SUNDAY AKINTOLA: HOW MUSHIN HOME BOY GREW MULTI-MILLION NAIRA BUSINESSES IN MUSHIN, LAGOS

SUNDAY AKINTOLA is specially proud of beating all the odds as a home boy growing up in the densely populated Mushin area of Lagos State to become a successful owner of business chains that span micro finance and telecommunications. In this interview with GOKE OLUWOLE, and TAI ADEWALE SHOFELA, Chairman of Sovereign Micro Finance Bank, AKINTOLA shares his journey to conquering the litany of challenges that littered his path to business success.

How would you describe yourself?

Yes, by His grace, I am Sunday Akintola, a gentleman who happens to be one of the lucky entrepreneurs whose company is positively impacting on Nigeria in the area of poverty alleviation. I am the Chairman of the Board of three companies; Covenant Perazim Investment Limited, a multi-facetted company established to operate in the Oil, Gas and Agriculture sectors, Sufi Enterprises Limited, which is a company involved in the sale and distribution of GSM companies recharge cards, and Sovereign Micro-Finance Bank. I am a graduate of Accounting from the University of Lagos. I am also an ex-banker having worked with one of Nigeria’s fastest growing banks Zenith Bank Plc.

Briefly, can you tell us the background to how you grew this multi million naira business empire?

Most big businesses always start in small ways. This multi-million business concern, like you rightly said, is a business that was registered first as Covenant Perazim Investment Limited in November, 2003 while I was still in service with Zenith Bank. It was then the thought occurred to me on what I could do to change my life and touch the lives of other people around me. I thereafter initiated the venture, but we started operation with four staff which included my wife and my brother in-law in a shop here in Mushin from where we sold telecoms recharge cards.

I resigned from my banking job six months after we commenced operations, to be precise, July 1, 2004, two days after securing the NCC dealership licence. In fact, I got my licence on a Sunday and I put in my resignation the following Tuesday, and by August, 2004, I was already able to raise the mandatory N5 million to join the recharge card dealership community of the then V-Mobile Network with Sufi Enterprises Ltd.

All these while, my colleagues, some in the banking halls and some from other companies like Chevron, Exxon-Mobil and other multi-nationals, were greatly disturbed about my decision to go into business; they asked if something was wrong with me and how could I leave certainty for uncertainty; leaving the bank to go and sell recharge card. For them, it sounded absurd. But I told them I wanted to go and develop my business.

Things started to crystallize for us because all we were doing then was to get some money to buy and sell recharge cards until we had our breakthrough when in 2006 the V-Mobile Network started seeing us as a serious business entity, and in 2007, we won the best dealers award of the V-Mobile Network. That same 2007, we were among the 25 dealers selected in Lagos and promoted to the status of big dealers. However, as part of the requirements of that new status back then, we were also expected to have our own building as office complex. On the back of this, we decided to build our own building. Thankfully, by the end of 2007 we were able to build our own office complex.

Personally, how had your background influenced the development of your business?

I am a proper Mushin boy, born and bred in this community where people have the notion that nothing good can come out of the community. While we were in the secondary school, those of us from Mushin were seen as boys from homes of hooligans and thugs but to God be the glory, we came out very disciplined, because I am fortunate to have very responsible parents who gave us good up bringing.

Can you believe that as far back as 1963, my Dad refused all discouragement from others not to send my elder sister to school; he sent her to the only private boarding school then in Abeokuta, the Baptist Private School, Idi-Aba, Abeokuta. People were laughing at our parents for sending my sister to the boarding school. Ironically, I had to attend a public school, Odo Abore Primary School in Mushin. I guess my brilliance then impressed the school management such that they made me the school’s senior prefect.

After finishing at Odo Abore, my parents preferred that I schooled out of Lagos State, they rejected my preference for the Nigerian Model College at Idi-Oro, a suburb of Mushin. They sent me to Baptist High School, Saki, in Oyo State. From Saki I proceed to the Lagos State College of Education, and later, to the University of Lagos where I studied Accounting. I also taught in a primary school for two years before I joined Zenith Bank in 1993 where I spent 11 years before quitting in 2004.

