Acquisition of Banks: CBN Deputy Governor Quizzed

The Federal Government has launched probes into recent sales of major banks midwifed by government’s interventions with a view to ascertaining the propriety of the transactions.

The government is investigating the circumstances surrounding the acquisition of 106-year-old Union Bank by Titan Trust Bank (TTB) and the acquisition of Polaris Bank.

Of particular interest to the government is the $300 million TTB, a financial institution that was less than four years old, paid as a last tranche to acquire the majority stake in Union Bank.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) had sold 100 per cent equity stake in Polaris Bank to Strategic Capital Investment Limited (SCIL), a nondescript company owned by Auwal Lawal, an in-law to former military head of state, Gen Ibrahim Babangida (rtd).

A highly placed source in TTB confirmed the investigation to The Nation at the weekend.

According to the source, the probe was being conducted by an inter-agency special team made up of operatives of the Department of State Security (DSS), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other-Offences Commission (ICPC).

Prodded for more information, the Titan top official replied “I would rather allow them to complete their investigation than provide more details to the public. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.”

He, however, assured that “the two banks – Titan Trust Bank and Union Bank are healthy. Customers of the two banks, therefore, need not panic.”

The special investigation team was set up by President Bola Tinubu with a mandate to go after those who hoarded naira in the wake of its redesign by the CBN.

It was also directed to probe other financial indiscretions within the banking system.

Last week, the team quizzed Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Deputy Governor in charge of Economic Policy, Obiora Kingsley, over allegations of financial mismanagement by the Godwin Emefiele-led management of the apex.

Emefiele, who is currently on trial, is in DSS custody.

CBN’s Deputy Governor, Financial System Stability, Aisha Ahmad, was also interrogated at the weekend by the particular team in connection with alleged holes in the acquisition of Polaris Bank and Titan Bank-Union Bank deal.

African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) had last year provided a $300 million loan to Titan to acquire Union Bank.

Afreximbank disbursed the funds from its Intra-African Investment Financing Facility which is specifically designed to support investment projects within Africa.

The companies involved in the Union Bank-Titan’s transaction have kept the actual cost under wraps.

Union Bank’s total asset value was $4.9 billion or N2.59 trillion, as stated in its audited financial statements for the fiscal year 2021.

The bank’s core investors made a decision to sell their ownership stakes, which amounted to 93.41 per cent of its shares.

Further investigation by The Nation revealed that Ahmad was also quizzed over the processes for raising the $300 million by Titan and its deployment for Union Bank’s acquisition.

Another source said: “Her name came up in an on-going probe and it is not out of place to bring her in to clear up some issues.”

The source did not give details of the investigation, but he confirmed that she was allowed to go after being quizzed.

Her family also told The Nation yesterday that she was not detained.

“We wish to reassure everyone that Aishah Ahmad is home with her family and not detained by the DSS. She is safe and sound. In these times, it is essential to maintain clarity and rely on verified information only,” the family stated.

A member of the family, who pleaded anonymity, said that Ahmad was cooperating with the special investigation team.

“Mrs Ahmad’s cooperation with the authorities demonstrates her commitment to transparency and due process.

“It is crucial that the public exercise discretion when evaluating news reports and avoid engaging in unfounded rumours or misinformation,” the family member said.