The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, has said that First Bank of Nigeria is too big for any individual to claim ownership of the country’s oldest bank.
The apex bank boss further said that it would be a big blow on the Nigerian banking system if anything happens to the bank.
Emefiele made the comment on Tuesday at the 282nd Monetary Policy Committee Meeting.
The apex bank’s governor made the comment in response to the battle for the control of the bank between billionaire businessman, Femi Otedola and the FBN Holding’s Group Chairman, Mr Tunde Hassan-Odukale.
On October 25, First Bank notified the investment public that Otedola acquired a total of 1,818,551,625 units of the bank’s 35,895,292,791 share capital through two companies, APT Securities and Funds Limited.
FBH said Otedola has 5.07 per cent of the bank’s shares which no single individual owns. But barely three days later, Hassan-Odukale who replaced the former MD, Ibukun Awosika, was announced as the largest shareholder.
According to FBH, Hassan-Odukale’s shareholding stands at 5.36 per cent ahead of Otedola’s 5.07 per cent.
The MD’s direct interest in the bank is 26,231,887 units, while he indirectly owns 1,897,280,212 units in the financial Holding Company.
But the CBN governor who described the bank as the pride of the country’s banking sector insisted that the oldest bank was too large for any single individual to own.
Emefiele said, “It is a strong aggressively domestically important bank in Nigeria. If anything happens to First Bank, it means something has happened to the Nigerian banking system and that is why we are taking our guidance about how to get the bank afloat very seriously.
“Six years ago, like I said, because of the aggressive build up of Non Performing Loans, the shares of First Bank fell to N2 per share. We took it on, everybody was running away from the shares of First Bank.
“Because we have cleaned the balance sheet now, the NPL has dropped aggressively, people are seeing that this money-making machine, First Bank is back again in the race for profitability and they are now competing for the shares of First Bank.
“Why should I quarrel that people are competing for the shares for First Bank which six years ago was N2 and they were running away from it? Today the shares of First Bank when I looked at it were N11.55 during the weekend. I am happy to see that they are competing for the shares.
“But of course they should all know, First Bank is so big that not one person can say he owns First Bank. They are just one and they should see themselves as representing others in running the bank.”