Though my parents were not rich, I remember that they always struggled to pay our school fees then. They thought us about God and, my mother, especially, taught us the principle of prudence and wealth creation. All these contributed to my success today, but the secret to my business success is God. There is nothing we do in this office that we don’t ask for God’s favour, He is our Alpha and Omega. In this office there is nothing we do that we don’t tell God; we pray in the morning and we pray to close each of our day’s operations.

As a major player in the telecoms recharge card distribution and marketing sub sector, how would you describe the industry?

Yes, the industry is full of illiterate and semi illiterate people, but with the new policies from all the companies, I expect that the situation will finally change. I believe that there will be a lot of changes because it is only in the telecoms sector that some illiterate people will buy something at the rate of N400 and sell it for N250, that is about 80 per cent less than the cost price. But now, the business is getting more exciting, interesting, and rewarding than what it used to be.

What prompted your interest in establishing a microfinance bank, which is seen as very risky commercial engagements, or do we reason that you preferred this because of your banking background?

It wasn’t my background in banking that inspired me to establish Sovereign Micro Finance Bank, rather, it was due to my interaction with the people at the grass-roots of my immediate community here in Mushin while I was operating the telecoms business. The economic plight of these people rekindled my interest in empowering the people in my immediate community. You know when we were doing the telecoms business a lot of people always came to us for financial aids in form of soft loans, but there was no way we could be able to solve all these needs, so we now saw the opportunity to serve and empower our people when the CBN came out with the guideline and licensing procedures for establishing micro finance bank, that was the vision.

Again, there was this experience I once had while I was trying to establish a friend in the recharge card business in Abeokuta. I then realized that what most people need is micro-credit, soft loan, when you don’t help people within your neighborhood they will be the same set of people that will make life difficult for you. Do you know some of those my friends who thought something was wrong with me when I left Zenith Bank today are now begging us to be part of what we are doing. But we shall adopt them provided CBN reviews its policy on the board membership; we are also looking for a way to involve them through our forthcoming private placement.

Don’t you think it is easy for Nigerians to abuse the concept of micro finance banking just like the earlier banking and finances houses of the past?

The establishment of microfinance banks and transformation of community banks is a thought in the right direction by the government, it shows the government knows what the needs of the people are; forget about the bastardization of the earlier finance houses, I can tell you the impact of the micro finance bank vision is already showing on our economy. As I am talking to you now, we are highly regulated, every MFB has a CBN supervisor attached to it and every bank is mandated to do a monthly return to CBN. They will trace and check all the loans you disbursed that month, so there is no way you can give all the loans to your family like in the era of finance houses and commercial banks of the past.

You can log on to the CBN’s website and check the full list of the MFBs as they are arranged alphabetically, this is also part of the effort to showcase them (micro finance banks) and for you to know the ones you can deal with, I can assure you there is no MFB that will like to go under because there are lots of opportunities in the micro financing business

Of all the MFBs in Lagos what do you think stands your Sovereign Micro Finance Bank out from the rest?

We believe so much in God, and this is the anchor of our own business philosophy… to be the fulcrum of creating financial independence for the people. You see, all these area boys, some of them have great talents but what they mainly want is financial empowerment. One of them approached us about three months ago that he wanted to have his own bus and I told him to go and start saving, that if he can save N50,000 out of the N450,000 he needed to buy a Faragon Volkswagen Bus, we will fund it.

He jumped at the offer and each day, he deposited N1500 with us out of the N3000 of his daily income from the transport business. We also work with other professional groups on how to empower their members. All these are parts of the ways to eliminate criminality from their minds because if someone has a wife and kids and a job, his approach to life will be different. He will not be thinking that he wants to die because he already knows he has a stake in this world.

What gave you the impression that Mushin people deserve another micro finance bank despite all the commercial bank branches that populate the roads?

