Page last updated at 08:39 GMT, Wednesday, 26 August 2009 09:39 UK

African view: Devoured by greed?

Niara notes

In our series of viewpoints from African journalists, Sola Odunfa wonders what Nigeria's banking crisis says about the country's elite.

Once again Nigeria is in the throes of a bank crisis. Rumbles of a quake have been heard and the nation is girding its loins.

The more the individual banker amasses from the bribes, the greedier he becomes

Ten banks were audited by the Central Bank of Nigeria. Only half of them got the pass mark. The others were said to have fallen far short of the prudent and transparent management required by law and by public trust.

The remaining 14 banks in the country are now being audited. How many of these will scale through?

Should half of them also require government bailouts, the entire financial industry in Nigeria may crash, taking what is left of the economy with it.

Banking laws in Nigeria are tight enough to prevent the type of crisis creeping in.

By law, no loan can be given by any bank without physical collateral and every bank must disclose its non-performing loans to the Central Bank promptly.

Moreover, no bank may give out credit above a stated percentage of its assets.

But what are laws in an environment with pervasive corruption and uncontrollable greed?

Preserve of the rich

About 10 years ago 20 banks collapsed, taking with them the future and, in some cases, the lives of many depositors.

Nigerians in a bank
The plight of Nigerian depositors is often forgotten

I do not recollect that any serious punishment was meted to the bankers. The officials who caused the crisis smiled away with their loot.

There was also the earlier saga of scores of failed finance houses when several thousand Nigerians were impoverished.

Most of the proprietors initially fled the country only to return to enjoy their loot when they considered the coast clear.

Since then banking in Nigeria has become a glamour profession. Bank executives flaunt opulence and an air of arrogance.

Having caught the corruption bug ravaging the country, they too have become as corrupt as the most corrupt politician or businessman in the land.

Hardly any customer can obtain a loan without paying a bribe, which is calculated as a percentage of the loan sought.

As for the top executives, they are the glamour superstars

The more the individual banker amasses from the bribes, the greedier he becomes and the more he closes his eyes to regulations.

With time, access to bank credit has become the preserve of the very rich who see no reason to pay back, given the percentage they had paid officials.

In Nigeria young bank managers ride the most expensive cars, they belong in the most exclusive social clubs, they live in the choicest neighbourhoods and they enrol their children in the most expensive schools.

As for the top executives, they are the glamour superstars. They move around town with long convoys of so-called security cars.

They are by far the heaviest donors to Pentecostal Churches, with attendant privileges.

Pleading innocence

Many of them travel in their own private jets and they dip into their bank's resources as if these are their personal piggy-banks. Hollywood stars would envy their lifestyle.

A church in Lagos
Churches are often constructed from donations from the congregation

For a week now three bank chief executives have been reflecting on their lives in the cells of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

One other is said to be at large and yet another is taking refuge in the United Kingdom.

All of them plead innocence.

More will surely join them from the 14 other banks being audited.

They will all have their day in court, along with debtors who cannot pay up.

Even that may not tame the greed devouring the Nigerian elite.

If you would like to comment on this column, send us your views using the postform below.

Thanks for your comments. Please read a selection below:

Sincerely dis is pure drama. Nothing will come out of d EFCC's investigations. Wat has happened to d ex-governors dat EFCC investigated? Dey still walk around flaunting their stolen wealth while d average Nigerian lives below d poverty line. Wat has Farida Waziri done about dem? Dis dust will die down, the Bank MDs will be released to enjoy d money while still aiding politicians to cart away our money in foreign banks. We have no leaders but thieves in ds country. Imagine staying without a flash of light for 3 months now, tertiary institutions closed for d past 2months, no roads, no water! When will all these end? Only NIGERIANS can change Nigeria. We must speak out for a change in our electoral system. Dis breed of crooks called PDP must be forced out for us to make progress and d time to do dat is NOW!
Chioma, Owerri, Nigeria

