Heritage Bank: Shareholders push for MD, EDs’ probe

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Some members of the minority shareholders community have called for a probe of the management and directors of the failed Heritage Bank.

The call was made in chats with The PUNCH following the revocation of the licence of the bank by the Central Bank of Nigeria.

In announcing the licence revocation, CBN said that it was with immediate effect, saying “This action has become necessary due to the bank’s breach of Section 12 (1) of BOFIA, 2020. The board and management of the bank have not been able to improve the bank’s financial performance, a situation which constitutes a threat to financial stability.

“This follows a period during which the CBN engaged with the bank and prescribed various supervisory steps intended to stem the decline. Regrettably, the bank has continued to suffer and has no reasonable prospects of recovery, thereby, making the revocation of the license the next necessary step.”

The apex bank then appointed the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation as the liquidator of Heritage Bank in line with Section 12 (2) of BOFIA, 2020.

The National Coordinator of Progressive Shareholders Association, Boniface Okezie, told The PUNCH that probing the bank managers would boost confidence in the sector.

He said, “CBN is also part of the problem in the system, if the bank had been insolvent over the years and they had been living under the mercy of CBN, which should have taken action. In all this, what is the role of AMCON? They should have taken over the bank after all, the bank was also paying a levy to AMCON. Instead, CBN has directed NDIC to take over for liquidation. Is that the way to go?

“Someone has N20m in the bank and you pay them N5m until the assets of the bank have been assessed and liquidated. That is wrong. It is going to discourage people from using banks.

“Besides, is it only Heritage Bank that is insolvent? What is the fate of some other banks in the sector? Are they strong and viable? They should tell us. The management should be called for questioning. Those who ran the bank aground should be called for questioning. It is not enough that NDIC should liquidate.”

According to Okezie, in other climes, the managers and directors would be held accountable.

“There must be a probe to recover people’s money. What assets does the bank have? CBN should probe the collapse of the bank so that others can learn. This is not good enough, something has to be done to arrest the situation,” he stated.

Also, the National Coordinator of the Independent Shareholders Association of Nigeria, Moses Igbrude, argued, “They must probe the management of the bank. They should not let it slide because it will happen again if people are let off the hook. Let them investigate exactly what happened to learn lessons and ensure it does not happen again.”

He added that the decision of the regulator was in line with its legal mandate but expressed concerns at the time it took to arrive at the decision.

“The CBN is the regulator, empowered by law to supervise, to know which bank is healthy and which is not, so they are just doing their job. However, why did it take so long to do what is necessary?

“Also, they had another option to rescue the bank, remove the management, and put in place a CBN-led management to ensure it is standing and no one loses anything. At the end of the day, they sell it to Nigerians. This option would retain the employees.

It was an option but they decided to revoke the licence,” he opined.

He went to ask, “What happened? Were those in charge not managing it well? Did they give loans that went bad? CBN didn’t tell us. In an environment like this, I would have preferred the option I suggested. That way, the signal would not be as bad as folks are thinking now.”

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