CBN dismisses bank takeover report as Emefiele dares Obazee

THE Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has said that Nigerian banks are healthy and there is no cause for alarm, underplaying any imminent bank takeover by the Federal Government.

The CBN’s statement came in response to the revelation by the Federal Government-appointed Special CBN Investigator, Mr Jim Obazee, that the government plans to take over Keystone Bank and Union Bank wrongly acquired by alleged Mr Godwin Emefiele’s proxies. Emefiele is the immediate past CBN governor.

Economy Post had quoted reports released by Mr Obazee, which had alleged that Mr Emefiele used proxies to acquire three banks in Nigeria.CBN Investigator, Mr Jim Obazee

The reports, which focused on the acquisition of Union Bank, Keystone Bank and Polaris Bank, were submitted to President Bola Tinubu in two separate letters dated December 20, 2023.

READ ALSO: Wema Bank enjoyed CBN salary bailout for 14 years despite 239% profit increase

But in a statement sent to Economy Post and signed by CBN’s Acting Director for Corporate Communications, Ms Hakama Sidi-Ali, the apex bank said it had noticed reports in certain media outlets concerning a recommendation for the Federal Government to take over some CBN-supervised financial institutions.

“For the avoidance of doubt, Nigerian banks remain safe and sound. The CBN encourages the public to continue their regular activities without being alarmed by reports that have not emanated from the CBN about the health status of Nigerian banks.

“The CBN is fully equipped to carry out its statutory duty of upholding a stable financial system in Nigeria. We assure the general public and depositors about the safety of their funds in Nigerian financial institutions.”

Former CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele

The apex bank advised customers to proceed with their banking transactions as usual, as there was no cause for concern.

READ ALSO: Polaris, Keystone acquired for free, Emefiele used proxies to buy Union Bank – Investigator

Emefiele challenges Obazee

Following the allegation of buying Polaris Bank, Union Bank and Keystone Bank through proxies and operating 593 illegal United States, United Kingdom and Chinese illegal bank accounts, Mr Emefiele has dismissed Mr Obazee report as “misleading and barefaced lies,” threatening to seek redress in the court of law.

“First, it was reported that contrary to the provision of the CBN Act 2007, there was no presidential approval for the Naira redesign. I wish to state unequivocally that there was indeed presidential approval and the said approval was handed over to the same Jim Obazee during his investigation in the presence of senior CBN officials and his investigative team,” Mr Emefiele said.

“Moreover, the former President Muhammadu Buhari has stated on several occasions that he authorised and approved the Naira redesign. I am therefore at a loss as to why Mr Jim Obazee will mislead Nigerians that there was no presidential approval,” he added.

He also rubbished the report that $6.23 million was withdrawn from the CBN coffers based on a false presidential directive bearing the signature of former President Muhammadu Buhari and that of the former secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, stating that this was false.

The former CBN chief said that the investigator had, in company of a certain Deputy Commissioner of Police from Force CID, came to Kuje Prison (where he was) to ask him questions in respect of the said document in the presence of his lawyers and he frankly said he had no knowledge of the directive.

READ ALSO: Zenith Bank lends to insiders at 4% interest rate, but SMEs pay 27%

“I stated verbally and in writing that I have no knowledge of such directive from the former president and the former SGF. In fact, I told them that, that was the first time I would be seeing the documents.  

“On this, I challenge Jim Obazee to publish the said documents and also the statements that I made to them.

“I state categorically that I am not involved in the opening of these accounts and I do not have knowledge of their openings.  The fixed deposits in those foreign accounts are definitely outside my knowledge.

“However, let me state clearly, that the relevant departments of the CBN have the authority to carry out such activities in line with their lawful mandate within the CBN.”

TGI Group debunks report

Meanwhile, Tropical General Investments (TGI) Group, which bought over Union Bank, said linking the group’s ownership of Titan Trust and Union Banks to the former CBN governor was wrong.

A statement issued by the TGI’s Head of Corporate Communications, Ms. Rafiat Gawat, said Union Bank was not owned by the government and no CBN or AMCON funds were used to purchase it contrary to claims made by Mr Obazee.

“The process was diligently followed as captured in the report of the investigator. As responsible corporate citizens, we are always willing, ready, and able to support stakeholders including regulators to learn and understand our group and its operations.”

READ ALSO: Wema Bank enjoyed CBN salary bailout for 14 years despite 239% profit increase

“The investigator’s claim that Union Bank did not respond to his request for information was misleading as all the information requested was submitted on the 1st September, 2023.

“It’s a well-known fact that Mr. Vink, who has been in Nigeria since 1978, is an elderly person and has recently been medically advised to limit his movements.

“This was duly communicated to the investigator with supporting documents. TGI’s capital, ownership and selling of Chi to a multinational such as Coca cola is proof that Mr Vink is not a proxy.
“The Group’s ability to engage and work with reputable international financial advisors and bankers attests to the Group’s global credibility.”

Yakubu Ibrahim
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