Posted by News Express | 13 November 2012 | 5,151 times

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Access Bank, one of Nigeria’s biggest financial institutions, is sick and dying, according to an insider who is in the know about the bank’s financial health.

“Access Bank has been permanently borrowing from the interbank window and is only surviving at the instance of The Presidency, to which the GMD (Group Managing Director) is very close,” said a senior official of the bank.

Investigations by News Express unearthed unmistakable signs of distress at Access, touted as the fourth biggest bank in Nigeria. An example: Making a withdrawal at the bank these days has become a frustrating experience.

During visits to various Access Bank branches in Lagos, Nigeria’s economic hub where Access Bank has its headquarters, people were seen cursing and lamenting their ordeal. Reason: Each time they go to make a withdrawal, they are told that “network is down” as bank officials eagerly accept deposits.

“Believe me, the bank s dying,” said a financial analyst who spoke with News Express. Relating his experience this afternoon, the man said: “We are at one of the Access Bank branches in the Ikeja area of Lagos. We spent close to three hours and my wife can’t cash money. System breakdown, they said, but one threat here and there and my wife was isolated for payment. We wrote to withdraw N150,000 but after my shouting, they begged that they had just N100,00 and no more. Over 25 people are here waiting in vain. I am sure they no longer get cash to pay and just mobilised to settle me to avoid a scandal.”

The financial analyst traced Access Bank’s problems to its acquisition of the bigger Intercontinental Bank, saying that the transaction has apparently weighed down on the former.

“It was only in Pharaoh’s era that Moses’ small snake swallowed Pharaoh’s bigger snakes without sad consequencies. Access Bank thought it could eat up Intercontinental and not get choked but that has not happened,” the man said.  

Contacted for comments, Access Bank’s spokesman Segun Fafore denied that the bank was distressed. “If a bank is in the interbank market, it doesn’t necessarily indicate distress; it depends on the project the bank is involved in,” Fafore said. He claimed that Access Bank has not been in the interbank market “for at least in the past one month,” adding that he knew “bigger banks that are still there.”

News Express asked what specific projects made Access Bank to depend on the interbank window almost permanently but Fafore could not name any.  

Claiming that network failure could occur anytime, Fafore boasted that “Access Bank is a bank of importance to the Nigerian economy,” adding: “If the bank has a problem, the Nigerian economy will suffer.”

Incorporated as a privately owned commercial bank on February 8, 1989, Access Bank commenced operations on May 11, 1989 and went public on March 24, 1998. The bank got listed on the Nigeria Stock Exchange on November 18, 1998 and obtained a Universal Banking License from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on February 5, 2001.

Another milestone came on October 14 last year when Access Bank took over Intercontinental Bank after it was declared distressed by the CBN. Signs of trouble soon began to manifest in the closure of several Intercontinental Bank branches and the mass sack of the inherited workers.

Photo: Access Bank’s GMD/CEO, Aigboje Aig-Imokhuede.

Source: News Express

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