The Bankers Committee has dismissed the report published by International rating agency, Moody’s and analysts at Dubai based investment firm Arqaam Capital on Monday that Nigeria’s banking industry is experiencing a “full-blown financial crisis” with some banks facing insolvency. Speaking on behalf of the committee today at a press briefing after their meeting, the Director, Banking Supervision of CBN, Tokunbo Martins assured the banking public that Nigeria’s financial sector is safe and sound. Although she admitted that Nigerian banks are facing economic challenges, but she said the lenders have strong capital buffers to weather the crisis.
Martins said: “Yes there was discussion around the stability of the banking sector, and as Director Banking Supervision of the Central Bank of Nigeria, I can tell you that the report is false. The banks are adequately capitalized, so the report is not true. That does not mean that the banking sector is not feeling the economic headwinds. The headwinds are also in every other jurisdiction. It is not strange. So, non-performing loans at 11.7 per cent is not what we should focus on”.
She assured that Nigerian banks have the capacity to absorb whatever losses that may arise from the level of non-performing loans in the industry. “But the fact is do the banks have the capacity to absorb any further loses that would arise? The answer is that they do. They have very strong capital buffers. Another thing that is important is does the banks have the capacity to generate huge income to absorb those loses,” she said.
Continuing she said: “The underlying assets of the banks are still there, and they are good. So, I think you should totally dispel or ignore that type of story. It should be expected to have non-performing loans (NPLs). It is not the reason why any jurisdiction should be demonized. There are other jurisdictions that have NPLs as high as 15 per cent, 35 per cent and so on,” she said.
Martins also said that banks are committed and have assured workers who have been living in fears over possibility of losing their jobs that there will be no retrenchment.
She said: “One of the things we discussed was about the impending retrenchment in the banking industry. So, we understand that many bank staff are experiencing fears about possible retrenchment in the industry. We discussed it among the banks and the banks are now committed to not retrenching their staff going forward. So, whatever rumours are flying around about that mass retrenchment happening or not happening, that is not true”.
On the state of the foreign exchange market, Martins said bank customers that exceed $50,000 annual spend on Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) cards used abroad will be barred from the Forex market.
She said: “In CBN’s move to manage demand for Forex, there was a rule that was put in place that people are not allowed to withdraw more than $50,000 annually on their naira debit cards. For a while, the policy has been abused by bank customers, and the CBN had not taken any step to that effect. We have decided to take the steps now to enforce the rule. So, we want members of the public to remember that that rule is in place. All your accounts are linked to a particular BVN. Now, that BVN only allows you to withdraw only $50,000 per annum. If people continue to breach that rule, they will lose access to forex market,” she said.
The Committee also said that they met with Manufacturers Association of Nigeria MAN, and the need to boost flow of Forex to manufacturing sector, which employs millions of Nigerians was discussed. It said the meeting was successful.
The need to continuously improve the financial literacy among the youths was also discussed by the committee and part of the resolution is to play a role in this year’s World Savings Day Celebration coming up on the 30th of October this year. The committee resolved that each bank will take up at least two public schools in each geo political zones of the country and educate the students on areas of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), general commerce, manufacturing, micro-finance bank and other banking-related products so as to create awareness as our nation gets older and stronger in banking services.
“We were also reminded of the roles and responsibility of banks to help grow the economy especially the manufacturing sector. As bank CEOs, we agreed to ensure that the economy grows. We also looked at how the country can leverage on the opportunity in the pension industry,” the committee members said.