I don’t think there is any other community that I will want to serve than the Mushin community; these are the people that deserve to be uplifted and empowered financially. It is the rural people who need micro-credit or micro-funding; our vision in Sovereign MFB is to empower all these so called area boys, and since I grew up in this area, I understand the economic philosophy and psychology of the people.

We’ve already started some collaboration with the professional groups’ trade and artisan associations on how to serve them better, and even the National Union of Road Transport Workers [NURTW]. We hope to set them up with financial backing of our bank.

Our operations here as telecoms recharge distributor had opened our eyes to many needs of the people. We are now able to understand the need of the people of this area, ask anybody here around Mushin, if they know Sufi Enterprises Limited, they’ll tell you that they know us very well, it is the goodwill we’ve created over time that is rubbing on the bank.

I have also realized that commercial banks are too big to recognize micro financing opportunities, they will not fund or support your business when you are small, it is always the big projects of billions and millions of big establishments that they will always be interested in funding while the man whose business need just N5, 000 to survive is left to wallow in abject poverty.

Which was the riskiest investment venture you had made?

The biggest investment risk I ever took was the outright sale of my entire investment portfolio when I couldn’t secure a loan to finance this MFB project. A friend at FirstBank just told me point blank that since my office complex didn’t have a certificate of occupancy, no bank will give me a loan and the best, he advised I did, was to liquidate my stock portfolio. That was how I sold all my stocks just as if I was been pushed by a spirit but to God be the glory, I was lucky enough to escape the stock market crash now being witnessed by investors. Up till today, my stockbroker still enquire from me how I was able to escape the downturn in the market.

There is no business that doesn’t have its own ups and downs, tell us the challenges being faced by operators of microfinance banks in Nigeria?

Our major challenge is commercial banks, they are becoming jealous of our achievements, which is why you see a lot of the country’s mega banks transforming into micro banks. They see us as threats, because they know we can go for clearing by statutory order and with this the commercial banks always stalemated us. At present, we have a serious battle with a commercial bank over a facility of N110million we got from a company which the company, the bank and us decided was supposed to be given to us but when the money was ready, they sat on it, denied us access to it because of our capital base. We need more money to service the micro needs of our people. What we devised now is that we have contacted about three to four banks for our clearing, one is in charge of the financing of Okada scheme, one for the NURTW scheme, while we also get another to manage our other schemes because it would be too risky to keep all our good eggs in one basket.

We are currently working with a commercial bank to provide us with an ATM which will soon be installed to serve the people of Mushin. We are going to table most of these problems before the Central Bank Governor at the next conference of MFBs in Nigeria. Maybe the Governor can help us caution the commercial banks.

Another major challenge we are facing, like every other business in Nigeria, is the problem of power supply. Large amount of our money goes to fuelling of generating sets, and mind you, we bought our own transformer at about N1.8million while our 100 KVA generator costs a whopping N2.9million and this we fuel with N8, 000 daily. If we plough these back into our business do you know the number of people that will benefit from our micro finance bank? The issue of multiple taxation, too, is another serious challenge to business in Lagos.

As an entrepreneur what will you say is your greatest achievement?

What I personally see as our achievement may not be too fantastic to you but for a company that started in a small shop five years ago on this street, selling recharge cards, now owns an edifice housing the headquarters of all our businesses which include banking, aquaculture, oil and gas, and telecoms; all these we can boast is valued to be above N100million.

We have about 60 well remunerated staff, with at least over eight brand new Toyota cars for our staff, and in the next three months, we are going to take delivery of another set of five new Toyota cars for our middle cadre officers. Some of our staffers who were employed some years ago with school certificates are now graduates while some are about completing their choice of courses in various higher institutions. While studying, we make sure they don’t lack anything. None of our staff has been involved in stealing and none had left us. We are still one united family five years after we started. Last December, we harvested our fish pond and the return from the investment yielded about N1.5miilion because it is safer to diversify to other businesses to expand our capital base and income sources.

