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Investigation: 45months after Reps. Probe, Savannah Bank Depositors yet to access 21years old funds

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Investigation: 45months after Reps. Probe, Savannah Bank Depositors yet to access 21years old funds

Savannah Bank was one of the top 10 leading Financial institutions in Nigeria as at the time of it’s forceful closure in February 2002, the bank had nearly 85,000 shareholders, with a share capital of N1 billion and about 118 branches with depositors funds in hundreds of millions.

Since then, series of engagements including litigations have been made however, depositors seems to be far from accessing their funds. NICHOLAS DEKERA in this investigative report analyses the intrigues regarding the failure of depositors to access their funds 21 years after.

Savannah Bank is certainly not the first bank in Nigeria that was declared distressed and consequently closed down by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)

As at 15th February, 2002 Savannah Bank was the 34th bank to have its operating license withdrawn by the CBN, beginning from 1993 when distress became a character of the Nigerian banking industry. The CBN Governor, at the time, Joseph Oladele Sanusi, said the lender was axed for not having enough assets to meet liabilities.

Savannah Bank is the first of such banks whose license was withdrawn in controversial circumstances. Since February 15, 2002 when the bank was closed down by the CBN, there has been no respite in the claims and counter claims being made by the contending forces. Whereas Savannah Bank insists that it was never distressed, the CBN maintained it position that the bank was distressed until the Court of Appeal in a ruling on February 6, 2009 ordered the re-opening of the bank and further directed the CBN and the NDIC to pay N100 million to the bank as damages.

Ten years later, in November 2019 Members of the House of Representatives reached the decision on the heels of a motion captioned “Need to Investigate the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation on the Current Status of Savannah Bank” and was moved by Magaji Da’u Aliyu.

The lawmakers had resolved to mandate the Committee on Banking and Currency to interface with the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation “on the current status of the bank and also ascertain whether it has fulfilled all the requirements to commence business.”

The committee was also mandated to interface with shareholders and the new management of the bank on possible ways to refund depositors.

Shockingly, the House of Representatives probe have seemingly become like one of the tales by moonlight light as depositors still leave in scourging economic hardship.

Speaking yesterday in Kaduna, one of the the victims of Savannah Bank forceful closure, a depositor who pleaded anonymity said “It was one Monday morning, I was on my way from Kaduna to Lafia and decided to branch to the bank to withdraw some cash for the journey, only to see the bank premises located on Ahmadu Bello way Kaduna, locked. Some individuals talked to us from inside the bank, through the windows, informing us the bank has been sealed.

” We thought, may be, the bank was having some house keeping issues which they will sort out shortly. I decided to make alternative arrangement and continued my journey. We waited for some days for the bank to reopen, it turned to weeks, and eventually to years.

” Today like a movie, 21years have passed, since that scene on that fateful day. Our offence is that we are Nigerians, who in obedience to our financial system, decided to save our monies in a bank, operated and supervised by Government agencies, while in operation by the same Govt agencies, that turned around and seized our funds without any prior warning for us to remove our hard earned funds.

Talking of the value of what he lost, he said ” I had about a million Naira in February 2002 in Savannah Bank, the U.S dollar was exchanged for less than a hundred naira. Today the exchange rate is between 800naira to 900 naira. So the present value of 1million naira 21years ago is better imagined. Those were my savings in view of retirement season. I retired in December 2013. You can imagine retirement life without major part of the funds you set aside over the years, for the season of retirement.

The sexagenarian called on Government as a matter of urgency to order the Owners of the Bank to pay depositors immediately to avoid depositors taking matters into their hands. “Payment should commence without delay. The depositors have done no wrong. He stressed.

“Depositors have visited NDIC severally and they have been directed to go to CBN and the response from CBN was not favourable to the situation. Since the Government claims to have released the money to the owners then they should mandate those in custody of the funds to make payments to depositors considering the fact that this depositors are still suffering with their families and dependants, even as many other depositors have passed on out of frustration and lack.” He maintained.

In November, 2014, the NDIC claimed it had returned about 455, 880, 020.25 naira to Savannah Bank. Did Savannah Bank received the aforementioned amount? What happened with the funds?

Relatively, the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation on Thursday 2nd March, 2022 in Kaduna said it had enough funds to pay depositors whose money was trapped in 23 distressed banks across the country.

The Managing Director of the NDIC, Bello Hassan, disclosed this at the ‘NDIC Day’ at the 43rd Kaduna International Trade Fair.

Media reports quoted Hassan of saying the corporation has moved for the commencement of payment to the affected depositors. Is the NDIC also playing a double standard game? Is Savannah Bank among the 23 distressed banks it talked about last year?

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