By: Edet Eyo Bassey
Besides Zenith Bank, every other bank in Akwa Ibom state is obviously hurting. The banks are hurting from Governor Udo Emmanuel’s jaundiced banking policy. Udom is biased and prejudiced against every other bank operating in the state except Zenith Bank with whom he has a long history and inseparable interest.
Senior management staff of other banks from Akwa Ibom who are privileged to serve in their home state are daily losing their jobs. The very proficient ones are re-deployed to other states for failure to attract government patronage thereby causing dislocation of families.
There are about 22 registered commercial banks doing business in Nigeria and over 80 percent of the banks have presence and registered place of business in Uyo the state capital and other local government areas. The lure and rush by banks to do business in Akwa Ibom state was due to huge Federal monthly allocation to the state from oil revenue since 2006. During his last tenure (2011 – 2015) Governor Akpabio, the “Uncommon Transformer” is reported to have received over 3trillion Naira from all revenue sources; more than enough pie to go around.
Anyone in the industry knows how competitive banking business is; particularly relating to huge deposit drive and portfolio management. How the banks in Akwa Ibom survived the stiff competition of money marketing in the past is left to anybody’s guess but certainly not unfair trade competition that Governor Emmanuel introduced upon assumption of office. Against the backdrop of the oath of office which he took to be fair and just to all citizens including corporate entities, Udom on assumption of office issued a memo authorizing the closure of state government accounts holding in other banks other than Zenith bank with further instructions to agencies and departments of governments to do business only with Zenith bank. That was how Deacon Emmanuel threw a cog in the wheel of progress of other banks in the state.
Other than Udom and his Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Linus Nkan (also a former staff of Zenith Bank) very few persons are privileged to know the intent and purpose of operating account with a singular bank by the state government. If the state must operate account with a singular bank; why it is Zenith and not any other bank is known only to Udom and his cohorts. The people also do not know what benefits and or privileges that operating account with Zenith bank confers on the state.
Firstly, for the purposes of this essay, what benefits accrues to the state by operation of account with Zenith bank. Unless there are hidden advantages not disclosed to the public, this deal is a “win-win” situation for the bank. The huge monthly deposit by Akwa Ibom state government accounts for the huge revenue base of the bank. COT on daily transactions by government accounts for substantial earnings of the bank. Akwa Ibom people are left with the short end of the stick. Udom’s long term affiliation and inseparable commitment to Zenith bank may account for his patronage and protection of the bank’s interest. Expectedly, a risk manager should be aware of the dangers of over concentration, that is, putting all our eggs in one basket. Though a public quoted company, one cannot completely rule out the risk of stock failure and eventual collapse of a business. Lawyers can attest to time wasting and frustration they bear when there is network failure and they cannot pay N200 cost of affidavit anywhere else but Zenith bank.
Secondly, is Udom’s patronage of Zenith bank synonymous or comparable with the Federal Government’s Treasury Single Account (TSA)? Far from it. The TSA is Federal Governments means of mopping-up funds from all revenue sources into a singular account with the Central Bank of Nigeria. Mind you, not a commercial bank which confers undue-advantage on a beneficiary bank as done by Udom to Zenith bank. The monies deposited in the TSA are not traded with by the Central bank unlike a commercial bank that trades with every fund at her disposal against other competing banks. What this portents to other banks in the state is a deliberate creation of undue advantage and a non-level playing field for operators in the industry.
Contrary to his oath of office, Udom’s banking policy is un-progressive and inimical to the interest of Akwa Ibom indigenes employed in other banks. He is by implication not doing what is necessary to sustain the employment of Akwa Ibom indigenes in the banking sector. The Governor should be reminded that the state civil service, public enterprises and so-called industries cannot provide employment for the teeming youths of the state. What the governor has done is an abuse of office and betrayal of public trust. It is unethical and tantamount to double standard. His action jeopardizes the professional career of Akwa Ibomites in the banking industry.
At some point in the administration of former Governor Akpabio, it was reported that the state government was indebted to Zenith bank for an amount close to 500 billion Naira. At the tail end of that administration, the bank became mindful of the capacity of government to liquidate the loan before the expiration of its tenure on May 29th2015. This, as was later revealed, informed the decision to draft or rather mobilize Udom Emmanuel (then a Director at Zenith bank) on secondment to serve as the Secretary to State Government (SSG) ostensibly to keep an eye on the finances of government and ensure that government did not renege on the loan servicing agreement. Only Akpabio and his co-travellers can attest to what happened behind the scene but for the rest of us “like play, like play” and at the cost of the sweat, tears and blood of innocent Akwa Ibomites, Akpabio through brutal and strong arm political tactics foisted Udom as governor to continue to perpetrate the hidden interest of Zenith bank in the state. And that he has been doing meticulously. Udom has repeatedly boasted of his huge financial war chest; politically speaking. Akwa Ibom people have not just Udom and his inept government to contend with in the up-coming general elections but a financial institution whose interest in the state is more than passive and beyond exaggeration.