not feeling the economic headwinds, they are. Just like every other jurisdiction. It is not strange.

“Non-performing loans (NPLs) at 11 per cent is not what we need to focus on. What we need to focus on is if the banks have the capacity to absorb losses that may arise from those NPLs? And the answer is yes. They have very strong capital buffers.

“Another thing that is important is that Nigerian banks have very huge capacity to generate income to also absorb those losses, if they do arise. And then the loans that are non-performing, can they re-perform? Yes they will because the underlying assets are still there and they are good.
“The fact that the country has NPLs at a period like this should be expected and is not a thing that any jurisdiction should be demonised about.

“Other jurisdictions going through what we are also going through are experiencing the same thing. There are countries that have NPLs as high as 15 per cent, some 30 per cent, and some countries in Europe have NPLs as high as 80 per cent.”