Date Published: 02/16/11
Banks decry smear campaign tactics of debtors
Most of the nation’s banks are worried by what they call “new tactics” by debtors to evade their debt repayment obligations.
The concern has led some of the banks to cut down their exposure to customers described as high profile individual businessmen and women, investigations have revealed.
A top manager with one of the banks who would rather not be mentioned, said one of the major worries in the industry now is “rather than debtors engage their creditor banks and negotiate their responsibilities, they have resorted to deploying the mischievous tactic of using the media, both print and electronic, to embarrass and impugn the reputation of banks.’
Investigations have revealed an emerging trend of bank debtors refusing to pay their debts and instead engage the banks in campaign of calumny, using the instrumentality of the media organs.
The senior bank official pointed out that debtors are deploying the approach on the belief that ‘causing the banks and their principal officers public embarrassment would keep the banks at bay’ and offer some succour to them (debtors) when demands for fulfilment of the debts are made.
“It has been observed rather unfortunately, that there are willing collaborators in the media – mainstream, soft and new media’ ready and eager to aid this ugly and unfortunate development at this time in our banking reform programme,” he added.
The smear tactics of the debtors have also evoked the concern of shareholders of the banks as well as legal cum financial experts.
Giving the perspective of shareholders, the National Coordinator of the Progressive Shareholders Association of Nigeria (PSAN), Mr Boniface Okezie, said banks should not be bothered by whatever antics that are employed by the debtors and ensure that all debts are recovered to reposition and strengthen the financial institutions.
“Besides using the media, the same individuals go to the court to get injunction to avoid their arrest or to stop the bank from taking any further action. The public should know who the enemies of the banking system are, whenever they (the debtors) put up the deceptive advertisements in the newspaper. When the banks lend money to individuals and they pay back, the same money is given to other people. That is how banks contribute to the growth of the economy and also make money for their owners,” he added.
Taking the matter from the legal side and what justice demands from the banks and the debtors, the Lead Director of Abuja based Centre for Social Justice, Eze Onyekpere, said it is true that banking is done in confidence but the CBN employed the “shame element” last year when it publicized the transactions in the papers, and that was to make the debtors pay.
He said: If someone is owing any bank, he has to pay. The media can’t be used to cover up the debt. What we might want to follow up with the debtor in the media is if for instance the bank was mischievous in the transaction, for instance, if the customer was given the money and a part of it was taken. You know some of these debts can be given under incredible conditions.”