HERITAGE BANK has failed to provide an update on the debt owed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate in November 6 Anambra State gubernatorial election Andy Ubah.
On July 21, staff of Heritage Bank picketed the Abuja home of Ubah, a former senator representing Anambra South zone, for allegedly owing the bank.
Videos showed bank workers standing in front of Uba’s home, asking him to pay his outstanding debt.
There are speculations that Ubah’s debt is N10 million, but neither Uba nor Heritage Bank could confirm that.
On June 23, Uba threatened to sue the bank through his lawyer Ahmed Raji.
A spokesman of the bank Fela Ibidapo had earlier denied that the protest was political or planned.
“That was not planned at all; the bank naturally will go and do recovery. If you check Mr. Andy’s letter through his lawyer, he never said he didn’t owe the bank,” the spokesman told Premium Times on June 23, referring to the video that was in public.
However, three months after this saga, no word has come from the bank to explain whether Uba has paid his debt, as it earlier claimed, or not.
Two text messages and one WhatsApp message sent to Head of Media and External Relations of Heritage Bank Blaise Udunze were not replied. When The ICIR called him, he promised to call back but did not.
The bank has an obligation to explain to shareholders and other stakeholders who owes what.
Text and WhatsApp messages were sent to Ubah to explain whether he had paid the money or not, but there was no word from him.
Ubah is one of the three strongest candidates for Anambra gubernatorial election and he owes the public an explanation on this, analysts say.
“If anybody owes the bank and is vying for a political position, he or she should provide explanation. In this case, Andy Uba has not denied owing the bank. If I were in Anambra, I should be asking him questions around this before I vote him,” Lagos-based social commentator and Anambra citizen Obinna Okechukwu told The ICIR.
A businessman in South-East Nigeria Emma Madukekwe said politicians must understand that they had lost their privacy once they were seeking public offices.
“I would explain to the people my issue with Heritage Bank if I were Andy Uba. A better explanation could brighten his chances, but Anambra voters are not even asking questions. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen,” he said.
After the picketing of Uba’s home, Managing Director of the bank Ifie Sekibo had, via a message shared with the bank’s staff, urged them not to be intimidated by anybody, Nairametrics had reported.
He explained that the action was part of the bank’s effort to prioritise the recovery of all its outstanding loans.
In 2016, there were social media rumours that Heritage Bank was in distress and would not discharge obligations to shareholders. However, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) later dispelled the rumour.
However, on October 21, 2021, a House of Representatives committee threatened to ask the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to take over Heritage Bank over vast sums of money it owes the Federal Government.
“They cannot be owing more than their share capital, sit on it and feel too big to respond to invitations from the National Assembly. Clark, you have to write to them, giving them till Wednesday next week. That is the last time we are going to give them.”
The CBN has severally said that Nigerian banks are healthy. There is yet no evidence that Heritage Bank is not healthy as its financials cannot be found in the Nigerian Exchange Group because it is not listed on the local bourse.
However, analysts say a lack of corporate governance is still an issue in Nigerian businesses, including the banking system.
According to the Director-General of Institute of Directors Dele Alimi, corporate governance sustains corporations and ensures their longevity.
“Corporate governance is very important in an organisation. We should ensure that the decision-making process is right and businesses are not about one man,” Alimi, who was not referring to any specific organisation, told The ICIR.