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Did Zenith Bank Steal from Imo State Coffers?

With its larger than life stature, and as one of the leading commercial banks in Nigeria, patronized by the three tiers of government and its departments, multinationals, corporate blue chips and high investment portfolio customers, it is not a surprise that Zenith Bank Plc may be victim of unfair attacks from time to time.

This is so, because not everybody has the moral capacity to celebrate the success of others, as it is amongst human beings, so it is indeed, with corporate entities and even competitors, some of who will be glad to see Zenith Bank buckles.

Also, whereas the campaign to de-market Zenith Bank didn’t start today, at no time has it come with so much fury and hate as it is happening now. Good thing perhaps, is that the harder the attacks come, the brighter the chances of the bank to soar a notch higher.

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Zenith Bank has fought many battles in the past, and those familiar its journey knows that the current battles will also pass, with the bank securing more market shares, opening the door wider for more corporate customers and high profile investment portfolio customers.

Whereas futile attempts to impugn on the bank’s integrity in past have always fallen down without a foothold, there is no doubt that Zenith Bank will also overcome the latest  attacks to slow it down, and ultimately put it behind.

First, it was the Managing Director of Zenith Bank, Mr. Ebenezer Nduka Onyeagwu that the attackers latched unto to drag the bank into the campaign of calumny and the murky waters of banal politics. And as soon as it became apparent that the attack against the bank has collapsed like a park of poorly arranged cards, some disgruntled politicians from Imo State Government, entered the stage, seeking ways to splash dirt on the bank.

Although this too will naturally pass, but it is important to state the facts of the matter to put the allegations in clear perspective and for reassurance that Zenith Bank is the choice bank.

Did Zenith Bank actually stole from Imo State purse?  The answer is deductive and clear to the discerning mind.

The first whiff of doubt is the credibility of the allegation. If the Imo State Government discovered that its fund was stolen by the bank, it is incumbent on the state government to be at the lead of protest to recover whatever was stolen from it.

Rather than the state, it is a certain Financial Advisory Committee purportedly constituted by past Imo State Government that went to town crying that money has been stolen. To begin with, Nigerians must understand that the said Financial Advisory Committee does not possess the official instrument to engage Zenith Bank or any other bank for that matter, in respect of perceived theft of state fund.

Because the Financial Advisory Committee lack both the status and modus to bring allegations of stealing against Zenith Bank, immediately render its claims suspicious, and therefore void and null in all material consideration.

In the same vein, it is clear that the committee does not possess the legal wherewithal to accuse the bank of any wrong doing, and thus its actions so far amount to shadow chasing, busybody, a distraction and an attempt at unmerited interference.

It would appear that the said Financial Advisory Committee is merely acting the script of some faceless political actors, who have probably lost out in the scheme of relevance under the new government of Imo State, and under the charismatic disposition of the State Governor, His Excellency, Chief Hope Uzordinma, to efficiently govern the state.

It is perhaps for this reason that Zenith Bank has not considered joining issues with the said Financial Advisory Committee.  The empty and puerile allegation that the bank stole N111.5 billion from the state coffers already and clearly exposes those behind the allegation as not only mischief makers but by all rationalization, meddlesome interlopers.

While in one breathe, the apparently discredited Financial Advisory Committee accused Zenith Bank of stealing the said amount from the state coffers, in another breathe, it claimed the bank was used to siphon N111.5 billion from the state purse through charges unknown to financial regulations.

And then again, it accused senior staff members of the bank responsible for the imaginary fraud, it suddenly found as a useful instrument to advance its dirty scheme. To underscore the committee’s disposition to mischief, after allegedly submitting its report to the state House of Assembly, the committee yet played the political red herring by reportedly seeking the dismissal of the State Commissioner for Finance, Dr Doris Nkiruka Uzoka-Anite, on the mere basis that she was a former staff of Zenith Bank.

In fact, she was accused of being a mole planted in government to assist with the alleged siphoning of government money into the private pockets of His Excellency, Sen Hope Uzodinma, alongside other vested interests.

Despite making allegations of this proportion, the committee failed to substantiate its claim, and resorted to holding on to straws, to keep its allegation afloat. The primary business of any commercial bank involves sourcing for funds and deposits, and generally making inroads into financial product services, including participation in investment schemes.

As a financial institution, Zenith Bank is sustained by the profits it makes from trading with funds with the general public, including state governments. As stated earlier, owing to its distinct brand image as a reliable, big and savvy credit governance system, propelled by its cutting edge retail and investment banking services, with its first class ICT technology driven operations, Zenith Bank has remain the bank to beat.

It towers high in the investment arena, standing shoulder to shoulder with some old generation institutions like First Bank of Nigeria and Union Bank. Its huge success in the financial space  has attracted  a motley of adversaries; known and unknown.

So, if Zenith Bank was able to control 90% of Imo State financial transactions as alleged by the committee, which may not be true, thereby leaving 10% to all the other banks, this assertion evidently destroys the allegation of theft leveled against it by the so-called Financial Advisory Committee; and further underscore the capacity and proclivity of Zenith Bank as the leading banker for several state governments.

Perhaps this also explains why Zenith Bank has been the bank of choice for several state governments, spanning successive administrations. While the Financial Advisory Committee claimed that it was set up by the administration of former Governor Emeka Ihedioha   on June 6, 2019, one wonders while it has taking approximately three years to turn in its report to the State House Assembly, and why the committee has chosen to present its report to an authority that did not set it up.

The said committee claimed that it had submitted its purported report to Governor Ihedioha shortly before his ouster by the Supreme Court; it is left to the imagination of Nigerians the motive behind the committee’s resort and attempt to take the same report to the State House of Assembly, knowing full well that the original report is already in the custody of the State House.

While one can reasonably attribute narrow motives to the committee’s allegation, it is also not difficult to sense some sort of desperation to score an obvious personal score with Zenith Bank, as such motives is ringing the bell rather loudly under the circumstances. Nor can this motive be unconnected with politics, as the self acclaimed committee has demanded for the sack of the State Commissioner of Finance, , Dr Doris Nkiruka Uzoka-Anite, on account of been a former  staff of Zenith Bank.

That the Financial Advisory Committee, believed to be chaired by one Dr. Abraham Nwankwo, a renowned economist, has also indicted Governor Hope Uzordinma, gives a clear signal that it is up to some mischief.

Additionally, while seeking the intervention of the State House of Assembly to consider the report, which appears to be an aberration to the article of authority setting up, the committee’s strange eagerness to give a bad name to Zenith Bank is a further indication of desperation to achieve a predetermined goal, which cannot be far from political.

That while seeking the intervention of the state legislative arm of government, the committee couldn’t wait for the outcome before going to the media also clearly further strengthen the belief that the Nwankwo led committee is been economical with the truth.

According to reports, the Financial Advisory Committee other members includes, Messrs Nze Charles Kelechi Omeni-Nzewuihe, Charles Nwogu; and Mrs. Udeze Ibezim and Mrs. Ify Maureen Okafor, all of who are said to be experts in forensic audit.

Given the political colouration to their assignment and the current desperate moves to undermine the reputation of Zenith Bank is a clear indication that the assignment might have been a hatchet job.

It is also crystal clear that whatever their ulterior motives, Zenith Bank will come stronger out of this smear campaign, since it has become apparent that the bank did not steal funds belonging to the state government.

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