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AMCON set to sell distressed Polaris Bank

Chidi Ogbuokiri

Polaris Bank, one of Nigeria’s most distressed banks in recent times is currently swimming in deeper waters of controversies as there are indications that Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) is not backing down in its move to proceed on the sale of the bank, its subsidiaries, business interests and investments, we learnt.

In 2019, the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria has said it wants a quick sale of Polaris Bank, the lender created to take over the assets and liabilities of the failed Skye Bank Plc.

This newspaper in fresh findings discovered that although AMCON aimed at after the general elections in 2019 for the sale of the bank, it’s plans suffered minor setbacks as it couldn’t secure interested investor before the year ran out.

Again, in 2020, AMCON encountered another difficulty facilitating the sale of Polaris Bank a development orchestrated by the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Speaking during an interview with Bloomberg, the Chief Executive Officer, AMCON, Ahmed Kuru said the divestment which portends sales of the bank’s assets would be quick since the agency had initially met with the management of Polaris Bank and would sell the business in less than two years.

Ahmed Kuru said AMCON has set a new deadline of on or before 2023 deadline for dissolving the operations of Polaris Bank, even as it was still struggling to recover non-performing loans.

Insiders are alleging that the recent exit of the former Chief Executive Officer of the bank, Tokunbo Abiru is not helping matters as it has further multiplied the challenges of the current CEO, Innocent Ike who is now battling to save his new job.

Recall that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) revoked the license of Skye Bank for failing to meet capital and liquidity requirements, and asked AMCON to capitalize Polaris Bank with N786 billion ($2.2 billion).

Kuru said the authorities intervened in the Skye Bank matter because of a lot of systemic issues, including saving more than 5,000 jobs and almost N1trillion in deposits.

He stated: “It is a very big bank and if you allow anything to happen to it, it will affect some other financial institutions. AMCON has no plans to establish another rescue package for Nigerian banks.

“The agency will advertise for financial advisers for the sale of Polaris Bank after an investigation into the cause of its capital and liquidity challenges. We will prosecute individuals suspected to have contributed to the bank’s collapse with a view to recovering any bad loans linked to them.”

Kuru added that because a lot of money had been invested in the bank, people would be held responsible if AMCON found out that something wrong had been done.

We reached out to Polaris Bank’s spokesperson, Nduneche Ezurike on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday for reactions but our effort was met with a brick wall, as repeated calls and text messages sent to his MTN line ending with **146 were not responded to. We’ll be back with more details.

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