What is your management style?

I am a hard working person, and all my staff members know this. I am always the first person to resume here and the last person to leave. Can you believe I live in Alagbado, yet I’m always very punctual at the office? You’ll see me resume here by 7.30a.m. everyday, I mentor my staff, they’ve all imbibed discipline from me. You know, I operate an open door policy here, all my staff are well remunerated. If a CEO is not disciplined, the staff will not be disciplined. Again, let me tell you that yesterday (Friday, 9 January) I was with one of my colleagues way back at Zenith Bank and he was reminding me how disciplined we were then while employed at Zenith Bank. He said it was I who once said that I dreamt that one day I would have my own bank, but we all did not believe it then because of the situation surrounding the licensing of commercial banks. But today, both of us are owners of full fledged micro finance banks; he owns Olive Microfinace Bank on Awolowo Way, Ikeja, Lagos, while my own is Sovereign Microfinance Bank, Mushin, Lagos. What we thought was impossible is now a reality in our lives. God has done it, it is easy now to grow a micro-finance bank into a commercial bank and that is our future because in the nearest future we hope to go public.

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ANOTHER FIT OF RANTING AT OFFICIAL INANITIES OF 2008

ULD by ol’Victor Ojelabi

No year had compared with the cataclysmic datelines in economic history since the great depression until the year 2008 came along. Global economic growth had skyrocketed over the last 20 years engendering a new measure of comfort and access to luxury as the population of the wealthy ballooned by the day. By the end of the first quarter of 2008, the stock market in Nigeria and those across the world had recorded mirthful growth, that the Nigerian bourse was rated the highest most profitable stock exchange in terms of returns on investment in the emerging market segment this is just as other investors around the world celebrated returns on their investment.

But by the beginning of the second quarter of the year, economic metrics started showing stressful signs of falling decimals on the statistics of economic performance measurement, this, soon engulfed news emerging from all sectors of the economies across the globe. Nigeria had capitulated even before the formal announcement of the global financial meltdown; the nation’s institutional regulators had frantically talked our stock market into a crisis, obviously, since non of these regulators were instrumental to the buoyancy of activities in the market either by deliberate planning or policy thrusts, they can’t, even up till now, fathom why the market took a dive from pronouncements that they apparently considered innocuous.

It is an enduring hall mark of the profligate characterization of the managements of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Securities and Exchange Commission and the Nigerian Stock Exchange that they still explain away the N3.2trillion lost to investors lose of confidence in the market as mere market correction. These institutions responsible for the state of health of the Nigerian Stock Exchange decidedly got inebriated with the unplanned success of the Exchange and having a lack of the knowledge of the growth trajectory of the Exchange they riotously claimed right of proprietary authority over the Exchange resulting in regulatory agencies brick bats that added to scaring investors in the country: A CBN outlawing margin loans by commercial banks, a SEC increasing by more than 1000 per cent the capital base of stock brokers, and an NSE that encouraged white collar daylight robbery by allowing dead companies to trade and did not see the need to investigate the moribund stocks when their prices galloped into the north by more than 5,000 percentage point. When the reality dawned on gullible investors, the stock market became an atrocious platform for losing money for eternity. Simple, no hope of recovering lost investments.

This is the sorry commentary on the nation’s stock exchange, unfortunately, the larger macro economics is the worst for it. Again, finance ministry officials and their alter egos in the CBN, those, who, up till this moment, cannot provide in logical sequence, reasons crude oil price shot to a high of $148 before its sudden dive for the dirt as last year prepared its curtains down, are busy in reassuring the nation that it would not be affected in the consequence of the global financial meltdown.

In an import dependent country where even toothpicks are imported into the economy, is it not logical that all the malignancies that diseased the exporting economies from which we import our goods and services are certainly imported into the country. The naira had since crashed against the benchmark dollar in the foreign exchange market; crude oil price is yet to settle at its economic natural point on the downward drive in the face of present realities and the nation profiles an infrastructure deficit that threatens to kill off any wealth sustaining or creating initiative. Yet the experts in Abuja talk flippantly of a national economic that can withstand the onslaught of the consequences of the global financial meltdown. Noting can be more rubbish.

