Buhari’s War on Corruption: “I do not owe anybody”: bank debtors’ semantic gymnastics revisited – Tola Adenle

With Nigeria’s Central Bank (CBN) knocking on bank debtors’ doors as proxy for the retired General on his War on Corruption,through the who-me(?) template seems being dusted for use as was done in the not-distant past.

The name-them-shame-them approach of Nigeria’s President Buhari seems to be resurrecting words that were offered during the last bank crash when banks published names of big-time debtors, a list that then – as now – was a rolodex of several who’s-who in Nigeria.


“Definitely not me. I owe no one; not even myself” Abike Dabiri, an APC legislator.

“Truly, a friend of mine, Senator Ayo Arise, owner of International Payment Devices Limited, included my name as one of the directors just to satisfy the Corporate Affairs Commission requirements. I have never been part of the operations of the company since it was incorporated …” Dayo Adeyeye.



The present disclaimers in the news about indebtedness brings back an old essay from my know-it-all essayist days when situation on the [Nigerian] ground forced me to write the following essay.

“I do not owe anybody”: bank debtors’ semantic gymnastics, etcetera – Tola Adenle [The Nation on Sunday, December 6, 2009]

With only four Sundays left in the year – counting today – I’m summarizing some essays that I had planned to get in before the year runs out. I may come back to them at a later date.

The CBN list of bank “debtors” led to a flurry of advertorials in which the not-debtors gave bizarre – at times, juvenile – interpretations of ownership, liability and accepting responsibility for one’s actions. Here are a few that should make readers laugh – not for joy – from the carry-go atmosphere when “big men” walked into banks and collected “loans as high as as N14 billion … N18 billion, no security.” N14 billion was over a hundred million dollars!

“May I state categorically that I do not owe Unity Bank Plc. or any other bank any sum of money whatsoever. The Central Bank of Nigeria’s advertorial from where you alleged to be the source of your information simply claims that Albarka Air owes Unity Bank Plc. N1,066,240,164.19 and mentioned my name as a director of Albarka. I am not Albarka Air …” Retd. Col. Marwa, Nigeria’s envoy to South Africa on his over one-billion naira not-indebtedness. Officer, I wondered aloud here some years ago when, as spokesperson for private airlines, you were quoted as saying something to the effect that you – airline owners – could not make profit “without cutting corners” when airlines kept falling from the skies.

“… I have never in my life entered any branch of Spring Bank to transact business …” Chief Anenih, current Chairman, Nigeria Ports Authority and retd. General Obasanjo’s “Mr. Fix-It”/Works Minister who expended 300 billion naira to “fix” Nigerian roads. The blood of thousands who perish on our roads are crying to heaven for vengeance. Bank ‘not-debtors’ have also sent many to early graves.

“I’m not owing the bank. … They offered N80m to buy shares. I paid 20% of the loan. Ever since, I have not seen a share certificate not to talk of dividend …” Ondo State tokenism in Yar Adua’s cabinet, Prince Kayode of Labor Ministry. Prince did not tell us what collateral he put down to qualify for a share certificate or “dividends” from PHB.

Many praised Alhaji Atiku for owning up to his indebtedness when he said “it is an old dormant account” that he would correct as soon as the bank and his lawyers work out figures. Well, Alhaji has turned out to be not as forthcoming as he would want Nigerians to believe. A news report two weeks ago traced the former VP’s debt to what I’ll call a “grandfathered” loan: Atiku wrote cheques given him for being the special guest at the opening of the head office of Citizens Bank when he was VP and immediately got busy writing cheques after cheques. Okay, he did NOT open any account! “Luckily” for him, the unapplied-for N100 million-plus “loans” got grandfathered to Spring Bank which swallowed Citizens during Soludo’s insane era of “mega banks”. Alhaji’s attorneys are reportedly playing legal games. Okay, why/how did Citizens give the “gift” of a cheque-book to someone with no accounts? Go figure. Did I hear, “how did Nigeria beat twenty-nine countries in the latest corruption ranking?”

One more: The king of the no-debtors – get me off the list; I’m a genuine bizman who deposit tons and borrow less than tons – has to be Alhaji Jimo, who was a Nigerian press darling. He did not issue sound-bite pronouncements but went to town with supplements /advertorials including the infamous – in the world of international newspaper publishing – wraparounds: front, inside front, outside back and inside back covers, spilling over to several pages inside. It must have cost tens of millions of naira but Alhaji was a.ka. “whiz kid”; I agree. My Math, though, has always been poor and my interest in spreadsheets, even poorer but from the bottom line of his expensive ads in this paper, he DOES seem to owe.






WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 5, 2015. 11:20 a.m. GMT]


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