Sola, you couldn't have said it any better. How I wish the so-called leaders read this piece, unfortunately most of them can't even write their names, not to talk of reading. What we are seeing today is what we deserve, to an extent. Going by the fact that we glorified the IBB regime and nicknamed him maradona, when he is stupider than the lowliest motor-park tout. He put Nigeria on the precipice of this decline in morality and blind craze for wealth. I pray each day for GOD to send a redeemer who will chastise the fake pastors in the churches, the looting public worker and all their cohorts in the raping of Nigeria. Like the saying goes: EVERYDAY FOR THE THIEF, ONE DAY FOR THE OWNER OF THE HOUSE, and WE THE DOWN-TRODDEN MASSES ARE THE OWNERS OF THE HOUSE. Long live Nigeria, and may GOD bless Nigeria.
Eze Uba, Onitsha, Nigeria

The problem with we Nigerians is that we like to point fingers at other people, while claiming to be innocent. The truth of the matter is that we the people are as guilty as our politicians, banks, contractors etc. Here is how, as long as we the people continue to worship the "money bags" corruption will continue to eat into our fabrics. As long as we the people continue to sell our votes to the highest bidder, we should not expect any thing better from our politicians. When instead of asking the politicians the tough questions, we only want to know how many bags of rice, how many cartoons of beer and how much cash he or she is able to share, what then should we expect? We should not forget that some the money used in buying the rice, beer etc was borrowed perhaps from the banks. And should we blame them if they refused to pay back? The problem is " we the people" and only we can solve it.
Chukwuyere Anyandu, Imo State NIGERIA

Why audit 10 Banks first and announce the result of the audit? what happens to the other 15 banks said to be undergoing auditing now who, according to rumours, have started covering their tracks using the same powerful elites to lobby govt officials? their day in court may never come Sola.
Aham Ebogu, Lagos

Obviously this is a blow and a slap in the Nigerian financial institution. It goes to show the level of corruptions and greed in the country. Ernestly a total reform and revolution has to take it course for the country to really move ahead.
Nsikan Umoh E, Omole, Lagos, Nigeria

Someone should give credit to Yaradua, weeks ago, nigerian criticised him for removing soludo. I am begging nigerians far and near to have faith in nigeria rather the condemn it, If nigeria fails, we as nigerians have equally failed, Revolution is not the solution, because the rich would leave the country, and the poor ones again will continue to suffer, what we need is to come together as one, with one voice, and say enough is enough. we all can come together and take back the destiny of our beloveth country, nobody would do it for us, nigeria is the way it is because of us, we have idiots as senators, governors and head of state, because we nigerians have let them, we can take back our our country, not by fighting and killing ourselves, but by voting and defending our votes, nigerians seem to have lost confidence in our votes, because we dont defend it, if nigerian come out in masses to vote at the next election, like we did at the 1993 elections half of our problems will be resolved. Criticising the government would not change a thing, we all need to come together, they say evil persist because good has done nothing about it
Gozika Omezi, london

There is a hidden agenda concerning the sanitization of banks in Nigeria. The banking executives are also cohorts to the looting of money by so called government officials. This is a diverted attention to attract interest to banking sector so as to cover the prying eyes of people into their money laundering. Those bank executives that will agree to work with the government will be favoured while those not trusted will be screened out. And this system cares less to what happens to the money by the public in these banks affected. Our overhaul does not bring tangible positive effect to the masses but continues to create suspicion and mistrust.
Fortune Chris, Ukraine

I am hoping 2 C dat day when bribery & corruption wil be 18 of D past in nigeria, but that day wil not come unless we say no 2 those ingreats called our leader's who steal our money & share it 2 the hoodlums & the negative minded nigerians during election. May God be our strength & refuge
Daniel Oguche, Kano state, Nigeria

the genesis is from the very churches who are supposed to set high moral standards, the pastors are demigods and flaunt riches, some encourage their followers to steal and pay tithes, when the institutions that are suppose to ensure morality teach immorality and encourage falsehood, chaos sets in, these pastors have imprison the peoples conscience through deceit. the end is certainly at hand, let the politicians, the pastors and the elites eat to their full, certainly this is their own time, eternity is for the poor
adie, abuja

