May 22, 2008, 5:34 AM
In what many described as a crusade against corruption and ill-gotten wealth, Nigeria's Central Bank Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi who paid a daylong working visit to The Gambia last week spoke against the misuse of public funds, particularly in the banking industry.
At a presentation held at the Sheraton hotel last Thursday, Governor Sanusi commented, "We must hold individuals accountable for misusing public funds."
According to Governor Sanusi, when he assumed leadership as the Central Bank Governor of Nigeria in June this year, it has become clear to him that there were at least five banks that had shown serious signs of disquiet, permanently taking money from the Central Bank but failed to repay it. As he put it, there was probably a major source of system liquidation problem.
As part of the reforms, he noted, they made a "thorough investigation of their banks and out of the 24 banks, 14 were cleared and 10 had issues."
According to him, many of these issues have to do with, "without having enough capital to continue with their business, liquidity conditions to make sure that their depositors were not at risk and in some case, they show governance infractions."
The pragmatic Governor further posited that what they had gathered during their investigations was the same type of problems happening in Europe and America where there is not only just bad management but greed at work.
Governor Sanusi added that they have decided that where they found any Chief Executive or management guilty of malpractice, they would not only remove them but put them in jail.
"We must hold individuals accountable for misusing public funds," Governor Sanusi said, while adding that not a single depositor has lost a single penny.
America and Europe, he said, have crisis but they don't. "Our banks have not defaulted," he added.
"It's the determinant of the government of Nigeria to ensure that if people violate the laws, they face the consequences. It is about sending right signals to those holding public office to be accountable and face the full force of the law if they are found wanting," he emphasised.
Continuing his deliberations, the Chief Nigerian banker Sanusi stated that they have Nigerian subsidiary banks in many places, including The Gambia but ensure that problems in their parent banks do not affect subsidiary banks.
"Despite all the problems, the Nigerian economy had turned around, oil prices have gone up to 70 dollars a barrel, production had moved from one million to two million barrel a day, while the GDP real growth rate in the 2nd quarter was 7.2 percent," says Governor Sanusi.
He added that the issues they have to deal with the challenges of misinformation, misinterpretation and sensationalism.
He assured the Gambian people that they have not allowed any bank in Nigeria to repatriate money from a Gambian subsidiary. The visiting Governor stated that majority of the Nigerian banks in The Gambia are not affected and for a few that are affected the government has put in a sufficient fund, while their management are being appointed by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
He however urged the Nigerian banks operating in The Gambia to employ trained Gambians, as well as share ownership in order to show a clear commitment to the growth and development of the country. The prospects, he said, are high for the banks in our part of the world but there is no room for complacency.
Among those who gathered at the five star hotel to have first hand information regarding the Nigerian financial sector, was a cross section of members of the banking industry, judges and diplomats, among others.
Governor Sanusi flew to Gnana the same day on a similar mission.