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CBN to monitor banks' foreign partners

Posted by By Enitor Ugwu and Prisca Egede on 2004/07/23 | Views: 1128 |

CBN to monitor banks' foreign partners

OFFICIALS of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) will from Monday begin to visit the overseas branches of Nigerian banks, particularly the West African sub-region, the United Kingdom and America, to scrutinise their books.

* Workers disagree on capital base

OFFICIALS of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) will from Monday begin to visit the overseas branches of Nigerian banks, particularly the West African sub-region, the United Kingdom and America, to scrutinise their books.

This development is believed to be a result of the suspected panic moves by some banks in the wake of the recent policy in capital base.

It was learnt yesterday that the apex bank's move is to forestall bank owners using such overseas branches for unethical purposes.

However, a top CBN official last night said it is a "routine exercise by the apex bank to make sure that the banks' books are in order".

The official said: "Those overseas branches are really subject to joint inspection by both the CBN and the host countries' central banks".

Impeccable sources said that with the present uncertainty in the system, some bank promoters may be thinking of moving out their investments from the country if they cannot meet the N25 billion target.

This possibility, The Guardian learnt is gaining currency in the face of CBN's insistence that the new capital base of N25 billion, up from N2 billion, will not be reduced.

The 10-man committee set up by the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN) to articulate a common position for the banking industry was presenting their report to bank chief executives in Lagos as at press time yesterday.

Earlier in their working paper, the banks said that they had on their own begun merger processes, especially at the clearing system groups. This way, some banks that belong to the same cheque clearing were on the verge of discussing mergers and acquisitions even before the CBN's order. The second plank is that the N25 billion capital requirement should be phased over to enable banks cope.

The impact of these recommendations on the CBN it was learnt, is of real interest for bank owners.

However, their plight was adequately articulated by the CBN Governor, Charles Soludo in his July 6, 2004 address to bank chairmen and managing directors in Abuja.

He said: "I am aware of the fact that this measure may not be popular with some owners and managers of the banks. I understand our cultural environment, and the mindset whereby many people prefer to own 100 per cent of barely nothing by way of family business rather than one per cent of something".

He continued: "For many also, it will be a very difficult challenge to deal with the possibility that they are not chairmen, directors, or MDs of banks especially as these have become important status symbols."

According to Soludo, "even the threat of losing 'control' can be an issue with many people".

He disclosed that only the banks that meet the requirement (N25 million) would hold public sector deposits and participate in the Dutch Auction System by end of 2005, and that the CBN would publish the names of banks that qualify by December 31, 2005.

Meanwhile, bank workers have disagreed over the directive that their employers recapitalise to the tune of N25 billion.

While the junior workers described the new policy as "more of a recipe for financial system collapse rather than sanitisation," their senior colleagues said that it will further strengthen and empower the banks to support the growth of the real sector of the economy.

The senior staff of banks under the aegis of the Association of Senior Staff of Banks and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI) said the policy will definitely result in making the financial system more resilient as it will put behind us an era of having several banks without muscles.

ASSBIFI President, Princewill Ojeh, told newsmen in Lagos yesterday, that contrary to speculations that the policy which is likely to lead to possible merger of existing banks will lead to job losses, it will rather bring about the creation of sustainable jobs and professionalism as most of the jobs in question are outsourced jobs where graduates are employed on contract bases earning mergre pay with no` condition of service.

He said that the critics of the 18 months period allowed banks by the CBN to meet up is rather myopic arguing that it was borne out of their refusal to realise that the stock in trade in banking is cash and sticking to this date is the only way to ensure strict compliance as any extension will weaken the compliance.

Ojeh explained that already, banks are talking to one another for possible merger, while others are seeking offshore alliances with partners insisting that either way, the concerned banks seem to have embraced the challenge and are working hard to meet up.

Against this background, ASSBIFI, according to its president, is in support of the directive.

However, the junior workers of banks under the auspices of the National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions Employees (NUBIFIE) are singing a different tune insisting that the policy is not only preposterous, but does not reflect any serious thinking on the part of the promoters of the law."

Its president, Mohammed Babayola, in a stationed highlighting the union position demanded to know where the apex banks wants the bank to source the money from adding that tension and uncertainty have enveloped its members.

Ojeh was however, quick to point out that the concern of his union is the safety of the indigenous banks. The union's statement reads:

"Regardless of whether a bank is unionised or not, the paramount concern of the union is that indigenous banks are being hounded into extinction with the colossal collateral damages in job losses. And this cannot be in the interest of the union and the economy generally."

He noted that unfortunately, the "arrogant antecedent of this government is well known for us to hope for positive response. Our teeming members are of the opinion that if the ongoing dialogue and persuasion with government fail, our union is prepared to call out its members on strike."

The union he said is prepared to mobilise Nigerian workers to close down all the banks to protest the permanent closure which the policy seeks to actualise.

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