It all adds up to a year that once again underscores the deficient capacity for planning and projection by Nigerian officials. If this limitation is restricted to plannessness perhaps we could have found succor in the fact that all the needed to be done to rehabilitate our ramshackle economic thinking space is to provide officials the incentives appropriate to thinking for tomorrow. Unfortunately, this won’t change anything, government officials have turned economic initiatives and policy thrusts into glib political maneuvers as if the business community has become object of conquest. This was very much underscored when the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, after denying any inappropriate policy resulting in the crashing naira for upward three weeks was forced to confess to members of the House of Assembly that were concerned enough about the turbulent engagement of the economy that they invited the governor to come and explain the direction of his monetary policies. The Professor of Economics had tongue in cheek told the House of Representatives panel that it was a deliberate policy of the CBN to let the naira depreciate.

Sadly, because Nigerians have become so shell-shocked to inanities of government and its officials nobody picked bones with the CBN Governor. In other more decent climes, the CBN Governor would have been asked to resign his office. Is it not reasonable for the purpose of planning and budgeting both by policy makers in the public and private sectors for the CBN to release a public statement informing the country of the CBN’s intension to allow the naira to depreciate and give a minimum two weeks notice. This would allow decision makers to know to plan and have an implementation procedure in response to the planned currency depreciation.

Rather, the CBN let loose the depreciation as if it was a war strategy on the business community. Really bad. Would things change in 2009? Hardly, despite President Umar Musa YarAdua’s commitment to realizing the potential of Nigeria in the New Year through the empanelling of a new federal cabinet, the fact of the matter is simply about lack of quality consciousness and sense of responsibility of government officials to Nigerians and project Nigeria. When other countries are engaged in strenuous efforts to rescue their economies, there is no outward sign by government in Nigeria of a serious effort to salvage an economy that may be inexorably headed for the sewage.

As published in the January 11th Edition, Issue 49, Vol 1.

WESTERN UNION MONEY TRANSFER: CBN TO PENALISE BANKS FOR WRONG PAYMENTS

In response to the torrent of complaints and petitions against commercial banks that had wrongfully or by default paid money transferred to beneficiaries through the international fund transfer platform of the Western Union Money Transfer, the Central Bank of Nigeria has issued to commercial banks, additional information requirements and directive on Western Union Money Transfer operations in Nigeria.

The banking industry’s regulatory authority in a circular forwarded to commercial banks in the country acknowledged the absence of a fool-proof means of personal identification of beneficiaries of money transfer, to safeguard against the many incidences of payments of money transferred to identity thieves, the apex bank directed that bank should put in place additional safeguards that will ensure that payments are only made to the correct beneficiaries:

 

One of the additional requirements is that funds transferred shall only be collected in the designated town for payment and nowhere else. In addition, commercial banks are now required to investigate customers’ complaint within one week before referring the beneficiary to the sender for onward complaint to Western Union Money Transfer International.

 

The circular signed by the apex bank’s director of banking supervision, Mr. OI Imala, also requires that the copy of beneficiary’s photograph forwarded by Western Union Money Transfer to the banks should be personally produced by the beneficiary at the point of collection before payment is made.

 

The CBN warns that in cases where these safeguards are not strictly applied, banks will be held liable and shall be made to refund any amount paid to wrong beneficiaries.

 

A Central Bank source explained that the circular was meant to find a lasting solution to the continuous complain of banks customers that petition the CBN over the wrongful payment of money sent to them but wrongfully paid to some other people.

 

“Some of these customers actually alleged that the mistaken payments were made in connivance with some bank staff and identity thieves.” FORTUNE & CLASS source said. “The CBN had to insist in that circular that banks investigate claims of customers before referring the customers back to the senders from whom the fund emanated so as to ensure that the wrongful payments were not deliberately contrived within the bank.