Sola, it is unfortunate that those in power in Nigeria have lost their conscience and are reprobates. Because they will do anything to suppress the truth, their thinking have become futile and their hearts darkened by corruption. We all know that the government of the day, like those before it, has only one agenda (not seven) to plunder the national treasury. With people like David Mark directing the affairs at the senate, there no light at the end of the tunnel. Nigeria is indeed a failed state.
Bassey Eyo, Calabar, Nigeria

Same old stuff..a lot of noise will be made..a few will be arrested and released after talking to God fathers and paying people off..some will leave the country and enjoy their loot and the story will die down. A few years from now the same cycle will happen again. Seems like a movie that keeps playing over and over again
Tayo, MD, US

It is really sad that we do not learn from very costly precedents. The people ruining Nigerian economy are the rich and famous. Having plundered the revenue from oil, they moved to the banking industry. Kudos to the individuals that have the interest of the nation at heart. Maybe gradually, we would be able to rid ourselves of the few powerful people who think that Nigeria is their sole inheritance and be able to have a clear direction of where we ought to be.
Christopher Edusi, Enfield England

I found myself humming Fela's song "Authority Stealing" in my head while reading this piece... On top of the road, on the side people dey waka, office workers, labor workers, worker's workers...Suddenly, Suddenly, Suddenly, you dey hear ah ah ah...Catch Am! Catch Am!! The so called big men in Nigeria are nothing but petty fraudsters. Luckily for these morons, the majority of Nigerians are too hungry to revolt...
Michael Fadulu, USA

Without doubt corruption is No One evil in the society, obviously, it has destroy the fabric of Nigeria lives. Nigerian politicians and the business men who sponsor them have been too cosy with financial institutions, and that is the root cause of corruption. Apparently, these three groups have not only brought shame to the nation, but curse on many have have no access to health care, education, water and roads etc. No one is convinced that they will learn, and this case will end without any one going to "Prison".
Egwenike Wosu, Dallas, TX

Nobody wants to die poor. a country that defines the amount of money you have as success, that takes satisfaction and integrity as failure, how can it ever get better? Our leaders are greedy devils, our pastors, reverend fathers, imams are thieves. Our lecturers and teachers are money looters. The blood of most Nigerians is filled with corruption, the prints of our DNA cant to correct without the mark of tribalism. Who wants to do good to a country that sees bad as good. Everything about dis country needs revolution. Lets start from ourselves, we're all guilty of corruption, bribe and greed. If I'm wrong ask the journalist.
Kels, Kaduna, Nigeria

I am ready to cast the first stone, Nigerians are stinkingly corrupt. The few innocent ones are feebly negligible to make meaningful contributions as to change the whole country. But the journey can start now. However, mine is a PANACEA for the sake of peace and tranquillity for a tranquilled socio-economic recovery for good of the country. Suggestion: SALARY STRUCTURE IN NIGERIA ESPECIALLY TO THE RULING POLITICIANS SHOULD BE STRUCTURED BASED ON THE CIVIL SERVICE STRUCTURE. For example persons with FSLC, WASC, 1ST, 2ND & Phd, be paid their respective equivalent. This will go along way to restructure this country.
Dr Mfon T Udo, Nigeria

Power belongs to the people and that is how it should be, decentralise it. When you have few people at the top running the country(politics and the economy)that is what happens. These people the play golf in the same clubs, the banker, the investigator, and the law enforcement agent. So the investigation is useless.
Abraham Walyejjemu, Copenhagen Demanrk

