Sanusi breaks bankers’ committee


The crisis of confidence rocking the nation's banking system may have deepened with the formation of three powerful cliques in the Bankers' Committee who are out to protect divergent interests.Following the harsh reforms of the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr.Lamido Sanusi, the robustness that the unity of the Committee brings in shaping the sector, to most analysts, has been dulled. This is attributed to the divergent interests in the committee who perceive Sanusi's reform agenda as too economically microscopic to solve the huge monetary rot in the financial sub sector.

With this huge crack in the cohesion of the Bankers' Committee over Sanusi's monetary policies, most financial analysts are of the view that the problems in the banking sub sector will definitely take longer time to be addressed.  Bankers' Committee is a regular and compulsory meeting between the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and all the managing directors of commercial banks operating in Nigeria.

Normally, the forum which is presided over by the CBN governor, allows participants to freely and frankly discuss monetary policies as they affect the banking industry and the economy.Such gathering affords the participants opportunity to extensively debate on salient issues for the mutual benefit of all the major stakeholders.

But that camaraderie which is usually associated with the meeting seems to have gone since the on-going banking sector reform was initiated by the current CBN Governor, Lamido Sanusi.According to an impeccable source at the apex bank, there is mutual suspicion among banks' MD/CEOs as they are protecting their groups' interests.

Business Hallmark investigations reveal that the first clique consists of MD/CEOs of the  Rescued Banks (RB8), the second, the MD/CEOs who are opposed to Sanusi's reform agenda while the third group is made up of the MD/CEOs who want to curry the favour of Sanusi.

The MD/CEOs of RB8 are Mrs Funke Osibodu (Union Bank Plc); Mrs Suzzane Iroche (Finbank Plc); Mr Nebolisah Arah (Afribank) Mr. John Aboh (Oceanic Bank); Mr Lai Alabi (Intercontinental Bank); Cyril Chukwumah (Bank PHB); Gbolahan Afolayan (ETB) and Mrs Sola Ayodele (Spring Bank). This group consists of those who want to protect their new found jobs as CEOs of the and a few bank Chiefs who are firm supporters of Sanusi because of vested interests.

The second group are mainly made up of MD/CEOs who are dissatisfied with Sanusi's reform package especially the way they are being implemented. A top member of the Bankers' Committee, told Business Hallmark that the group is poised to ensure that the policies of the CBN Governor,are knocked.

According to our findings, some of those alleged to be in the group are said to be those who were affected by the CBN policy of 10-year maximum tenure for  bank MDs. They include the likes of Jim Ovia (Zenith Bank) Tony Elumelu (UBA) and Sola Akinfemiwa (Skye Bank) and a few others  believed to be close to the former CBN Governor, Professor Charles Soludo. The  third clique are  MD/CEOs who are out to curry the favour of the CBN Governor, and ensure that the aggrieved group does not have their way in the Committee. The alleged leader of the group is the MD/CEO of First Bank of Nigeria Plc, Sanusi's successor. Other members of the group include the MD/CEOs of Unity Bank Plc,  Sterling Bank, Wema Bank, IBTC Chartered and other foreign banks operating in Nigeria.

Given the apparent crack in the fold of Bankers' Committee membership, the robust and extensive discourse which used to be a hallmark of the gathering is no longer available.According to one of the bank chiefs, one needs to be cautious with what he says and how he says so to avoid being misunderstood and sanctioned.

We learnt that what many of the banks' chiefs do during meeting is merely to concur to the thinking of Sanusi and his RB8 group members. As one of them succinctly puts it, “Many of us just say yes or no, depending on where the Governor stands.

“It is unfortunate that many bank MD/CEOs only come to the bankers' committee, sit down throughout its duration, at times, without tasting anything or uttering any word. They while away their time (two to three hours) and go back to their offices after the meeting. This attitude and divisive tendency are inimical to the resolution of the banking sector crisis which needs the constructive input of all key stakeholders.”

Business Hallmark recalls that the CBN Governor, Lamido Sanusi, during the recent conference organised by Business Day in Lagos, said he nearly lost his former plum job as GMD/CEO of First Bank Plc, for daring to criticize the former CBN Governor, Prof. Charles Soludo. He said that  his bank's MD/CEO  colleague openly asked Soludo to suspend him from bankers' committee for opposing the Governor's view.

What is not certain is Sanusi's motive behind the reference, moreso as that appears to be his present conduct in the bankers' committee.Observers of the happenings in today's banking sector flayed the ugly development whereby bank chiefs seem to be hopelessly compromised and feel jittery to express their views on issues affecting their sector for fear of being sacked or sanctioned by the apex bank's helmsman.

According to them, the banking sector and in fact the Nigerian economy, will be worst for it as the CBN Governor is likely going to be left with virtually no alternative opinion in the task of reforming the banks. Stakeholders are worried that the RB8 MD/CEOs should be subservient to the extent of even reporting their colleagues to Sanusi in order to curry his favour.

(Source:Business Hallamark)

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