 

“The basis of the proof of identity is the new requirement that the sender must provide a copy of the passport photograph of the beneficiary here in Nigeria to Western Union Money Transfer which will now forward the photograph to the paying bank. Now, before payment is made to anybody, the person laying claim to the transferred money must provide a copy of the photograph at the point of collection before payment is made.”

 

The CBN source added that with this requirement, it will be easy to identify who the true beneficiary of fund transferred is and if a bank refused to adhere to this guideline strictly it would show that it breached the process, so rather than make excuses and refer the customer-beneficiary to the sender, the CBN will deem the bank culpable and shall be made to make refund to the true beneficiary.

BETWEEN THE CBN AND COMMERCIAL BANKS

So, why would the Central Bank of Nigeria refuse to trust figures presented to it by Nigerian banks? We reported in the last week edition of this magazine that the management of the Central Bank of Nigeria virtually established a template of distrust for banking audit that there is an unwritten standing rule to slash 30 percent any figure presented to the CBN by commercial banks in the value of their assets claims.

 

What this mean is that the CBN without question first slash off 30 percent of the value of the assets claims of the banks and thereafter, direct the bank to rework its assets value within the figure arrived at after the slashing.

 

A source at the CBN has informed that the CBN had to resort to this measure after several encounters with some commercial banks assets value claims that were proved wrong. One of this was quite outstanding. The source informed that a commercial bank had reported in the breakdown of its assets value to have 150 built up branches. An official of the CBN had found reasons to be suspicious after conducting an examination on the bank’s assets class and decided to conduct an onsite count of the branches.

 

At the end, he found out that 30 of the branches claimed to have been built or acquired by the bank were not in existence. “This corroborated other findings of the CBN so the CBN decided to opt for a general standard of reducing assets value claims since it could not conduct on site review of assets claims of all operating banks. Though some highly respected banks are treated differently.” The source said.

STOCK MARKET REBOUND…WACTH OUT BEFORE YOU INVEST

The excitement returned to the Nigerian stock market last week when in two days in a roll the market recorded gains that had become foreign to a market that seems to be determined for a southern movement since March this year. For the first time in several weeks, the protracted decline in the measurement of performances of the market moved northward to the delight of investors and all of a sudden the scenario changed from a market saturated with stocks to one characterised by scarcity of stocks as investors desperate bids to buy certain shares were rebuffed by unavailability. Market analysts observed that volume of shares on offer dropped significantly, suggesting a possible retraction from selling, as investors hope for further price appreciation and the bid to purchase shares took an upturn indicating a possible restoration of investors’ confidence.

 

Some more perspective market watchers argued that the market is not yet an all comer affair. Those that offered to speak with FORTUNE & CLASS Weekly said they strongly believe that the market can for now be described as the players market…a market dominated by institutional investors and stock brokers. Private investigations conducted indicated that most small to medium investors wishing to join in the share buying fray so as to profit from the rock bottom prices of many of the now highly undervalued stocks were left in the lurch with bids unfulfilled.

 

Latest news in the market informed that the new momentum driving the market may not be unconnected with the early bird initiative of some commercial banks that have quickly exploited the opportunities offered about the extension of tenor for credit facilities for margin trading and the 360 days elongation of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s expanded discount window.

 

The CBN’s new policy on discount window liberalises access to funds by commercial banks and also extends the repayment tenor of funds borrowed from the CBN through the discount window.

 

A market source confided that some of these early starter banks had provided funds for the purpose of shares purchase to stockbrokers, of course with a proviso for the preferences of shares to be purchased.

This, according to FORTUNE & CLASS source influenced the sudden liquidity position of the market. In light of this, another market player has suggested that small to medium size investors should be very careful not to get their fingers burnt in the supposed reawakening of the market.