Mr Odunfa's report is a true reflection of the rot in the banking sector, and the cancer permeates almost all the sectors of the national life. It's sickening that Nigeria, the so-called giant of Africa, is standing on decaying legs. How long that lasts is anyone's guess.
Segun Olanipekun, Potomac, USA

This news was no surprise to me. I lost about 24 thousand naira to one of the failed finance houses in 1994. I have since left the country. The shameful thing is that the country's' government did nothing to check the greed or rather the mistakes of the past. CBN and EFCC are on a mission here, but I think it is rather "medicine after death."
Iyke Emina, Philadelphia, PA USA

It is quite unfortunate that no monitoring and control was going on during this period. It is a common saying that "when the cat is away the mice come out to play". The banks should have been audited and monitored throughout this period. There should be a centralised body responsible for making sure that each loan has sufficient physical collateral and is performing. The regulators are to blame for this present crisis and being totally incompetence. They have not followed their mandate, and allowed a lot of people to go Scot-free.
Tunde Ajao, London

The comments on this news is a reflection of the feelings of millions of Nigerians both at home and increasingly in diaspora. Whilst politicians and bank executives are being blamed, we all need to look at the mirror and ask what we have done to change the attitude in Nigeria. I refuse to use the term 'elite' to describe the band of criminals RUINING lives of millions. Can we not all do better..Revolution has been suggested and I certainly have heard this word from my childhood as being the only solution, the question is when and I say immediately!
Chido Okwuosa, London, UK

The 'funny' thing is, in the US, UK and other mature economies, we didn't refer to bribes, we called them bonuses. Let me explain - (I use 'he' and 'his' for simplicity, but it could just as easily be 'she' and 'hers') A British banker lends the money of his bank to a project (at up to and sometimes above a 100% loan to value ratio); he doesn't conduct particularly rigorous due diligence (largely because it is not relevant in terms of his bonus horizon); he sits on several credit committees of his friends and his friends sit on his credit committee...and the lending is approved; at the end of the year he gets paid his bonus for placing all the funds he was required to in that year; the project partially or completely fails and cannot support some or all of its borrowing; there is no requirement to pay back the bonus; the banker continues to lend and get paid bonuses on new projects; now tell me which is worse, a bribe (possibly called an upfront finder's/arrangement fee elsewhere) or the aforementioned example? Or are they same? 'Lipstick on a pig' if you ask me
Nick H, Lagos, Nigeria

This must be a joke. How can the kettle call the pot black? Let he who is innocent cast the first stone. The so called officials looking for these fraudulent bank managers and debtors are also debtors themselves. Nothing will come out of this investigation. The bank managers will definitely bribe themselves out of jail.
Okechukwu Oboh, Upper Marlboro, USA

This is not the first, second nor third time Nigerian banks are needing rescue. When will things change once and for all for the good. These lawlessness and crippling corruption seem to never go away. It has become the norm for both the public and private sector. The drive to get rich by all means and that being what has the highest value eats deep into the very fabric of the Nigerian society.
C. S. Dachet, Arhus, Denmark

I strongly believe in my heart that Sola hit the nail on the head. This is what we're experiencing in every area of our economy. Sola, I throw-way Salute.
Eniola, Henry, Lagos, Nigeria

Africa rich in every thing from untapped resources underground to the ever shining sun and human resources of young generations but it lacks leadership. Unfortunately it is infested with corrupt leaders be it politicians or bankers and what worrying about this phenomenon that it is becoming norm and even some times those who accumulate wealth by embezzling public money are considered clever people and an example to follow. what is the use for a graduate to be honest and keep living on a small salary since he can embezzle millions with full impunity and other wise looked upon him as an idiot who is unable to catch the chance which comes once in life.
Mousa, Sudan-Port Sudan

