Nobody is untouchable, says Sanusi

The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, declared that there would be no sacred cows in the ongoing drive to sanitise the banking sector. Sanusi said yesterday that hard times await those who feel untouchable in the country, saying that he was not afraid of anybody in his quest to sanitise the banking sector.

The CBN boss also added that nobody is above the law and so anyone found culpable in the current exercise would not be spared, no matter how highly-placed.

Pointing out that he was ready to expose the high and mighty and make them feel the full weight of the law of the land, Sanusi, in an interview with the Hausa Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) monitored in Kaduna, argued that some of the loans given out were discovered to be deceitful, adding that the sacked managing directors of some of the five banks used the money to purchase private jets.

Said he: “They borrow money belonging to the people and build houses, buy aeroplanes and travel around the world. People should know that it was their money these people are using; perhaps this may prevent such misuse and sanitise the country.

“What we have seen the EFCC doing is… they sat with the managing directors of these affected banks and they gave them the names of those involved. There are those who sought for extension of time to repay the loans and were given, there are those who achieved what they wanted with the loans but had refused to pay back.

“There are those loans again that were full of deceit. It was actually the bank MDs that gave themselves the loans and established companies with the money in their names, or that of their cronies. The authorities are really behind such bank officials to get people’s money.”

Sanusi explained further that billionaire businessman, Jimoh Ibrahim, lied over the N14 billion loans from the Oceanic Bank, insisting that those who feel nobody can touch them will be shocked at the end of the day.

He said of Jimoh Ibrahim: “It’s not true and I would not like to be exchanging words with anyone. When we investigated, we found that he got N14 billion loan from the bank. What happened was that Oceanic Bank told him if he could pay N12 billion, they would forfeit the N2 billion.

“After our examination, he went and paid N4 billion thinking he had paid out of N12 billion, remaining N8 billion. In the first place, he has not paid the N12 billion for them to give him a waiver of N2 billion. Secondly, when we went to investigate the account, as of May 31, Jimoh Ibrahim took a loan of N14 billion.”

Sanusi further said that the apex bank is currently investigating 11 more banks and the outcome would be made public by the end of September.

“Investigation is on the 11 more banks and would be completed at the end of this month … we will complete the investigation in September, ” he said.

Sanusi declared: “Honestly, I am not afraid of anybody, whatever I am supposed to do, once it is within my jurisdiction, I will do it. I want to assure you that there are some people who think nobody can touch them, those people would be surprised.

“Those working in the banking sector know the problems in the banking industry more than those people outside who do not know the major problems some banks are facing. The global economic meltdown has affected Nigerian banks in two ways.

“The first is like we know that the price of oil has fallen, some banks had given out loans and when the price of oil fell, some of the debtors deliberately refused to pay and the banks lose. There were also many banks that used people’s money to trade in stock exchange market, and they also lost money in that process when the stock market crashed.

“So, instead of these banks to come out like their foreign counterparts and tell the world the losses they incurred and if they needed more investment for them to source for the money, they choose to hide their problem and the CBN had continued to help them with money since October.

“So, we decided to investigate and we found out that 40 per cent of the loans given out by these banks may not be repaid. That means the banks were on the way to collapse. But in order to salvage people’s money, we pumped in N400 billion into these banks.”

Sanusi refused to criticise his predecessor, Chukwuma Soludo, instead, he said: “I have one principle, if you observed when I stood before the Senate; I never liked to criticise my predecessor.

“Now that I am in the office and entrusted by people, whatever needs to be amended, it is incumbent upon me to do that. What he (Soludo) had done has passed. If some people had something to say, I would not like to comment on that,” he said.

Sanusi added: “People would know everything, but what we understand from our end is that those five banks had serious problems in Nigeria and had given out more loans than any other. Even if other banks have problems, such problems are not insurmountable.

“Leadership is always a difficult thing, when you investigate and found the truth, it would be improper to just keep the report on your table. When these banks crumbled, poor people with money in such banks will suffer. People had become victims of these failed banks, this step we have taken and the step we think is right is that step that would protect people’s wealth. But action should be taken on these banks’ executives and those who borrowed the money and refused to pay.

“Why we have to make public names of the loan defaulters are that some people have started saying it was a northern agenda that we want to crumble some of their banks. So, we decided to let the world know what was really going on. Any bank that gives out loan of N300 billion and the money is not recovered, should such bank be allowed to be or not?

“Such people that collected the loans are those who go behind to criticise, saying what is happening to the banks is wrong. So, we feel it is proper for the public to know that it is such people that are benefiting from the system. They borrow without paying back.”

Sources; Guardian, BBC