Posers and panic reign and run riot in the mind of the average Polaris Bank customer and shareholder. This came about as indications emerged this week that the bank might be up for sale by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
What is even more bewildering is that Auwal Lawan Abdullahi, a son-in-law to former Military President, Ibrahim Babangida, is being touted as the major buyer. Abdullahi, who holds the Sarkin Sudan Gombe traditional title, is married to Halimat, Babangida’ssecond daughter and last child.
Apart from being a big-time farmer and Babangida’s son-in-law, he has no footprints or antecedents in such a high-flying corporate undertaking.
As yet, there is no confirmation or otherwise from the CBN or the bank about this rumoured sale. Everything remains in the realm of speculations. However, the dignified silence maintained by the bank and its regulator has not calmed the growing anxiety among customers who are reportedly making panic withdrawals.
Insiders in the financial sector are wondering what might be ailing the bank after all the taxpayers’ money injected to revive it. Polaris emerged from the ruins of the defunct Skye Bank, which was unable to adequately recapitalise despite an initial N350 billion intervention by the CBN to keep it afloat, secure depositors’ funds, and ensure that most of the employees of the bank did not lose their jobs and would continue with the bridge bank under a fresh contract of employment.
Upon the withdrawal of Skye’s operating licence by the CBN in consultation with the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), Polaris emerged as a bridge bank on September 21, 2018, assuming all the assets and liabilities of the former. Under the management of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), Polaris Bank also received a fresh N786 billion soft and long-term financing brokered at a single-digit interest rate, which also offered an opportunity for the bank to embark on a seamless loan support to small businesses.
As of December 2020, AMCON’s investment in the bank stood at N848 billion, per company filings, with insiders saying an additional N350 billion was invested between January 2021 and July 2022. With this intervention, the bank was expected to come to full bloom and play in the big league. But four years after, it is reportedly faltering and is now about to change ownership once again.
There are now many questions begging for answers as the rumours of its potential sale continue to gather traction. Have the projections for the bank failed? Will the president assent to its sale considering the billions of naira of the Nigerian people’s money invested into reviving it? What is the role of Babangida in this? The questions are legion.