Nigeria is a country about to fall off the cliff. Corruption has gradually become endemic and institutionalised, the banks in question have in their board of directors politician who are the same people looting the country blind. The obasanjo administration and soludo's tenure in the CBN are to be blamed for the rot in the banking sector. After the consolidation, the apex bank failed to exercise its functions of checkmating the illegal and excesses of the bank CEO'S rather they resorted in cover-up resulting in what we are witnessing at present. Professor soludo failed in his judgement call to stop the looting of these banks and it is a pity that he based his decision on protecting the few aristocrats at the expense of millions of depositors who would have lost their life saving.
Onwuama chigozie damian, Anambra state, Nigeria.

its not just sad to see everyday stories of how Nigerian are enslave in their own country by their own brothers and sisters. go through the street of state capitals of our country and sample opinion of ordinary Nigerian and you will find out they are the enemy of themselves. no body cares for civil demonstration against these criminal milking our country. pray for Nigeria!!! nothing will save us except revolution. until these demons in human uniform who called themselves politician are all dead Nigerian will remain slaves. my heart is bleeding watching everyday the carnage of lawlessness from these so called leaders.
Israel king, Lagos, Nigeria

Nigeria is indifferent to any other country's banks. The only difference is how the money is being collected by the executives.
Kevin Chan, Stockholm, Sweden

It is indeed a sad story that in this current global economic recession, some ungrateful Nigerians are abusing the credit facilities available to them. The so-called 'captains of industries' are not actually living on their own money, rather they are living on the country's money - they call it national cake. The banking regulations (terms & conditions) should be overhauled and reviewed if that sector needs to stabilise.
Christopher U. Ochulor, Essex, England

'The strength of the oppressor lies in the ignorance of the oppressed.' The nation[Nigeria] is replicate of various forms of oppressors who masquerade themselves as the people's leader. Its unfortunate that the poor are still being milked be the very leaders that hold their destiny. Failed banks are only a tip in the iceberg, what of failed NNPC, failed PHCN, the whole strata of governance in Nigeria is a failure.
AKINTOLA FRANKLYN, Delta State, Nigeria.

I have visited Nigeria on business for many years. Corruption seems to start at the immigration desk and continues both upwards and downwards throughout the entire structure of the country. A 'dash' is required for anything from a soft drink to a license to work. Why therefore are bankers any different from others? It is NO surprise that Sola makes these claims. I wonder if this rich country is a continent of the impoverished will ever hold its head high. Not for me. The best view of Nigeria is from the plane on the way out.
Howard Baker, Alicante Spain

Yes Shola, it is just greed shaking hands with greed. Unfortunately, even the best of intentions are coloured with ethnic sentiments in Nigeria. These are the signs of the times in Nigeria and the signs of things to come in the future. The picture is still not looking good.
Celestine Akushie, Sydney, Australia

I wish most of the elites of banks executives can pay hardly for the evil deed of corruption and embezzlement of public funds. Many banks official are leaving in luxury life style and flabouyant way, that enable young corper to believe bank sector is the best place to work, if you want to succeed in life in Nigeria. Greater punishment and saction should prevail if any official of the financial institution caught with fradulent act. I will appreciate if there qualifications and degree can be stripe off as well.
Richard Challenger, Dublin, Ireland

Sola hit the nail on the head.... no one has ever being made to pay for their crimes that is why corruption thrives in Nigeria. chances are that all this would blow over and the bank executives would cut a deal with the authorities. justice must not only be done but it must be SEEN to be done. Highly placed individuals must be held accountable for their action or inaction, if found guilty then they must go to JAIL. The elites in Nigeria are nothing but parasites feeding off the rest of us. how many so called Nigerian big men pay tax? we need a proper reform and sadly i don't see Yaradua do this
Thomas Ayeni, Newcastle, UK

Print Sponsor

British National Party leader Nick Griffin (left) talks to local resident Suzan Olivacchi (right) as her daughters look on during a campaign tour in Dagenham Migrant amnesty?
And other reasons why UK election matters to Africa
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific