Babs AjayiFriday, July 24, 2009
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Gatineau, Quebec, Canada



e all know banks don't just fail; people fail them, people, including corrupt executives, managers, customers and other stakeholders. Bank employees who fail to perfect a loan and ensure that they obtain proper documentations and securities are often behind credits that turn bad and loans that become unserviceable. There have been several cases of bank executives giving loans to themselves, recycling debts and getting much more loans out of previous debts owed to the bank, or giving loans to their friends without collateral to protect the bank.

In the days of Ibrahim Babangida, banks multiplied like bread and butter churches in Ikoyi and Victoria Island. Finance companies also mushroomed and every street corner in Ikoyi, Lagos Island and Victoria Island had one merchant, commercial bank or finance institution. It was a time no one is eminent except he or she had a bank to his name, or was on the board of a bank or another. Others then just saw it as an opportunity to get their hands on some of piece of the national cake, taking huge sums from banks and finance companies to finance all sorts of projects without plans to pay back. Such people are always generous enough to give the bank managers some good cut while they provide no reasonable securities to the banks.

Police Inspector General Mike Okiro, then and still a civil servant did not let the opportunity pass him by. He set up his own business and gave birth to Hekiro Nigeria Limited, using the company to obtain contracts. Today, Hekiro Nigeria Limited is accused of owing the sum of N166 million to Lead Bank Limited, at one time known as Lead Merchant Bank, now in liquidation. N166 million is enough to push a small merchant bank like Lead Bank Limited into the gallows. The Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) has openly accused Inspector General Mike Okiro of contributing to the demise of the bank. Copy of Mike Okiro's international passport # AO696925 was enough evidence to substantiate the fact that Mike Okiro was one and the same person as Mike Mbama Okiro and Bessy Okiro with interests in Hekiro Nigeria Limited. All of Mike Okiro, Bessy Okiro and Mike Mbama Okiro use one and the same signature, and it was Okiro's international passport that he presented when he opened the account with Lead Bank.

It is the Nigerian way of beating the system to its own rules. Mike Okiro's ploy is not different at all from the debacle of General Abdukarim Adisa and his Afonja Community Bank troubles when Femi Falana defended Afonja Community Bank manager after the poor guy was faced with very degrading treatment from General Adisa. We should also not forget so soon the various business dealings of disgraced Inspector General of Police Mr. Tafa Balogun, who also had several businesses and companies while he was in the Police Force. Corruption, greed, grabbing and dealing are the true nature of most men and women of the Nigeria Police.

I remember the police couple who lived next to our staff quarters in Iyaganku Reservation Area in Ibadan sometime in the late seventies. I used to yearn to see them quarrel since that is the time they will wash their dirty lining in the open, screaming at one another and getting very physical. "You thief, Shameless man! You stole the poor lady's container and sold it." "Hear her, listen to her! My dear saint who stole an innocent man's half a million naira." "What of you? That Benz there, tell me how you get it, you common thief!" "Yeye woman, no be your police uniform you take waylay that Alhaji's truck and seize it, Ole! What do you want to tell me?" A punch landed on the female officer's face and a kick on her side as she struggled to grab her husband's manhood. The exchange will go on and on until the male inspector of police succeeds in kicking the female inspector's behind into their house. At some other time the battle will spill back into the large compound and feed my desire for more juice and stories. Then when order is restored in the home there will be nothing for us to feed on. Such was the drama the police couple often treat us to.

Several business people and traders of the import and export kind took advantage of the weak process created by Babangida's Central Bank of Nigeria and his sidekicks to obtain banking licences and open three bedrooms' banks around town. They saw the bank as an avenue to grab depositors' money, to gain access to the Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) foreign exchange facilities the Babangida regime touted as a way to boost small scale enterprises and businesses. But the real goal was to provide a side door to cheat and provide foreign exchange to friends and cronies. It became a practice for these banks to source for deposits from everywhere, including government agencies, ministries at state and federal levels, and from poor Nigerian doctors working overseas in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East and needing safe banks to keep their funds. It was in one of these deadbeat banks and finance companies that many people lost their working capital, which consequently led to their death.

As for the bank owners, it was an opportunity to obtain foreign exchange meant for Small and Medium Enterprises, and provided at far lower than the open market forex rates (an IBB Bolekaja idea), which they used to import building materials, steel, groceries, cars, and other pedantic items that are selling very fast in the Nigerian market. The iron rod market was booming as the building industry expand to Lekki, Ikorodu, Aja, Igbokuta, Ogudu, Osborne Road, Old Ikoyi, Ipaja, Abule-Egba and Oko Oba. Abuja was also a very hot property market. Greed was at its worse trend and SME funds were easily diverted to help the banks make quick profit and declare big bonuses to directors and executives.

The banks are so under-capitalized and yet boasted ten times more than their capital base. The money was so much some of the bank owners just diverted the money into their own businesses, the main reason for which they set up the banks in the first place. A retired police officer who owned one of the banks was so local and primitive in his ways that he used to refer to the bank's money as his personal money. He expected every staff to bow down before him, to do his bidding and to give money to anyone he asked them to give money to. It does not matter to him if collateral has not been obtained. There were so many of these banks with multiple financial statements and they will show you the copy that fits your profile. The copy NDIC and the CBN is shown is different from the copy customers and shareholders can see. Everyone is made happy and pleased with the appropriate financial statement befitting their interests. Those bungalow flat banks are just too wonderful to imagine, and their clients are just too determined and hell bent to snatch some piece of the pie.

It is the contribution of Police Inspector General Mike Okiro in the demise of Lead Bank Limited that is taking centre stage at the moment. Mr. Mike Okiro was said to have obtained the N166 million loan from Lead Bank Limited to finance a pipeline contract he obtained ('won' will not be appropriate here considering influence peddling and arm-twisting) from Nigeira Agip Oil Company (NAOC) using the name Hekiro Nigeria Limited. Mike Okiro was and is still a civil servant, and ought not to be engaging in such business, which was a clear violation of the Code of Conduct for civil servant. Okiro had personally guaranteed the loan with his property in Abeokuta with certificate of occupancy #022226 in the name of Mike Mbama Okiro. Mike Okiro was Ogun State Police Commissioner around the time he got the landed property. I wonder for how long was Mike Okiro in Abeokuta before he got himself a landed property there and where else in the states he has been commissioner and quickly procured lands, properties and businesses.

The Federal Government of Nigeria has to carefully investigate Mike Okiro to find out his true assets and properties, to locate these properties, investments and interests, and to take them away from him. Mr. Okiro's business interests and those of his family and cronies must be investigated also. Banks must be asked to provide all information at their disposal about Okiro's business dealings, suspected involvements and ownership, Okiro's direct and indirect introduction of people to corporate bodies where assistance is sought for contracts and businesses must also be exposed. Mr. Mike Okiro must be relieved of his office with immediate effect as the evidences against him are overwhelming and damaging. Okiro does not possess the character and integrity deserving of the office of Inspector General of Police.