 

I can tell you that great opportunities are on offer in the market right now with otherwise fundamentally strong stocks been priced at low price. But as the market seemingly embarked on a rebound, small to medium size investors should be wary of falling into a regretful pit. I want to suggest that investors take note of the following: Nobody is sure at the moment if the market has completely bottomed out. As things stand, institutional investors are engaged in what is called fishing the bottom market and i can tell you that this is an herculean task, because the upturn following a decline is often short lived and results in a continued price decline and hence a loss of capital for investors that purchased stocks during a misperceived or fake market bottom.

 

“Besides, nobody can tell for certain that the market will not revert to the bearish swing again as a result of speculators taking profit from the marginal capital appreciation enjoyed by some of the stocks that gained last week. And no one is sure that a small time investor will get his order for shares purchase effected by his or her stockbroker.”

FRAUDULENT CREDITS HAUNT NIGERIAN BANKS -Industry Sources Warn

Despite continued assurances made by Central Bank of Nigeria’s Governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo restating the healthy state of Nigerian banks, reliable banking industry sources have indicated otherwise.

The sources warn that many commercial banks’ risks exposure is quite high, this, the sources averred is responsible for the growing tension in banking operations in the country.

“Of course, most banks keep issuing spectacular financial results, declaring huge profit after tax. But we can tell you that all you see are mere accounts engineering for which financial sector regulatory authorities should be held responsible.

“It is unfortunate that the auditing processes of companies have not been criminalized, if they are, all the shenanigans happening in the banking sector would have been exposed. We can tell you that several banks have lost there shareholders funds. The same capitalised funds that the CBN Governor is hailing as the proactive measure of consolidation that have supposedly saved the Nigerian banking industry.

“But have you ever imagined to the dividends several banks declare at their year-end? If you look at their books properly, they morphed the supposed dividends in their assets account. Yet what the requirement is that funds attributable to dividend should be set aside and, indeed, forwarded to the registrars for onward delivery to shareholders.

What some of the banks do, however, is to transfer some funds to the registrars, which usually are under their direct supervision because they are the banks’ subsidiaries. The registrars just make a show of posting dividends, but then, what you will soon hear is unclaimed dividends. The truth is that the dividend warrants were not dispatched in the first sense.

“Again, So many concerned Nigerians are looking to commercial banks exposure to the stock market as the next likely cause of distress in the Nigerian banking industry, yes, we agree that the stock market may be a possibility, but more than the eventuality we expect from continued worries arising from banks’ risk exposure in the capital market is the heavy exposure to fraudulent credits granted to some highly rated Nigerian and foreign businessmen that have become more or less moribund.

“We can tell you of a celebrated businessman who owes several banks a total of about N412billion debt and as the days pass it is becoming increasingly impossible to recover the sum from him. Besides, there is another gentleman who recently stormed the petroleum products marketing sector. He secured a facility of more than N50billion to finance his diesel supply business and joined other top players in the market to slash price for competitive advantage. But now, the situation have turned bad for him, again it is becoming increasingly bad for him.

“A Nigerian branch of the group of companies owned by an Asian ranked in the list of the world’s ten richest people had on the strength of the track record of the wealthy individual behind the company wracked up about N92billion facility form different Nigerian banks. For this individual, the slide in the global financial market has badly affected his business empire that he is to talking about official bankruptcy. With such a situation what is obvious is that it would become near impossible to repay the facilities secured from Nigerian banks.

“We qualify most of the facilities so secured by these businessmen as fraudulent because the processes of securing are often compromised. We have investigated how conniving accounts officers of some of these banks compromise the whole process of risks and collateral valuation. These account officers are usually promised a percentage of the amount to be loaned out; they forward favourable reports to the management, again, there are members of the management who are insiders to these compromised processes; they easily approve the reports for their personal gains.

“What all these boil down to is that if the CBN Examiners properly conduct the review of the books of most of these banks as required, the revelations will be shocking. On this basis, we want to warn that depositors’ funds with several Nigerian banks are at risk. People should start becoming cautious as they relate with their banks. Just a small slip could cause a lot of damages to depositors’ funds.